James Starnes, 24, Hastings.
How did you know about abob?
I’d been in Lewes prison and probation told me about abob. To be honest at first, I wasn’t ready for it but eventually I felt like giving a weekend a go. I met James Wong one day, and was off doing The Quest the next.
How was the Quest for you?
Very emotional and beautiful. It takes courage to do what we did. There were a lot of tears. I was moved hearing other people’s stories and reflecting on my own. I may have done some things in the past that I’m not proud of but I realised that on this weekend that I’m not a bad person, I just started hanging out with the wrong people.
What was the effect of the weekend on you?
Well, I’ve never been back in trouble again with the police. And I get so much support from the men at abob. I don’t smoke weed any more. I’ve got learning difficulties – autism, ADHD, Asperger’s, schizophrenia and I’m anxious so it was a big deal to stay there. I wanted to leave but I also wanted to stay. I stayed.
I went in not knowing who I am but I came out knowing who I am. I didn’t make friends there, I made brothers.
I have also been suicidal in the past and I haven’t cut myself since. I’m happy to say that I’m a member of abob.
Could you tell us something about growing up?
I feel that I had a privileged upbringing. I’ve got a good family. I just got involved with people that used me. I didn’t know how to make that choice. I wanted to fit in. I ended up in Lewis prison for seven months later on.
How was your mentoring experience?
It was lovely. I got a bloke called Graham and we had coffee and he listened.
And the weekly circles?
I love them. I can’t get enough of them. Time flies by. I appreciate our different backgrounds and hearing their different stories.
Yes, I have and I want to do more. I really want other men to have the experiences that I’ve had. Once you put your toes in, that’s it. There’s an exercise about trust, where you fall backwards into the crowd. That’s it for me. I went up to one guy who had been in prison and told him that he wasn’t a bad guy. We were doing an exercise where we were looking into each other’s eyes.
What do your family think of abob?
My mum is my carer. I live at home. She’s very supportive around me going to abob.
How do you see your future with abob?
As a mentor. If I had a lot of money, I’d give it to abob. I feel very proud of my involvement.