“I was 32. I feel I should have been a stronger woman. I had no confidence, no self-esteem. My drinking… It just took the pain away. I didn’t know how to handle the situation. If I could go back to that time, I would tell myself: ‘get it together girl! You are better than that!’”
“The only thing I regret is to not be able to bring my kids up, because I lost my whole self of being a mum. They took away my right of being a mum, and they kept that away from me.”
Karen works at User Voice, a charity supporting people who have been through the criminal justice system. In the future, she would like to set-up a women’s charity.
Four years ago, Karen was still sleeping rough in the streets of Liverpool, selling the Big Issue and using the money to buy alcohol – sherry was her alcohol of choice. She says the worst things about being homeless were the cold and the violence. Her boyfriend at the time, who is still homeless, used to be abusive towards her.
Before that, Karen was enjoying being a mother to her 4 children, who are now aged 15 to 23. It is when her previous partner, the father of her children, left her for another woman, that her alcohol addiction started. Her children were taken away, and she found herself in the streets.
“I spent 3 weeks at social services crying for my kids to come home. And they just said I was too emotionally unstable. Because of crying for my kids. I shouldn’t be crying for my kids…”
Karen grew up all over England because of her father’s job. She describes the moment her parents divorce as the point from which it all started to go downhill. For years, she blamed herself for their separation. She felt abandoned by her dad, struggled with her self-esteem, and found no support within her family to cope with it.
The support she needed when she was 10 years old only came into her life 30 years later, when she was on probation after an altercation with the police, in the shape of the Woman’s Centre run by the charity Turning Point, where she took part in courses that helped her rebuild her confidence and think positively.
Here are the insights that relate to Karen’s story: