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Find out about Chris - in his own words

My debt problems over 10 years ago during an incredibly difficult period of my life. I was doing freelance jobs in theatre and film at the time and was struggling with a period of addiction, and I found it extremely challenging to be able to live within my means.

After getting sober I was keen to try and move on with my life, so I decided to arrange a token payment plan as a temporary measure, but I subsequently ignored the debt for years because I didn’t want to face up to it after what I’d been through.

I retrained and did jobs as a support worker and a counsellor, as well as a group facilitator at a rehabilitation centre and as a triage worker at a men’s mental health charity. However, a few years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic lung condition which meant I had to give up the new career I was passionate about. I didn’t have the money to pay off my debts and I needed to focus on my health.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit, a lot of my creditors suddenly went quiet because of the moratoriums in place at the time, which was a relief whilst I underwent a serious operation on my lungs. But as things started to go back to normal I experienced an influx of calls, texts and letters demanding money off me. I dreaded the phone ringing so much that I changed my number several times.

The incessant contact from my creditors was driving me insane. I was trying so hard to not let it have an impact on my kids, but they started to notice when I couldn’t buy them the snacks they liked to have after school and I became less present when we spent time together because my debts were occupying me mentally and emotionally. We were effectively living hand to mouth and the whole situation felt humiliating.

Chris was referred to StepChange

Eventually I decided to contact StepChange after being referred by another organisation. I went through debt advice and looked at all the options available to me before settling on a DRO, which at the time didn’t seem ideal but it was the best thing I could do in my situation – I’m on the waiting list for a double lung transplant so it’s hard to know when I’ll be able to work again. Going through a budget and removing things like credit cards and phone contracts was a huge help, and getting my debt solution approved meant gaining my freedom back.

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"I would urge anyone who needs help to reach out"

Before getting debt advice it felt like I was constantly treading water. Nowadays I’m a lot more conscious of my finances and I’m able to budget better to accommodate myself and my family. I also feel a lot better within myself and more equipped to cope with challenges. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I would urge anyone who needs help to reach out and ask for it.

There’s only so far you can run before you hit a brick wall, and now I feel like I’m setting a much better example to my kids so that they can experience a bit more financial stability when they get older.

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