Aaron, 31, bricklayer, Hastings

How did you know about Abob?

I was in Lewes prison and Neil (the engagement officer for Hastings abob) was doing a Family Day in there. He’s a nice guy but I ignored any info about abob the first time I met him. But I was aware that I was in a vicious circle of leaving prison and then coming back in again since I’d been 25, and I couldn’t seem to do anything about it. So the next time I met Neil, I told him that I’d give the weekend a go.

What were those same situations that kept happening?

The people I was hanging around with – weren’t good for me. I was drinking a lot, I was taking drugs as well as being part of the sale of them, I was getting into huge fights. I’ve been shot, I’ve been stabbed on three different occasions, I’ve been re-susitated three times. I started getting into more trouble with so called friends when I tried to stop. It did feel hopeless. When you have been in prison a few times, you only have to sneeze and you’re back in again. You’re in the system.

Tell me a bit about your background?

Growing up, my mum and dad were often angry with each other because of my dad’s drinking. It was hard. And I had ADHD which affected my schooling, I was a misfit and couldn’t sit still. I was expelled from seven secondary schools. I ended up at a special school where they handed out medication, and did a lot of restraining of us. I didn’t get any GCSEs. I ended up doing drugs and drinking to fit in. That was the same as being in a gang. I left home at 16 and had my first child with my then partner.

How was the Quest weekend for you?

It wasn’t what I expected. I thought it was going to be bonfires, marsh mallows and talking to a group of men but it wasn’t. The carpet work brought up emotional stuff for me. I had a son who was still born. I hadn’t grieved for him. I hadn’t cried for about ten years before this weekend, and I did cry. I wailed. I let it all out. I also let out my anger. There were a lot of younger men than me, and they often wanted to be with me.

And what did you take away?

Respect. I felt stronger within myself. A weight had lifted from my shoulders. I was at last somewhere that I wanted to be. I actually want to be supporting other young men. It’s important to me to be of service. I want to put something good out into the world, and that it’s not just about me.

How was your mentoring?

It went brilliantly. It was Stu. I spoke to him about many things. I felt understood. It’s so good to feel part of a community. It’s so important. And that it’s not a one-way street, it’s about giving back.

How has it been with your parents since joining abob?

My dad’s a bricklayer and the times when I feel that we’re in tune, is when we’re working together. Mum has always been my rock. I’m the youngest. They’ve both seen the changes that I’ve made since abob and respect me for that.

If you were asked to score the before abob and after abob re your relationship with your parents, what would it be. From 0 to 5?

Before would be 2 and now 4.

How did you meet your present partner?

On our first date, we felt like we’d known each other for years. I was living in Ashford, and she was living here in Herne Bay so I ended up moving which was a great thing for me. I left behind all my old friends that used to lead to trouble. I’ve got three children and she’s got two so the household is pretty lively and very loving. She’s been 100% supportive and I feel so different. It’s so great to see so much of my kids too.

How do you see your future with abob?

I’d love to be one of the leaders and train. I would like to be a mentor and lead carpet work.