Alcoholic's fight back from despair

PUBLISHED: 09:54 27 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:25 30 June 2010

At his lowest point, Neville Midwinter recalls “waking up each morning with a crate of Guinness and a bottle of Jack Daniels beside me and not getting out of bed until I had drunk half the crate”.

At his lowest point, Neville Midwinter recalls “waking up each morning with a crate of Guinness and a bottle of Jack Daniels beside me and not getting out of bed until I had drunk half the crate”.

Deep-seated family problems had put him on a downward spiral into loneliness, depression and alcoholism, ending up with him flitting between hostels and sleeping rough on the streets.

However, after a lost decade of unemployment and despair, he began a remarkable climb-back from the abyss which, two years on, has resulted in him being nominated for a national learners' award.

Mr Midwinter, 34, who left school with no qualifications, has been put forward for the accolade, sponsored by the adult learning organisation Niace, by Great Yarmouth Community Trust, based at the town's Priory Centre. He will learn if he has been successful during Adult Learners' Week from May 15 to 21.

Since signing up for the trust's adult learning centre two years ago, he has passed NVQ level one and two in English and is progressing towards level two in Maths.

And last September, he was able to put his twilight world behind him for good when a pioneering social enterprise centre in Yarmouth offered him the chance of job training.

Mr Midwinter, who now has his own flat in Howard Street South, Yarmouth, and regular contact with his 11-year-old daughter in Thetford, is glad to talk candidly about his experiences as an inspiration to others “that it is never too late”.

His life seemed to be going in the right direction when he left college in King's Lynn with catering qualifications and started work at a chip shop in the town. However, he began drinking in 2000 and after his father died in 2003 he took an overdose.

Mr Midwinter, who moved from London to Thetford in his teens, said: “The tutors at the Priory Centre have not just helped me with my learning, they have given me all the personal support I needed.”

However, despite his success in stopping drinking and coming off his drugs for depression, finding a job remained a massive hurdle. “I was too honest at interviews. As soon as I mentioned alcohol no one wanted to know,” he said.

All that changed when the Shaw Trust, a charity that helps disadvantaged people back into work, introduced him to the Lowestoft-based Grow Organisation which specialises in training the long-term unemployed.

Mr Midwinter said it “felt like a miracle” when he was offered the chance to work at the Atlantis Arena, an arcade, nightclub and bars complex on Yarmouth seafront that the Grow Organisation has turned into a job training ground.

Manager Daryn Ferguson, 43, said: “We offer a clean-slate policy and Neville has earned this chance himself.”

After training in the box office and arcades Mr Midwinter is hopeful of being offered a job when his course finishes in March.

Priory Centre tutor John McDonald said: “Neville has made great strides in his personal development with the Priory Learning Centre. He has met or exceeded in all his courses and continues to be an ambassador to the centre, sharing his journey with others.”

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