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Henry's Story

I weighed a little over five and half stones, I could not walk up a flight of stairs without the help of the nursing staff.

I weighed a little over five and a half stones and could not walk up a flight of stairs without help. When I got to the medical centre I remember I kept on saying that I was sorry, I was so sorry. I was sorry that they had to examine me in the state I was in. I was at rock-bottom. My memory of ‘detox’ is a little vague, I know that I stammered when I tried to talk, my muscles did not respond to my instructions, and I trembled and perspired a great deal – probably quite a normal ‘detox’!

After about two weeks I was in a much better physical state, and mentally I had improved too, the stammer had disappeared, and I was determined that I was going to do everything that these people told me to do. My counsellor became my hero. He seemed to have all the answers. At times he would say things that would appear harsh, but as he said many times “drugs or alcohol are not forgiving, they don’t take prisoners.” We became good friends until his death in 2005.

In the early days at Clouds House, the kitchen staff did not work on Sundays, so the patients elected members of the group to cook Sunday lunch and supper. It was known I had previously worked in the hotel and restaurant business and so I was volunteered. In true alcohol style I felt that I had to do the 110% job to ensure no one could criticise the meal, as it hurt too much! I am pleased to say it was a success, and as a consequence I was the Sunday ‘volunteer’ until the end of my treatment! Little did I realise at the time that I would spend a great deal more time in the kitchen at Clouds House.

I left treatment on 11th August 1983 and returned to my accommodation in Gloucester but returned to Clouds House over the weekends for ‘aftercare’ and to work in the Clouds House kitchen. One day I was told that the cook had walked out, and could I come down to help out? I told them that I would do it until they found a permanent replacement cook. I ended up working as the chef at Clouds House for four and a half years. We used to have four reunions a year then, and the numbers got up to 300 people attending. I suppose I could rightly claim to be Clouds House’s longest aftercare patient!

When I left Clouds House in 1988 I worked at Thurston House in Clapham. During my eight years at Thurston I became a collector of vintage fountain pens. I learned how to repair/restore them and became a part-time dealer in vintage pens. I now have my own business based in Portobello Road in London, and now make my own pens. As far as I am aware, I am the only person in the country designing and hand-making gold and silver filigree overlays for pens.

Without the ‘magic’ of Clouds House I would have died, of that there is no doubt. I owe my life to all the people who worked and helped Clouds House function in the early days, and continue to do so, for people addicted to alcohol and drugs.

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