Sam, I am. An ex-Big Issue vendors dramatic story

Sam shares her dramatic life story to inspire others to stay strong.

Hi, my name is Sam Spungold and I wanted to share my story with you because I hope to inspire people with addictions, mental health problems, those who sell The Big Issue and others who are going through hell in their life. For others reading this story who don’t fit the above, I hope my story will help you to realise that behind every drug addict and every homeless person or Big Issue seller there is a story and these people are just like you, they just need society to treat them that way and not like an outcast.

When I was 11 I played the part of a boy in a play. I had the lead role and my boyish haircut meant that when I started high school they thought I was a lesbian and I was bullied terribly. My school life was hell and I was not happy at home and I ran away. I was placed in care at 13 and had five foster families. Many were not happy experiences and I was even molested by one of my foster dads.

At 17 I left home with no help from social services. I wound up in a room in a rundown house share.

I was at college full-time studying a GNVQ in Health and Social Care and GCSE Psychology, I worked as a care assistant and spent weekends working in a kebab shop. On my only morning off I looked after a friend’s baby.

It was all too much and I failed college. Feeling like a failure I had a breakdown and spent a week in hospital after taking 100 or so painkillers.

Unable to work I was evicted. I had been to the council and they said I had made myself intentionally homeless and was not entitled to help!

After months ‘sofa surfing’ I was raped. After days of clubbing and taking ecstasy and speed I crashed into a deep sleep and someone took advantage. This has left me with sleep problems, paranoia and nightmares.

After six months in Manchester I returned to Sussex and to my old care assistant job. It felt good to be normal again and I worked 13-hour shifts all over Xmas and New Year so that I could afford a deposit on a new flat. On the second of January the senior care assistant tried to frame me for theft. She placed a resident’s wallet under a pillow in a room where I was sat with a dying patient. The residents were all suffering from dementia and never had any money on them, so this was the first thing that led the police to believe that I had been set up. The charges were dropped but I now had no job, a pay cheque a third of the size it should have been and no faith in life.

I ended up in a hotel paid for by housing benefit, which was full of heroin and crack addicts and soon like them I was addicted to heroin and later crack cocaine.

This life saw me sleeping rough, stealing, committing fraud, being raped by a dealer, contracting hepatitis C from my partner who watched as I used his needle and said nothing – and finally narrowly escaping a two-day kidnapping and robbery by some crack dealers who held my partner hostage until they emptied his bank account.
Oh, and not to mention dying from an OD and being brought back on my 19th birthday.

During this time, people on the street would shout abuse, stare, ignore me or even laugh. Some would buy me food, lend an ear, give me money or buy The Big Issue.

Selling the magazine was a job and made me happy. It kept me out of trouble and helped me to be careful with my money.

Whilst begging at night time one Saturday I saw an ex. Seeing him reminded me how happy I once was. I knew I would be dead soon if I carried on and a little fire inside me grew and I knew I wanted to live, just not like this.

Eventually I ran away from my boyfriend and with the help of new friends I did a two-week blind methadone detox. It was not easy and my bones and head ached and the nightmares were the worst ever. I had kept half a bag and constantly wanted to do it, but after two weeks, unable to flush it, I gave it away.

I was 20 years old. A year later I had my daughter, who is now 10. I then cleared my hepatitis whilst completing year one of a degree in Psychology and Philosophy to alleviate the boredom whilst bed-ridden from the treatment. With a thirst for life and knowledge I went on to achieve: LAMDA silver and gold for acting both passed with distinction. I also now have an AS level in acting, a diploma in musical theatre, level 3 radio production, a foundation degree in creative arts therapies, with a third year top up in applied drama and I recently completed year one of a masters in creative writing for therapeutic purposes.

I have decided to pursue my creative talents. I present a radio show every Friday at midnight on Bristol’s 93.2FM called The Baby Boomtown Show. I have interviewed many famous people from Jimmy Cliff to George Galloway. I hope to make it all the way to a big radio station and maybe do some TV presenting too.

I have written a lot of poetry which I would love to get published (I have shared one with you called The Room I Had Breakfast In). I have also written an autobiographical play which I am converting to a film script. As well as a few children’s stories that need illustrating before I can take them to a publisher.

I find that if I keep busy I am less likely to slip into a deep depression and self harm in one way or another. I have good days and bad days of course, but I try to keep looking to the future and use my past as a drive that helps me to be stronger.

If you are at rock bottom, be strong and fight, no matter how long it takes, you honestly can be who you want to be and if you never reach your goal, at least you went out fighting. So what are you waiting for? Your new life starts whenever you want it to… I believe in you.

The Room I had Breakfast In

As she sits so cold in the doorway
She can’t remember when she last ate
All the people walk past and ignore her
Some look upon her with hate

The drugs numb her from the coldness
But somewhere deep inside,
She was still a person
Who was very much alive

Once she was just like them
Not a gutter rat fit for the bin
In fact she too once had a home
and The room I had breakfast in

For that person and their journey was me
I just strayed off of the track
But once I found my way back again
I was determined never to go back

I don’t regret having been there
To that dark place of trouble and strife
For it’s made me who I am today
It’s just a part of my life

October 2012

(Inspired by a line from the poem The
Kitchen by James Gregory 2003
Published by Tetrastic Plymouth 2004)

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