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Stuart Drucker, 48, Outside Co-op, Whitchurch, and Roath Farmers Market, Cardiff

Cardiff Big Issue vendor Stuart Drucker is back after three years away. He’s grateful for The Big Issue’s support in beating addiction

I’ve just returned to The Big Issue after being away for three years. When I was selling before I was in rehab because I was coming off the drink and the drugs and I wanted to keep my mind going. The Big Issue was amazing with me. The staff got me to the point where I was doing a 5k run and a 10k run and I owe them a lot. I stopped selling because I got a flat when I was coming out of rehab and then I got a job working at Asda as a butcher and a fishmonger.

But just before Covid they closed the counters down at the store for good and I got fed up with it. I wasn’t getting along with one of the managers and I got with a colleague. After four months she was pregnant and as soon as she found out she was like: “I don’t want to know you no more”. That hit me hard. She let me see the baby for the first four months. But I haven’t seen him since then, now he’s three. It’s terrible.

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So with all that on top of me, I quit and then lockdown came and I had to stay at my sister-in-law’s because I lost my flat as well. They don’t teach you how to run a flat at school and they should do.

As soon as lockdown was done I thought: “Right, I’ve got to go”. It took me two weeks to get a place in shared accommodation but I didn’t want to be sitting on my arse doing nothing. I was looking for a job and I couldn’t get one so I thought I’d come back to The Big Issue. I don’t have my own pitch yet but I sell at the farmer’s market on a Saturday, I’m coordinating on a Sunday selling the magazine to other vendors, and then on Tuesday and Wednesday I sell outside the Co-op in Whitchurch. The farmer’s market is where I make the most money. Even though I’d been gone for three years everyone remembered me as soon as I came back. I like to get down there early and help the people on the stalls to set up. Everything’s hunky dory at the moment.

Overall I’ve sold the magazine for about four or five years off and on I’d say, and last time I was selling I even went to Glastonbury, which was brilliant. It was a bit of a challenge for me because I was still coming off the drugs and the drink but I sold loads of magazines and I loved it because I love meeting people and talking to them.

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I’m thankful to The Big Issue – I thought it was brilliant what they did for vendors during lockdown, giving them regular £50 payments too. When I first started the mag I was on the streets and using drugs and drinking. I needed to get money all the time. When I hit 40 I said: “I can’t go on like this”. I was tired of making excuses. I went to rehab then and since then I haven’t touched anything. I haven’t used heroin since I was 40. My kids are happy. They’re so proud of me. I’m saving at the moment because I want to be in touch with my son and I want to send him money. I’ve got three daughters and two sons and they are my world.

I had The Big Issue during those times. A lot of people like to go into the gym when they’re coming off drugs. They get addicted to keeping fit, but I got addicted to making money through selling the magazine. All I wanted to do was make money and save it rather than spending it on drugs. The Big Issue helped me big time.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Co-op Food - Whitchurch - Merthyr Road, Merthyr Road, Cardiff CF14 1DH, UK

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