I was released from prison a month before the pandemic where, within weeks, all services started to close their doors for support.
I have been a product of the criminal justice cycle throughout my childhood, spending years in care homes and young offenders’ institutes.
I’ve never had any real supports in my life other than close family and I always really struggled to understand myself and my purpose. I felt misjudged all the time and just couldn’t cope with my life.
My life never served any purpose or meaning, and I was just a product of the system. My last prison sentence in Barlinnie was where my life turned around and where I done a complete 360-degree turnaround. I heard about a woman, Natalie, that ran a Recovery Hub within Barlinnie Prison, and I put my name down to attend. I had mixed feelings about going but knew I had to try something new. There was a waiting list to attend the café as it was so well-spoken of within the prison, but I eventually got my place to attend on a Tuesday afternoon.
My first day I was met with smiles and a hug from Natalie, Gary and the one of the volunteers, Oby. It felt safe and something just felt right about this step I was about to take. Within weeks I was beginning to feel comfortable and confident within the group. A group agreement was set out and all members of the café agreed to it so I knew my confidentiality wouldn’t be breached or taken into the halls. I started to work with services like Fife College, Elevate, SFAD, Street Soccer and Kelvin College, and before I knew it, I was gaining skills I wouldn’t have thought I could achieve. I started to learn about addiction and within a few months was learning of ways to cope with my thoughts, feelings and emotions.
When I was released from jail, I wish I could say I did well right away, but that would be a lie. I choose to listen to my old head and do the opposite of everything I had learnt, and within weeks my life was upside down again. I was drinking heavily and even using drugs I hadn’t used before. I was at my rock bottom. I always knew the guys at Sisco were there for support, but I was ashamed to tell them I messed up, but somehow I managed to find the courage to get honest, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.
Within days I had wrap-around support and was offered mentor sessions. I started to look at building up my skills again and I’m now engaged with Apex Scotland and Unlock Employment in Govan. I attend the new community Recovery Hub every week and take part in all of the group work sessions online, we were meeting up every Sunday to do hill walks, but with the government restrictions we are now doing weekly park walks in the city. I start my day with a person trainer through Zoom with all my peers and it gets me motivated to tackle any challenges I might face during that day, I most recently moved into the first place I could call my home, and with the support from Natalie, within a day we had the flat furnished and ready for me to move in. Natalie is like a mother to all the boys and she really cares about our futures and the choices we make. She makes us feel like we belong and have a place in society.
For the first time ever, I know my life is going in the right direction and I never want to lose everything I have built up, it means too much.