Craig's story

Smiling image of Craig

In this week’s story, we hear from Craig about his recovery journey. He explains how he used his time in prison to discover a new purpose, and how it led him to support others with Change Grow Live and Samaritans.  

When I went to court, I was praying, “please send me to prison”. I said to the judge “Don't let me out. I need this.”

“I had a difficult childhood and grew up in a violent household. Drugs were all around me and by the age of 11 I was smoking weed and drinking alcohol. At 15 I had started smoking heroin and within a few years I was injecting as well. I overdosed for the first time and there was no naloxone then, I was lucky to survive.  

As my addiction progressed so did the petty crimes, and I was remanded into prison over the years for various minor crimes. 

Things got progressively worse and by the time I was 40 I was smoking crack cocaine, as well as still injecting, and I was recruited into a local organised gang as a driver.  

I convinced myself I had no choice; if he called me, I went. Truthfully though, I knew I had no choice anyway - I needed the drugs he gave me and he knew that.  

The turning point  

The turning point came two years ago. Armed police surrounded my caravan, screaming at me and all I could say to him was ‘wait till I finish this pipe’.   

When I went to court, I was praying, “please send me to prison”. I said to the judge “Don't let me out. I need this”. When they put me behind that door and locked it, I just slid down the back of it and said thank you to God. That's when I knew enough was enough and from that day, I have never touched a drug or drink.  

While in prison, I started training as a listener for Samaritans and would visit prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide.  

I then trained to become an Insider in the prison. An Insider is a volunteer role, helping new prisoners when they first arrive.  

I worked with prisoners using drugs and made sure they met with the Change Grow Live recovery nurse to get the help they needed. I looked after four wings, over 400 people. I really enjoyed the responsibility and trust given to me and started seeing myself for who I am really am.   

I’m proud that during my time as an Insider, the self-harm rates dropped considerably. I felt that I was really making a difference. 

The Change Grow Live team in the prison were amazing. I met with my worker every week to talk, and was drug tested weekly. She was friendly, didn’t judge, and she believed in me and kept me motivated.  She talked me through my recovery and a rehab, challenged my thinking, made me see it was all in my head – and I did it. 

I'm so proud of myself. They were proud of me as well. They were so proud they bought me a cake. 

A new perspective  

When I first came into recovery my sponsor said to me to write a list of everything I wished for and everything would come true, and he was right.   

Two years on, I now deliver the same programme that was key to my early recovery, and I’m proud to now be the person helping others. My advice to newcomers is “always be honest and stay connected to others.” 

I’m training to become a Samaritans listener and I love talking to people and helping them. I've been asked to attend their annual conference this year as a guest speaker and talk to them about my time in prison.  

I have a counsellor who I work with every single day. Recovery to me is like starting afresh. Like cogs in a wheel, the more cogs I add, the better it gets. I have three mentors who guide me in different areas and I am training to become a counsellor myself.  

My faith is a great strength to me, and I am being baptised next month. My only addiction now is nice trainers, and I treat myself regularly!

The greatest gift recovery has given me is my daughter back. She’s 16 now and has started calling me Dad again and we talk all the time, We go shopping, out for food. I'll be there to watch her grow up and achieve her dreams, something I never thought possible just two years ago.”