FALLING in with the “wrong crowd” at school led to a Stockton man into a self-destructive, 15 year cycle of drink, drugs, depression and crime.
Ashley Allcock, 33, came from a loving family but when he started to hang around with a new set of friends at 14, his life gradually went downhill.
His “first love” was super-strength cannabis skunk but gradually he moved on to cocaine.
Petty crime led to 10 years of drug dealing as Ashley tried to get as much cash as quickly as possible to fund his growing crack and cocaine habit.
At one point, Ashley was supplying drugs to dealers across the north east. He earned in one week what many people would earn in a year.
Ashley spent his cash on drugs, clothes and women, but his life was out of control. On the surface, Ashley admits that “life was good.” However, it was punctuated by spells in some of the UK’s toughest prisons and periods of depression when he didn’t leave the house for up to four months.
The tipping point
The tipping point came when his distraught mum found drugs in the family home. She gave Ashley an ultimatum to get himself “sorted.”
Within days, he was at Stockton’s Moses Project and shortly afterwards, he went to a residential rehab in Derby.
He left after five days but his mum refused to take him back until he turned his life around.
After about 16 months, Ashley found his Christian faith. He now admits that he found a “happiness and peace that I had never felt before.”
Now Ashley has been clean for almost five years. He works full time, goes to the gym several times per week and is devoted to his family. Ashley also spends a lot of time at his “second home” the Moses Project.
He said: “I’m a different person now. I’ve gone from chasing drug dealers around Birmingham city centre with a machete to going around with a smile on my face.
“The same thing is on offer here for anyone else, who wants it, because you are surrounded by the right people.”
Brian Jones. The Moses’ Project Chief Executive Officer, said “It’s amazing what Ashley has done. I’m so pleased with where he is in life.
“When I first met him, he was numb and his expression was blank. Now you see him and he’s full of life, full of joy and lifts everyone up.”
Funding worth £5,000 from Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner has helped to support the Moses Project’s Fresh Start initiative.
Fresh Start has helped a further 22 men address their substance misuse issues in the past year.
The initiative has provided mentoring and support to the men. It helped with everything from travel warrants to rehab to essentials like toiletries so they could keep clean.
Almost half of the total (11) have made it into residential rehab – away from the streets of Stockton and the temptations of drink and drugs.
After engaging with the project, 65 per cent of participants surveyed said they no longer stole items which were easy to sell or swap for drugs. A total of 75 per cent have not re-offended.
A dry house
The Moses Project, which is based at Foundation House, Stockton, plans to develop support further by setting up a dry house with the help of £10,000 from Cleveland OPCC.
The house will allow the charity to work with men in an environment free from drink and drugs – aside from residents on methadone-reducing plans.
Organisers also plan to set up a series of small, social enterprises so the men can stay busy and begin to give back to the community.