If anyone would have told me a few years ago I’d be working alongside the police, I’d have thought they were off their cakes. I never thought I’d see myself in that position, calling a copper my friend. But I’m amazed with the way it has all fallen into place and where I find myself now.
It was a chance meeting seven years ago when I got to know PC Liz Stanton. I’d reached a point where I wanted to start giving something back to the community. It was Liz who had the idea for me to tell my life story, to share with others. It took me three months to write everything down, and after that I started to deliver it to young people, and they really related to what I had to say.
It was Liz who nominated me for this award. It’s an honour to be recognised but I didn’t set out to be anything like a role model. It was about trying to talk to kids. I talk about prison life, drink and drugs, and I don’t hold back. I want to stop them going down the road I did.
I was 24 years on drugs and in and out of jail for 26 years. I hated it. I didn’t want to be there, and I knew I was letting down people who loved me. I wanted out of that life badly, but there was a bit of a fear of normality too – I was scared to change for a very long time.
Prison was where I felt safe. It’s sad, but it made me who I am. I didn’t think people could help me.
Eventually, I turned 40 and realised: I was on a death wish. Two weeks after my birthday, I went into detox and haven’t looked back. But in the end, I had belief in myself. It was all down to getting the support I needed, and finally being ready to take it on.
Without the support of crime reduction charity NACRO I mightn’t be here. I started volunteering with them, and I now work there. Life is completely different now. I’m about to get married, and I’m so pleased I had a chance to show my loved ones how I’ve managed to change things for the better, especially my mum before she passed away.
I still find it weird and wonderful and amazing I have managed to turn it around and find myself in this privileged position.