Brain injury survivor shares recovery story as he looks forward to Northampton Pride 2022

Seven months ago, Dennis was drinking nine cans of beer a day as he struggled with his disability. This week, he looks forward to celebrating Pride for the first time.

Fifty-five-year-old Dennis Gent, from Northampton, is gay. He loves to dye his hair purple, enjoys spending time with his friends and lives life to the full. This, however, was not always the case.

Just seven months ago, Dennis was unable to see a future for himself. Addicted to alcohol and suffering from a brain injury sustained from two strokes in addition to repeated falls and seizures, he was unable to live an independent life.

He despised himself, had no meaningful relationships and his future appeared to be bleak.

The much more inclusive New Pride Flag which integrates the Trans Pride Flag along with a black and brown stripe for People of Colour. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Dennis said: “I didn’t have a reason to get up, I just lay in bed getting drunk every day. I didn’t give a damn about myself.”

It was Dennis’ past, which he described as “traumatic,” which led him to become an alcoholic for over 30 years. He would drink nine cars of beer a day, causing him to be constantly intoxicated and often unable to leave his bed.

Living with a disability and addiction had a devastating impact on Dennis’ mobility, memory and ability to live out his day-to-day life

Fast forward to the present and Dennis, after seven months of rehabilitative care at Wycliffe House - a Northampton adult day care centre - now gets up every morning raring to go.

Dennis said: “I used to cover the mirror up but, when I look in the mirror now, I love Dennis. I don’t hate myself anymore.”

This year will see Dennis celebrating Northampton Pride 2022 for the first time with his friends and support team.

It was in late 2021 when the team at Wycliffe House, part of the Active Care Group, became aware of Dennis’ situation and took him into their care.

Team Leader at Wycliffe House, Julie Garner, said: “I’m so glad we fought for him. We take people here that no other service can support. In fact, the CQC has praised us for this.

“We are able to address the addiction, but we don’t force it. Some people here had never been spoken to like a normal person before, as an equal.”

Now, Dennis’ week consists of regular gym and physio sessions and his mobility has substantially improved so he can now walk with the aid of a stick. His drinking has reduced to three cans a day, which his GP and social worker said they are “delighted” with.

He has additionally integrated back into society through art classes, gardening and cooking with fellow residents.

Dennis, who used to experience a seizure every week, has experienced two seizures in the last seven months.

Reflecting on his experience at Wycliffe House, Dennis says: “I don’t class this place as a care house, I class it as my home. I don’t feel like a prisoner here.

“I have got full back-up here - 110 per cent support. I’ve got a reason to get up in the morning now.”

Dennis is now excitedly making plans to celebrate Pride this year for the first time ever. He has plans to attend the Northampton Pride festival on Sunday, June 26 with friends and then host a tea party in the garden at Wycliffe House.

Dennis says he feels “proud” to be himself, “glad to be gay” and able to participate in the Gay Pride march with his head held high and “not ashamed.”

Care staff, in the meantime, are still providing Dennis with emotional support to help him deal with the trauma he has faced and the difficult relationships he had with his family.

Although there is still a way to go, he recently managed to mark what would have been his mother’s 91st birthday by laying flowers in the Wycliffe House garden, which he said was a “big step” for him.

Seven months ago, Dennis’ future was laced with gloom. Now, it shines as bright as the colours of the Pride flag.