Life Stories: Barry

I walked out on my family, I had young children, I walked out on them because I couldn't face them...

A true story of addiction and recovery.

Barry* is 54-years-old and born in Glasgow. He had started his own business when he was 30 and when in his mid-40s Barry’s business had become very successful, employing hundreds of staff across the country.

After successfully running the business for more than a decade, the company got into financial difficulties when one major client went into insolvency and was unable to pay back their debt to Barry’s company. Barry was forced to close the business and all staff lost their jobs. He left his family and home because he could not face his family and his mental health was not good. Barry had a nervous breakdown.

"I walked out on my family, I had young children, I walked out on them because I couldn't face them. Because I had no money I felt like a complete failure…I went very quickly from being a very successful businessman to, well I started drinking, I started to take drugs. I tried to keep business afloat with my own savings for two weeks and then all that money went as well…I rapidly became this other person. I was never a great drinker, but my rapid decline made me a drinker.

I actually went to my family doctor and said I am worried about my drinking and he said why? I said, I’m drinking a bottle of vodka a day. But I was drinking over the whole course of a day so I was never drunk. The doctor said to me, do you know, it’s not that bad. This was not what I wanted to hear. He said there are a lot worse than you, and there are actually, but this is not what you want to hear. I didn't understand the message. I didn't get the help I was looking for there." 

Barry was trying to find ways to get out of the situation and secure some funds. He got in contact with some known criminals and criminal activity and ended up in a prison. He got an eight-year-sentence for an armed robbery, of which he served four.

Because Barry had a licence to fulfil, he was referred to the EACH Structured Day Programme (SDP) when he got out of prison about four years ago. He had already made a decision that he will need to turn his life around and had taken several courses available in prison, such as self-awareness and team working.

"I still drank when I first came out of prison for the two weeks [before joining the SDP]. You had to make a commitment coming to [the SDP] and I made my decision to come here. Being surrounded by people who don't drink gave me strength."

Attending the SDP gave Barry structure and life skills, and he learnt a lot about him and the way the brain works.

"It made me ask a lot of questions about myself. Made me look at myself, look at others and look at things I had never heard of before such as co-dependency, social groups – who you hang around with, who you meet or mix with and where you live – how it all matters. I found it all beneficial really and started volunteering in [EACH] as well…I changed; I thought I was a failure but I wasn't, it was the life circumstances. Once I realised it was the set of circumstances, not me. Self-discovery made my life better."

While on the programme, Barry decided to enrol on a counselling course because he found certain aspects of the SDP course really beneficial to him. He started a college after completing the SDP and has recently graduated as a trained counsellor.  He still volunteers in EACH to gain experience as part of his counselling degree and works for a homeless charity. Barry’s aspiration is to develop a service that combines support for alcohol and drug addiction and homelessness.

He is now very close to his children and sees them regularly. His children stay with him a couple of times a month now.

“Their mother even talks to me so that can’t be that bad”.

Barry is very grateful for all the support he has received from EACH.

"[If I had not participated in the SDP] I think I would be still looking for answers. I don't think I would still be sober because the SDP made me think about what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong to myself and to my family. It made me question things I had not questioned before.

It also made me discover things about triggers and sneak in plans – like if I was going to a party and I didn't want to drink, to make a plan not to drink. I would never consider that before I came here. I would have thought, oh I have just a couple, but there is no such thing as just a couple when you drink too much. If you have been affected by the themes in this story, help is available."

For counselling and group support around drug and alcohol issues, please contact our Ealing Office on 020 8579 4529 or email

You can support people like Barry through monthly or one-off donations to EACH. Everything you give goes to support people recover and rebuild their lives.

*The name and image of the service user have been changed to protect his privacy. All other details are true and in 'Barry's' own words.

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