Alex, Pudsey

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
Growing up, I couldn’t fit in with anything. I found out I was dyslexic when I was a teenager and, hand in hand with that, that big bottle of alcohol came. And then the death of my grandparents, the split-up of a relationship – it all just came crashing down and I thought, right, I’m just keeping that bottle as my best friend now. And I ran away.

‘I’m feeling so much happier, I have so much confidence now’

Where did you go?
I started off working on the fairs. I worked at the V festivals. If you were there between 2000 and 2005 then I guarantee that I would have spun you on the waltzer. Then I met a traveller and I went off around Europe. I’ve seen some amazing things and some things I never ever want to see again. But it all became about alcohol.

What happened then?
I had a brainwave. I thought, I’m fed up of this, I’m 40 years old. I gave up the alcohol last year and put myself in a hospital. It was difficult getting the right support. I had to keep turning up at the hospital, nearly killing myself through drinking. They would keep me in for a few days and then send me back out. So I just kept going back until I got to see the right specialist and got some help.

How long have you sold Big Issue North for?
About a year now. I started selling it because I was caught on the streets begging and I thought, right, this is the moment that I can make a change. Half past seven every morning – boom! Out of the house. Even if I just had one copy to sell, I’d sell it and then go buy another two. Sell those. Go back and buy more. At least it’s better than sitting at home watching Jeremy Kyle. Why watch other people going on about their lives when you can live life yourself?

How’s life now?
The changes I have been though during the past couple of months have been groundbreaking. I’m feeling so much happier, have so much confidence now. Honestly, if you look at me compared to this time last year, I’m unrecognisable. I’m going to college three days a week doing painting and decorating. And I volunteer at a charity called Hollybush, learning how to look after things in the wild.

Tell us about your dog.
She’s called Muttley. She came to me from a traveller and she’s about eight now. When things are getting hard I think, instead of just running to that off licence, when you get took in to hospital next who is going to look after Muttley? I bought that responsibility on to myself. She keeps me going.

Have you got a message for your customers?
A massive shout out to the people of Pudsey. Especially the people in the local shops who are near my pitch. They all check up on me.

What makes you happy?
Being sober. And music. Music has always been there for me. It’s made me happy, it’s made me cry. It’s never hurt me. I love the Happy Mondays, the Verve, Richard Ashcroft. I was listening to Calvin Harris, Faith, and I thought, yes, that’s it. I could picture myself making it. You have got to have faith.

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