Ex-convict who served three stints in jail puts crime behind him thanks to Peterlee service

editorial image

AN ex-convict with more than 200 offences on his record and three stints in prison is putting his criminal past behind him – thanks to a pioneering Peterlee-based service.

John Douglas, 43, has a long list of convictions stretching back to when he was 14, mainly for shoplifting and burglary, but his longest jail term was 16 months, for dealing cannabis.

Aged just 11, he got into substance misuse, sniffing solvents, before eventually moving on to cannabis and then heroin, using six to eight bags a day.

John, who lives in Peterlee, blamed “low self-esteem” and the “fear of rejection” for falling into drugs and crime.

“Drugs gave me a confidence, you think drugs make you the person you should be,” he said.

“But it’s not, it’s all false.”

He said the turning point was losing contact with his young son, and he knew he had to set about making changes.

Since being referred to Recovery Academy Durham (RAD), a public health-funded iniatitive that follows the 12 steps of Alcoholics, and Narcotics Anonymous and is the first of its kind in the region, John has been sober and offence-free and drug-free for more than a year.

He has even completed a health and social care NVQ Level 2 at East Durham College, is a RAD Ambassador for County Durham, and is doing a counselling course so he can help others in a similar situation.

John said: “You have to work on yourself and change your whole way of thinking.

“This programme raises your self-esteem and gives you self-worth and self-esteem.The only thing I had hope for previously was for not getting caught by the police or having enough drugs for the next day. But now I have hope for a positive future.”

Since the Burnhope Way-based facility, which is based on abstince and whose motto is “There is hope here”, opened in December 2011, 54 people have been admitted.

Of these, 17 have graduated from the course, with 31 leaving RAD alcohol and drug-free.

The scheme, which also has staff working at Durham Prison’s I wing, offers a residential service.

A typical day can see users cleaning the building from top to bottom, attending a morning affirmation session and a lecture on the 12 steps to recovery, groupwork, and attending Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings four nights a week.

Academy senior therapist Kevin Hunt, who himself has been alcohol-free for 14 years and has seen people die from their addiction, said: “I believe anybody can change, no matter how far down the line they have gone.”

Ex-offenders who use the service have even given a presentation to Durham Police on pathways into crime, and members have taken part in the Durham Gala, flying the flag for recovery.

Users can be referred to the academy through the County Durham Community Drug Service.

l Mail view: Page 8