A high-flying businessman with a company turning over more than £1m every year for 17 years running has revealed how he lost it all and ended up in a homeless shelter.
In the space of a transformative year, 55-year-old Andrew Blythe's then-wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, his mum suffered a stroke and his best friend took his own life, all while dealing with his own serious heart and liver issues.
While his personal life was crumbling around him, work consumed Andrew's every minute – leaving him reaching out to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain he was burying deep within him.
It all came crashing down when one day, driving back to work, Andrew took a detour and headed for his caravan, turned off his three phones and fell into a deep sleep.
Andrew, from Essex, would never go back to work again. Crippled by debilitating depression, he finally realised he needed to accept he needed help, he told Essex Live.
The bills and debts came rolling in and Andrew waved goodbye to his home, belongings, career and marriage, finding himself homeless and sofa-surfing with friends.
After reaching out to help from Southend's homeless charity, HARP, though, Andrew began to turn things around and start getting his life back on track.
After working initially as a labourer and electrician, Andrew set up his own business at around 35-years-old.
The electrical, plumbing and drainage company quickly became a success, growing from strength to strength over the 17 years.
But in 2018, while on holiday in Croatia, Andrew had a call to say the contractor had significantly lowered his offer.
It was the first knock in a stack of dominoes that all steadily began to fall before him.
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"I was stood outside my office and my doctor rang me to say I was being treated for heart and liver problems," Andrew said.
"They said my heart monitor showed irregularities but two seconds later, my wife called me and said she had breast cancer and had five or six tumours. My problems faded into insignificance then."
The cancer diagnosis tipped Andrew over the edge – but not knowing how to talk about or deal with it, he just kept burying his feelings deeper.
"I wasn't there for her because I was running the business," he said.
"I couldn't care for her or take her to hospital appointments because it was the other direction.
"I felt useless. I had all the money and the business but I couldn't look after the one person I cared about."
Andrew started "self-medicating" with drugs and alcohol and spending more and more time at work. He called this coping mechanism his "crutch."
One day Andrew headed for his caravan in Paglesham in rural Essex, turned off his phones and climbed into bed not knowing at that point that he would never return to work again.
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"If someone had phoned me and said they were taking a day off for depression, I wouldn't have been very sympathetic," he said.
"It felt like weakness to me. But only when I admitted it, I felt a lot better.
"I have felt happier now than I have for a long time."
He turned up to HARP in 2019 with just two bags, filled with his only belongings – two pairs of shorts and four shirts.
"I felt ashamed and didn't want to ask for help," he said.
HARP helped Andrew with emergency accommodation before moving him into a hostel and finally a shared house in Southend, where he is now.
"They saved my life," he said of the organisation.
Andrew has applied to work at a hospital as a porter. "I feel I have made more progress now than ever in my business or career. It is small steps but if I got a job at the hospital, that would be my highest achievement," he said.
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