Dave is 28 years old, is unemployed, and lives with his mother. He brought photographs to his interview which helped us understand three key themes of his current life: journey towards health and well-being, space to be (or not to be), and resilience.
Journey towards health and well-being
“I’ve really gotten into Buddhism and I’ve found it very helpful to understand what’s gone wrong in my life and how I can possibly make it better. The thing about alcohol and Buddhism that I’ve been reading up on it’s like one of the worst things that you can do because it’s clinging to a substance that is really bad for you and makes you behave very improperly. And if you die an alcoholic you die a very painful death as everyone knows. Training to be a Buddhist you know and any doctors will tell you. But you die clinging to something that is in this world and from an Eastern point of view when you die you need to be free of the body you need to be free of the desires. You need to be able to pass on from that and so I really don’t want to die like that and I really don’t want to inflict that upon my friends either.”
“A few steps forwards and one or two steps back and then a few steps forwards again. And it takes time and I sort of feel like I’m getting there.”
Dave suffered from anxiety for which he took prescribed drugs. He also found that alcohol removed his anxiety and made him feel ‘normal’. However, the reliance on alcohol became an addiction which he has struggled to throw off. The start of his journey away from alcohol was the realisation that he does not want a painful death and to inflict pain on his friends. He has tried many routes but Buddhism resonates with him the most. Dave is realistic that he will have lapses on his journey but is positive he can succeed in moving forward.
Space to be (or not to be)
“It’s a public space where anyone can enter and I think it does help the self-esteem and mental health of anyone who is suffering from a mental health problem to be able to go into a building where you don’t have to pay to go in. Where you don’t have to be anyone of any particular class or any standing to go in”.
Dave’s mental health problems, alcoholism, and poverty have left him more limited options for ‘spaces to be’ than most people. He described being followed round a supermarket by a security guard because of his scruffy clothes. He cannot afford public transport or to go anywhere with an entry fee. However, he has discovered places that are free to get to and free to enjoy and these are really beneficial for his health and well-being. Dave walks to outdoor spaces that lift his mood and this helps also to keep him fit. Indoor spaces, such as art galleries, makes him feel equal to others in a way it is hard from him to experience elsewhere.
“My cupboard on one day and how it’s kind of really empty apart from condiments. It has salt, vinegar, sugar, hot chocolate. That’s how it sort of looks in my house some days and to look at that is quite disheartening.”
Dave admitted he was an alcoholic and wanted to stop drinking. He struggled to control his alcohol use but was making headway on trying to limit the damage to his body through eating well. However, his poverty means that his food choices are limited. Dave showed incredible resilience to carry on and to plan for a better future: “Take some omega-3 as well because I find that quite helpful.”