Lewis told us how finding faith and having Pact's support had helped him make a fresh start, after spending 25 years in and out of prison...

I want to thank Pact for all the support you have given me. I am so very grateful, you have helped me immensely.

"When I was thirteen years old, my behaviour was out of control and I was placed in the care of Social Services. I remember sitting in my room in the children's home in floods of tears, feeling so alone. But soon the tears turned to anger. I made a vow to myself in that moment that no-one would tell me what to do ever again.

I'm not going to lie: being my own boss and the master of my own destiny seemed exciting. But I had no boundaries and I was filled with anger, hate and resentment at the world. I was frightened but I pushed that fear deep down inside of me and fought back.

Soon I started getting arrested for all sorts of stupid things and, when I turned fifteen and was old enough, I was sent to a Young Offender Institution. Wow - what a terrifying experience that was! But it still didn't stop me.

I spent the next twenty-five years in and out of prisons all over the country. 

Every day I'd repeat the mantra, "I don't care." No matter how bad it got, even in the punishment block in prison, I'd scream it from the top of my voice over and over, "I don't care!" I shut myself down and came to believe I truly didn't care. I thought I could do it all on my own and I wouldn't accept help from anyone - unless, of course, it was money.

Drugs are part of my story. From an early age I started using substances to escape how I was feeling. And drugs are eventually what brought me to my knees.

In 2019 I found myself in HMP Winchester at the start of another sentence. I felt broken inside and I realised my way was not working. 

There was only one thing left to do.

I got on my knees and I begged God for His help. I said, "Lord, I can't do this on my own anymore," then I cried my eyes out.

I'm not going to tell you things immediately got better because they didn't. But I did begin to pray every day and I started to see changes. 

I asked for help from the substance misuse team in the prison and we worked out a plan for me to detox. I also became a Peer Supporter and started helping others. I was given some trust and responsibility and I slowly began to get some self-worth. People started turning to me for support. For someone who had always taken from others, this was mind blowing! It felt good. 

I engaged with a twelve step programme, attended weekly meetings and got myself a sponsor (someone who has worked through the steps and guides you through them too). I also started psychotherapy with a Clinical Psychologist. Along with asking for God's help, are the best decisions I have ever made.

I came to realise that I didn't even know who I was. What did I stand for? What was my life all about? I began to build a picture in my mind of the person I wanted to become.

I found that I wasn't a bad person: I didn't need to label myself as an addict or a criminal anymore. I was Lewis, just a guy a who'd had a difficult start in life. I also found that I could tolerate my emotions if only I gave myself a chance to sit with them.

All this time I continued to pray and my connection with God grew and grew. I began to see that God was doing for me what I couldn't do for myself. All I had to do was put my faith in Him.

Before I knew it, I had the most amazing support network in prison - I had surrendered, I had asked for help - and you know what? Everyone wanted to help me. How about that? There are some truly amazing, selfless people in this world. I just had to open up my heart and let them in. There is nothing wrong with admitting you can't do it on your own.

I am now out of prison living a new life in the community. I finished my detox and recently I celebrated my first year of sobriety from all substances.

I have continued to access all the support I can get. I have a Pact Befriender called Mark who rings me each week. He is so helpful and supportive. We talk over everything that is going on in my life and he isn't frightened to point out to me where I may need to be careful or to possibly reconsider a course of action.

Since being released I have also found a local church in my community and the love and support I have received from them has been amazing.

All the support I have received from everyone has been truly humbling, and all because I became willing and asked for help!

I now live a life free from drugs and I am able to better manage my fear and frustration. I have found that life is about progress not perfection. If and when these issues arise, and invariably they do, I tap into my support network and ask for more help. I am living my best life and trying my hardest, with the help of God, to be the best version of myself."

Lewis’ Befriender, Mark, told us: "Lewis was released from prison three months into lockdown, which meant I wasn’t able to meet him in person. It’s a huge challenge to provide ‘Through the Gate’ support remotely, and I was worried that Lewis’ “revolving door” prison history would mean he wouldn’t want to get involved with Pact. But then I found out about how well Lewis had co-operated – often bravely - with the rehabilitation services in HMP Winchester. It sounded like he was ready to make a fresh start. 

When I contacted Lewis the day after his release, I was left in no doubt that I was dealing with a rough diamond: an exceptional man absolutely committed to changing his life for good and helping others along the way. He had so much energy and I was struck by his new-found faith, his own volunteering in recovery support, and his desire to plug into all available support.   

Through Pact’s Befriending service, I am in contact with Lewis every week. I am enormously proud to have watched the journey Lewis has made. Supporting people who are trying to adjust to life outside prison and away from addiction is not always easy. But Lewis is the best example of what recovery looks like. His story is incredibly encouraging to both other prisoners and our volunteers. Listening to Lewis talking inspirationally live on local radio stations up and down the country on a sunny Sunday morning before Easter was an absolute highlight of my 2021."

Find out more