How long ago is it that you did the Quest weekend?
I actually did it seven years ago and am at this interesting juncture where I have transitioned from being a young man receiving support to an older man supporting other younger men. That feels significant.
How did you know about abob?
I was on probation in Brighton and it wasn’t going well with the probation officer. Out of desperation, I turned to a poster on the wall and it was an abob one. I didn’t have a clue what it was but I rang them. Two days later I was off to do a weekend.
Did you know about the weekend?
No – I thought it was going to be a Bear Grylls sort of outdoor experience. And underneath, I was scared. I had a criminal background and owed money etc, so I thought perhaps I was being carried off as retribution.
How was the weekend?
In many ways it was bizarre. I wasn’t really ready for it. In fact, I got more out of staffing the next ones than I did from the first one. I was carrying so much fear, I couldn’t really get it. But as soon as the different men started talking, I started trusting them. I felt safe.
Although the weekend also opened me up and broke me. It threw up lots of stuff for me.
What were the meaningful parts for you?
The story of Parsifal is central to this weekend, and this spoke to me. I’d always been interested in King Arthur and medieval times so I could resonate with Parsival who was on an anti-hero’s journey. His story resonated with my own. I also felt very connected to the other men while it was going on. I always find new parts too.
How do you look back on it seven years later?
I see the weekend as a privilege, it’s definitely inspired me. It’s also hard work. Since then, I’ve staffed lots of different weekends too.
I found it all very hard for the first year. I’ve had a couple of mental health issues in this time. We were introduced to the archetypes like lover and warrior, at first this played into my voices but I was supported by a lot of the men in the community. And I also got challenged big time. They held me too. It was a remarkable time.
They helped me become the man I wanted to be. I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my family. I’ve got beyond blaming my parents. I started to grow up. I see my parents as valuable human beings.
How do you reflect on your own past?
I got bullied at school. It was a violent place. I got into drugs and violence and didn’t really go to school much. I turned from being bullied to being a bully. I was always blaming others, I ‘ve stopped that. For me, it’s all about acceptance and understanding. I’d been very selfish. I had to learn a different way. The men of abob really do support
Has being a part of abob changed your life?
Unlike in so many men in society, abob men really do care and support. Knowing that has changed my life.
I’d always been scared of men but abob changed that.
When I was at secondary school, I started to want to impress girls. I saw other men as competition for their attention. I was going between fear and competition around men.
I was always trying to be a hero for women and particularly my mum.
I always found the pub, alpha male atmosphere uncomfortable. Abob brought me a new group of men who were different.
How has your relationship with men changed?
My dad is now 72, my sister and I do a lot of caring for him. I have definitely got to see a softer side of him. He’s had a well-lived life and has a lot of stories to tell. He’s an elder and I respect him. And it’s still a challenging relationship sometimes.
Are your parents divorced?
Yes, and my step parents have been great at being a conduit to my parents when things were difficult.
And your siblings?
I have an older sister who went off to uni and was really into her studies. I didn’t see my little brother because he was so much younger than me. From about 17 to 25, I didn’t think about anyone or anything except myself.
And your mother?
I really didn’t get on with her when I was younger. I blamed her for dad leaving. She admitted at some stage that she hadn’t wanted kids. That was hard. But our relationship has got much better now I’m older. We speak every week now. I really love my mum these days.
I really didn’t like myself when I started. Now I do and I’m proud of myself.
How do you think about abob these days?
I’m in it for the long haul. They are my community. They mean a lot to me. We’ve got each other’s backs. I immediately have a level of trust for men who’ve been through the same process as me. It’s bonding work.
How is your work life?
Before abob, I financed myself with a life of crime. But now I’m self-employed and also a volunteer with abob. I also want to do some more education and take an accountancy and photography course.
And your future with abob?
I’ve done a lot of the trainings. I’ve been supporting various trainings too like when groups need to know how the weekly circle goes. I used to be a chef so I often lead the kitchen on weekends. I’m also involved in clearings between men are in conflict.