Hi my name is Gary I’m 34 years old and I’m in recovery. My journey in recovery has been the most magnificent experience and I could never dream of having my old life back now as it was just a horrible existence. The carnage chaos and destruction all started for me when I was a young lad hanging around the schemes. I would be in and out of police-cells every weekend before the man with the wig had had enough and sent me to prison as a young fresh just turned seventeen year old. Was this a daunting experience? 100% it was, but see I had a mask that I used to wear for the streets and I developed another for prison. Always in pain and running with fear internally but I would project outwardly a strong confident young man who had not a care in the world.
My first taste of prison as a young offender made me think twice however as soon as I would be released my old ideas would again seem like good ideas and that kind of behaviour carried right through into adulthood for me. Safe to say I continued to return to prison on a regular basis never really knowing the answers why. I used to like to think it was everyone else’s fault and blame anyone but myself, And I never fully grasped the effects that my behaviour had on my family, my community and people around me. Every time I was in prison I had that state of mind that it would be different for me when I was released. Somehow I thought the prospect of a new job on release, or a relationship that I had conjured up whilst serving my time would keep me sober and on the straight and narrow. But unfortunately it wasn’t to be, I never once looked at myself or my behaviour therefore how was I ever to expect any different results once back into society. I thought I always had to keep face and live up to the bad boy image which was absolute nonsense looking back now. If only I knew what I know now my life could have went a totally different way long ago, but I cant change the past, and today bizarrely it has become my greatest asset.
I will explain why, all these prison sentences never wanting to accept any help and always thinking I knew best, I maybe done a course here and there in prison but only for the prospect of progression in the system and never for the want of changing. I experienced liberation to many times from prison only to be caught in the trap as soon as I walked out they gates, my head was out to get me and through finally getting myself into recovery I came to understand that my head was a liar and I bought into every time. Doing the same things and expecting different results clearly wasn’t working for me and how insane is that it took me until I was in my thirty’s to finally realise. The sad thing is some people never get a chance to turn things around and a lot of people experience a longer period than myself of absolute carnage and chaos.
However here is where the story turns and it was my last prison sentence where I finally reached out as I knew my way wasn’t working and it never would. I asked for help, and I really meant it, my pride and massive ego had to be put aside, as it was either continue to the bitter end and die or if I was lucky just be locked up the rest of my days. However my decision to dig deep and search for the answers had to start from within, I utilised every resource of support/help I could whist in prison and engaged with anything that was going to be beneficial for me. I attended fellowship meetings and started to get an insight as to what I was suffering from, I seen guys in front of me who had lived experiences similar to mine and from that moment I totally connected, they were once as hopeless as me but had found a solution and where now sober and coming back into prison to pass a message of hope on and that’s exactly what they did, I have gratitude in abundance for these guys.
This gave me my platform whilst in prison and solid foundation regarding my new found sense of being. It enabled me to get involved in a new project at that time which was a recovery cafe that was looking to start up. I got called for an interview to be part of it and it was sold to me straight away as it was lived experience individuals, I knew instantly the benefits of this and it became a massive part of my recovery and still is to this day. It opened my eyes to the enormity of the recovery networks outside they prison walls which I never knew existed. It gave me a platform to build my confidence, gain qualifications, interact with others whilst in prison in a way I never had before, it was a safe space to get honest and vulnerable and I found this in conjunction with the other aspects of recovery I was participating in helped me ten fold.
I was released from that prison sentence with a new found knowledge of what recovery is and where to find any aspect of it I wished. Without going into to much detail because believe me I could sit and write more than you could read about how my life has completely transformed in every aspect. I left this time and took on simple suggestions and didn’t believe the lies my head used to tell me and as a result of that, and I now have a life that I could never have imagined.
My life is now better than the lies I used to tell and that’s fact. I have became trustworthy, reliable and responsible, things I never could have dreamed of being. I have my family back, my kid back in my life, I have gained numerous qualifications and I am now able to maintain my own house. But the most magical thing of all is my paid employment is now back working in the very prison I got sober and also other prisons and that’s because SISCO took a chance on me because they seen I had demonstrated enough change in all areas of my life and they offered me a position to use my past as my greatest asset and work with them on helping offer change to many individuals who are still unfortunate enough to be sitting in the same chairs I sat in.
But now they have a chance at life and a place in a hopeless environment where there is now hope. Life can get better and I used to never believe that saying. But now I know it’s true. So thanks to everyone who has been part of my journey and still is. And especially SISCO for never giving up on me and seeing me right through this beautiful journey of happiness, freedom and joy.