Nathan's* Story 

Most of my life has been in and out of prisons. I first got into trouble when I was 12 and got a two-year suspended sentence when I was 16 and then in prison from when I was 18. Once you get into youth offending it's difficult to get out of.

I was brought up on a rough and very racist estate. It was a BNP estate and it wasn’t a normal way to live really. Drugs were used openly on the street,  people used drugs openly in the parties and that. People would go round doing the ‘shopping list’ and you could get anything you wanted - drugs, anything. Other estates would come down and we’d have big fights in the field, sometimes 150 people fighting – was like Braveheart.

The crime aspect with me, it was peer pressure wanting to fit in and get the heat off your own back.  You’d take drugs because of what you’d gone through, life experiences, using them as an emotional crutch. I used because thinking of the reality of my life gave me the heebie jeebies, there were a lot of issues I couldn’t deal with and it took a lot of years and a lot of mental work to repair.

I’ve done a number of rehabs that didn’t work but this one has worked. It’s looked at my behaviour and how that started, what triggered it off. Everyone has a core fear and that can spiral out of control and you need to work back from your behaviour now to how that developed and understand that fear and knowing that can keep you off the drugs and give you something to work with.

Prison made everything worse, I wanted to fit in and be one of the lads, be accepted and not be seen as disabled. I was born disabled. There was no rehabilitation, I didn’t deal with any issues in there, it just masked them even more, added more murky layers - layers and layers and layers.

It’s my testimony, my life experience, my ups and downs, the good and the bad and what you gain from life and what you can help prevent in other people’s lives. If you can help one person, help one person get off drugs or keep them out of prison – that’s worth you living your life. People can tell when you are being genuinely empathetic or just doing it for the paycheck and when you can really connect with someone, that’s good. I’ve been through a lot of what these people are going through and I can talk to them.

Isolation leads to depression, lots of people get isolated through drugs and what’s happened to them in life. You can be isolated in so many ways, it's not just feeling stuck in a house – one example is when I was depressed bad, I was really isolated. Instead of going to town on the road, I’d walk along the canal where no-one could see me. I’d go to the chemist and come back and I wouldn’t eat even though I had food in the cupboards. People could say you were snubbing yourself, but maybe they haven’t been though depression. When you get stuck in depression, you have mental health issues and they’re often one and the same.  It can help a bit to get out on a bike when you’re down – get some exercise and release some endorphins.

The bikery is important to me, I’m getting experience that’s useful and I’m somewhere that I feel grounded and focused and am part of a community and can contribute something. I want to be a good role model to my kids and this helps, and I want my wife to be proud of me, you know what I mean. She’s gone through a lot and we’ve gone through a lot together. I’ll be honest there’s some personal gain here as well, but I want to help also because of what I’ve gone through. I don’t want the youth I see going through what I went through, if we can’t support them in getting a better future then what’s the point of anything.

I want to work with young adults in a voluntary role as a mentor and as a paid job work in special needs sports. I was born disabled so I understand what it feels like to be isolated, prevented from doing normal things and I want to work with people and help make them feel like normal human beings, cos they are – you know what I mean?

Nathan* - not his real name