Gary's story

After a series of tragic family losses led to the decision to move away from his home town, Gary discusses prioritising his health and wellbeing.

Yeah, from Newcastle!

Yep, I moved down. I've got family down here. There’s more work and stuff … I was working for a couple of years, but obviously council wouldn't help us – basically I've quit work and then got in here.
I don't want to be down or depressing, but basically I lost my mam, my brother and uncle up there. So just bad memories up there now, I was turning into an alcoholic …
Now, I just go up for a holiday. It's more exciting then. Yeah, because I see all my friends and stuff. It's more of a buzz, but I cannot be up there for that reason, like, just too many memories. Constant memories.
I was living in a tent for like seven, eight months. I did have places to go, but didn't want to put others out. I went into the woods for quite a while and could live there happily me, I could make fire and camp. I just love the wild. I had loads of mad red birds near my tent, rabbits and pheasants.
But we live in a society now where that is classed as scum …
I was going to my nana's, I was getting cleaned, my clothes were washed every day – it weren't like I was a scuff in the woods. I was fresh. I just lived in the woods. But I went in there for about two weeks, didn't come out, and I swear I went from being paranoid about staying in there, to not wanting to come out of there. I was looking out the woods to where the houses were and I was, like, I'm getting scared to leave, and I was, like, nah, this is bad. I need to get out of this forever. It was crazy …

I've got a dad down here, brother and a sister. So, it's not, like, just a random place, I'm surrounded here, I've got family.

Coming down here has brought me closer to my other brother. It’s a strong bond now with him. I couldn't tell him it’ll never be the same as with my brother up north, 'cause he's from the outside … Me and him, my other brother, we’re the exact same. Just bang on, everything about us is, you know, it's crazy! I’ve sort of lost something, but gained something … Whereas up there it's just miserable, pain.
It's four months between us, that’s how bad my dad was! And then we're both called Dean. Same height, same age. Yeah, we're pretty much the closest you can get to being twins, without being twins. Isn't that crazy?
I like it down here and the women love my accent! They love it, but then again, even lads like it. Now, the people ... I'm like, nah, mate, I'm born in the Midlands what you on about? Alreet hinny!

Three things I keep well on top of: health, fitness and staying away from drink.

My mam had a seizure I think from what I've been told. I found her. I walked in the room and she was just dead, gone. It's 10 years ago now, you know … my brother was an overdose. My uncle died in 2018 of cirrhosis to the liver. So, this is why I'm quite healthy. So, my mam, unhealthiness basically, my brother, drugs, my uncle, alcohol.
When I lost my mam, I was not well. Bad. Frosty Jacks every day, two bottles minimum. I was at the shop waiting before they open. Coping mechanism, innit? It's the hardest isn't it? It's just a crazy, crazy emotion. But then you start getting over it …
With me now, it's just anger. Aye, the frustration, I guess … not so much anger towards the people, just frustration. I see, it's part of life, that's the saddest part about it. Just some sooner than others, and some later … The best way to deal with it, it’s the saddest thing ever is not to think about it. If you think every single day about it, you'll never be happy.
My older brother was heartbroken over his girlfriend, his ex at the time when he died. She cheated on him and got with one of his enemies. That was basically it. Two heartbreaks for two women, in two different ways. Love for passionate love and then a love as a protection for mam.
He did, just put himself in the grave really, you know, he didn't kill himself, but I think he couldn’t cope and he just boozed and the spice, the mamba. He was making millions of pounds worth. And it was just ... I was here, I wasn’t there that much and he’d just smoke and smoke and smoke. It's worse than heroin, that stuff, just puts you in a trance. Gone. Zombified. Very destructive.
I was just slapping my head, I was like, how the hell could you do that?

I've cried that much. I can't get emotional. I can’t, I just can’t.

So having grieved over him, my brother and my mam … it was like, boom! I put all three together. I was fat when my mum died, then I was boozing, drinking, I did drugs. Then my brother died. He went the wrong route just from grief … He died of drugs. So, I started trying to get healthy, but I was drinking still. And then when my uncle died of drink in 2018, cirrhosis of the liver. I put all three together, I'd get fit, stay off drugs and keep off alcohol.
You see Mam was unhealthy. She was having MRI scans for blood clots, she was quite a big lady, bless her. She was beautiful though. My brother was addicted to drugs. And my uncle was addicted to alcohol. And now here I am, I don't smoke, I don't eat unhealthy, I don't take drugs, I don't drink.
So, coming here was part of that ...

It's only been two months here. Aye, I'm settled. I’m starting to fix my life, yeah.

See I was a local bin man, working for the council. I asked is there a chance you can help us? They were like, it doesn’t matter if you work for us, it doesn’t mean you’re entitled help. I was like, wow. So, how do I get help then? I was bidding and I wasn't getting anywhere, 35th position and stuff. Getting nowhere when it came to housing. Then they told us, like, if I didn't have a job, they would help. So, I stopped work, and they wouldn't help us at all. Said you're going to have to ring P3, so I've come here.

Now, yeah, it’s full speed ahead I guess …

I think oil rigs is probably what I'm going to do, a lot of my mates are on that and are just blasting it … because if you put your mind to it, you’ll get your house bought and stuff.
My twenties have just been a blizzard. Deaths. Grief. Gone. Yeah? When I'm 40 I want to have a really, really good job. I want to be brained up with stuff on paper. So, I can get any job I want. Then you've got the security you need to just be absolute.
In some sort of weird sense, I'm glad it's happened at a young age. I was going to say, it's kind of, the life lessons are learned, well, early. So, I think I've got decades in front of me. I was 20-years-old. I didn't have anything to mess up. Yeah? The only thing was my mental health and my state of mind.
So, where I am now is I'm 30 in September and that's what I'm seeing by the time I'm 40. That gives us 10 years … Full speed ahead, that's what I'm saying.
Yeah, so blossom and go for it! Don't be arrogant, don't be trying to be better than anyone else, don't judge people. Always be pleasant and kind to people. Yeah, that's it, and go far in life. Whether or not it's in a well-paid job or it's just as a happy person.
Yeah, with P3 I'm starting to get there. And like, I say money doesn't make you happy, but having none of it sure will make you sad.

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*Names changed to preserve anonymity.