A Prisoner's Story

(HMP Edinburgh)

"A long time ago I was one angry wee laddie. Now I'm confident, determined and hungry to succeed. I might be in jail just now but I’m going to get out and things will be different. I know that’s true because I’ve made a massive massive turnaround in my life.

"The story starts fae when I was 8 year old. The life I had then...well that’s when all of this began. I was staying with my mother. She was alcohol dependent and I was just left tae dae ma ain thing. I was 8 or 9 but staying away for two or three days at a time. I would fend for myself getting food where I could, like sometimes at my grandmother’s because my ma just wisnae able a lot of the time. It was about then that I started stealing stupid things fae shops, but as well as that I got talking to people I shouldn’t have talked to. I ended up going back to someone’s house and it was there that I got abused. It went on for a while and life just went downhill from there.

"By this time I couldnae settle. I had got so angry.  At school I could only sit for about twenty minutes. I'd go off and sit in a wood somewhere. I was so angry in ma heid. I just felt bad. Because I was running away from school and from home the police got involved and I was sent to a children's home. Looking back on it I wish someone had stepped forward and offered to look after me - someone in the family maybe. I don’t know why they didn't. Maybe they thought it was too much work. Ever since then I’ve had no time for social workers because their answer was just to put me into a home. I can see through them in minutes now.

"So there I was just getting angrier. I was angry at myself, angry at my mother…. I felt that I was the bad person. I was so angry that sometimes it would take five staff to wrestle me. A wee laddie like me! There were some good moments in the home mind you. Sometimes staff there would take me out with their family at the weekend, like to a gala day or something. That felt good. It was someone showing that they cared.

"I was in that home for four years before I got moved to residential school. By the time I moved I had started smoking cannabis. At the school I started taking all sorts of stuff; tablets, mushrooms, eccies, speed, diffs, valium…and then when I was 18 or 19, I started smoking heroin. From then on there was nae stopping me. It was a downward spiral. By this point I was shoplifting, robbing, doing fraud…just anything to get money for drugs. Life was all over the place but then again it was really organised. Like I would go all round the Borders from one town to another….and in each town I would work my way down each side of the street shoplifting in every store. I don’t know how we managed to get away with a lot of it. It was that brassnecked. Sometimes the security guys would even hold the doors open for us. I'd be walking out with bottles of Glenmorangie or pairs of Reeboks, or a Dyson hoover and a DVD player… or I’d go into the changing rooms and put on a bunch of Sprayway jackets and just walk out.

"And all of this because really I was feeding three heroin habits; mine, my ex-girlfriend’s and the guy driving the car. We were spending hundreds of pounds a day. Sometimes the money was spent even before I got hame. I was smoking, injecting…it was pure chaotic. Absolutely hellish. I was shattered at the end of every day. I couldnae dae all that again. Life was backwards and forwards and round in circles and I was in and out of jail like a yo-yo. I’d get community service, good behaviour orders, probation orders...and I would break them all.

"Stuff from the past was just eating away at me. I'd try to put it to the back of my mind but it was still there. I was taking drugs to get away from it all.  If I was feeling emotional about things that had happened, or even the thought of coming back into prison I took drugs to blank it out; to take the horrible feelings away.

"I knew I had to do something so I went and reported the abuse that had happened all that time before. I went to the police and they took statements and all that stuff and did what they had to do. But even after I’d that, it still felt like everything was on top of me. I thought I could never get out of it. I just wanted to end my life and I had a really good go at it. I wasnae halfhearted. I took loads of stuff and stuck a quarter of heroin intae my neck for good measure. The result? I ended up in a coma in hospital.

"Maybe this was the turning point. My aunt was working there. I could hear her voice beside my bed and then she just burst oot greetin' in front of me. From that time on my aunt and uncle said that they would support me. They've been brilliant. They visit me, they've attended my tribunals, and they’ve offered to help me when I get released.

"I’ve worked hard since then. Looking back I can see that I never used to deal with my problems ‘til they were a mountain high. Then I'd kick off. I'd just want to smash things and attack. Now I'll get frustrated…but I can see a problem before it gets out of hand. I'll nip it in the bud. If things get heated I can go away and then I start to see that things can look different. I can deal with things a lot lot easier and not let everything build up. I used to hold back but now whatever is there… I’ll deal with it. It’s easier to deal with it. Things are different now because I’m comfortable talking to people and if it needs to be said, I can say it now; 'I have a problem with opiates.'

"I’ve done all the courses; victim empathy, ripple effect, problem solving, peer pressure, high risk situations. I take something from each of them. Along with all of that there’s been the counselling. It’s been great. I’ve been able to talk through anything I want to, and over the past two years I’ve dealt with the abuse; well, the biggest part of it. It doesn’t bother me now. I’ve used all of this help to the best of my ability to get stronger. The proof is that I’m clean now. I’ve been clean for two years. What a big big bonus that is. It feels brilliant. I feel strong and good about myself.

"It’s been hard sometimes. I’ve ended up in the wrong place and still been surrounded by what I was trying to get away from. Like one time I was sharing a cell with a guy with a smack habit and other guys around were begging or selling their jumper just to get money for drugs. I walked out of there, an open prison, and tried to get myself back inside somewhere else just to try to get a break from it all. So I’ve had my battles along the way – it’s needed determination and hard work. I’ve had to prove my point and show people that even though I’m on methadone I am clean. I am not taking anything else. Now if I get released I want to get the methadone to zero so that I'm totally drug free.

"It’s important now that I can get myself out of here. Now I know I can stay with my aunt and uncle that’s a big difference to how things look. I'll get my own accommodation but I’ll just take it one step at a time. I’ll stay there for a day here and there while I get used to it. Then maybe if I manage that my son can come and stay weekends, and spend more time with me. I want life to be good for him. I dinnae want him to go through what I did.

"I want to get into employment too. I've worked hard here. I couldn’t not work now. I’ve been painting cells and offices and I do hairdressing too. I'm good at it. Maybe I could do a wee college course? Get a certificate to take me to the next level. I could work in a men's barbers.

"So there you go, that’s what I want. A normal life. My own place. A job to go to. Spending time with my son. Going out. Having nice things. Just being normal - that's what I want more than anything. I know that I'll manage this time. It won’t happen overnight, but I can dae it. I set myself wee targets now. It's no' been easy so far but it's been worth it. People say they see a difference in me. They say they can see I've got confidence and that makes me feel good. I've got confidence in myself which I never had for years. I've got the hunger and the ability to do things now that there’s nae drugs ruling my heid and controlling me. My life is in my own hands. I’m ruling it myself."


"...the counselling's been great. I’ve been able to talk through anything I want to, and over the past two years I’ve dealt with the abuse; well, the biggest part of it. It doesn’t bother me now. I’ve used all of this help to the best of my ability to get stronger. The proof is that I’m clean now. I’ve been clean for two years. What a big big bonus that is. It feels brilliant. I feel strong and good about myself."

For more recovery stories from the Greater Glasgow/Clyde region visit www.storiesofrecovery.org.uk