Wayne Mercer, 47, says his addiction began with taking drugs in his 20s. Things spiraled out of control from there, with a heroin addiction that took years of recovery.
Unfortunately, after getting clean, Mercer eventually fell into alcohol addiction instead of drug use.
“I was a heroin addict for 7 years, I beat that and have been drug-free for 15 years. But then I started drinking more heavily to compensate [for] the drugs and was slowly killing myself off,” he explained.
Mercer said that over time, he eventually became dependent on alcohol.
“I was drinking to feel normal,” the Wigan local said in a press release. “It was my medicine to function.”
The alcohol dependency soon became a vicious cycle, one that was difficult to break out of.
“I was waking up in the morning suffering from withdrawal symptoms from the alcohol I had drunk the night before,” Mercer said. “So I needed to have a drink to feel normal. It was a vicious cycle and that was my life, drinking every day—there was nothing else to do.”
It didn’t take long for this cycle to take its toll. After a relationship breakdown, Mercer found himself homeless, and he slept rough for several months.
But last year, he came to The Stages Academy, overseen by Riverside housing association. The organization assists people who are homeless or at risk by providing safe, supportive accommodations.
“Before I came The Stages Academy I had wanted to change my lifestyle but my partner also drank so it was difficult to give up. We split up 18 months ago and that’s when I began sofa-surfing and sleeping rough on the streets for several months,” Mercer said.
“Then I came to The Stages Academy and that’s when I wanted to do something and started the journey to beat my alcohol addiction.”
His journey was challenged by the CCP virus lockdown in March, and his detox program was delayed.
Karen Wilson, his support worker at The Stages, said that the delay was discouraging, but Mercer was determined.
“We supported and encouraged him to stay positive, and continued to engage with his treatment provider to make it happen,” she said. “Once things got back to a bit of normality in the summer months we liaised with his treatment worker and things were put in place for Wayne to go to Liverpool to do his detox.”
At that time, Mercer stayed at the clinic for 10 days, after which he returned to The Stages. Now, he has started to get back on his feet and is looking for his own place.
Things are still challenging with the lockdowns in England, but Mercer is hopeful that his life is on the right path. He hasn’t had a drink since returning to the Academy, he says. He now appreciates that he can “afford nice things” and has money in his pocket. He’s also more positive about the future now.
He added that he’s stopped wanting to drink and is starting to think about returning to work.
“I see my friends drinking in the pub and it doesn’t bother me anymore, I don’t want a drink one bit,” he said. “I’ve changed my life for the better and looking to the future, I want to start working again. I use to work in demolition before the drink got hold of me.”
Mercer credits the staff at The Stages Academy for his successful recovery and says he’s grateful for their help.
“I’m taking one day at a time and very much in recovery,” he said. “I would like to thank The Stages Academy staff for helping me change my life as well as being there every step of the way, giving me the encouragement not to give up.”
This story was last updated in January 2021.