Patrick Winter's life has lately had its share of fortuitous coincidences. Thanks to the Catalyst-Clemente program run by the Australian Catholic University in conjunction with Mission Australia, he is now settling down to study after battling alcoholism for most of his adult life, reports The Catholic Leader.
Mr Winter hopes this course he started in 2011, which focuses on humanities subjects such as history and literature, will lead him to his true passion - the study of architecture, particularly that associated with heritage buildings.
Recent research has shown the Catalyst-Clemente program is not only highly cost effective - with a potential saving of $14,624 per year per student to the community - but also helps students in such areas as time management and communication skills.
Mr Winter is living proof of this, although as always the timing had to be right.
"The opportunity arrived soon after I'd embraced sobriety," he said. "Not so long before this, I'd been living on the streets around New Farm. I'd been in and out of rehabs 15 times in five years."
Mr Winter, 47, lives in a unit which happens to be next to his "campus" - Mission Australia's Roma House, formerly the Lady Bowen Hospital.
"My dad was born there in September 1922," he said. "So it's quite amazing how things are working out."
A heavy drinker who initially refused to acknowledge his problem during many years in the hospitality industry, Mr Winter's drinking escalated with the death of his father in December 2003.
"In 2005, my grandmother died, also in December," Mr Winter said. "That triggered even heavier drinking and by the start of 2006 I was drinking daily, starting early in the morning."
Mr Winter, by then about 40, quickly found his life slipping even further out of control. "I started on a five-year slide, all the while in complete denial about the extent of my problem," he said.
"At first I was living in shelters for the homeless or 'couch surfing' at friends' places.
FULL STORY Helping lives in turmoil (Catholic Leader)