A recovering alcoholic has told how The Felix Project helped give her baby daughter a fighting start in life after she fell pregnant unexpectedly.
Elisabeth (not her real name) was a successful sommelier working in Michelin-starred restaurants when her marriage broke down and she turned to drinking.
“I was well educated, I reached university,” she said. “But it all fell apart and I never thought I could go so low and so in danger, and vulnerable and lonely and lost and very, very ill.”
The marriage ended “very badly” and was the beginning of a downward spiral that left the 35-year-old homeless, jobless and feeling increasingly that she had nothing to live for.
Then two years ago, she fell pregnant.
“It was not planned at all,” she said. “I wish it would have happened under different circumstances. I wasn’t living somewhere stable during my pregnancy.”
That was the moment she realised she had hit rock bottom and needed to make a change, for the sake of baby Emily (not her real name).
“I just stopped drinking, I had to. It was just something to live for, someone to live for,” she said.
Three years ago, and at her most vulnerable, Elisabeth started coming to the Vineyard Community Centre in Richmond, a drop-in centre and cafe for people in the local area. A Swedish native, she had no family in the UK and desperately needed support to pull herself out of her devastating situation.
She believes her recovery may well have been out of reach if it wasn’t for the help of the volunteers there.
“They’ve really helped me with having the baby, and all the costs, I’ve been coming here as much as I can and with The Felix Project’s help, I’m always here picking up groceries, it just makes such a difference,” she said.
Vineyard Community Centre receives regular food donations from The Felix Project, allowing visitors to collect fresh food parcels or eat nutritious meals in their budget-friendly cafe.
Elisabeth relies on The Felix Project to eat, and picks up fruit and vegetables, delivered by the charity, at least twice a week.
“It helps me to cook healthy meals for both of us, stews and things. She loves her fruit, especially apple and there’s quite a lot of that coming in,” she said.
With the help of the Vineyard centre and The Felix Project, Elisabeth has started to see a bright future for her and Emily.
“The next step is to think of what I can do next,” she said. “It’s about building my confidence up again, because it was really broken after I lost everything, I lost myself, I’m just trying to build my confidence and my strength.”
“There is definitely making up for lost time but I'm trying not to look back, just learn from it.”
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