Smithy-Jai, 20, Leamington
How did you know about abob?
Jon Temple who is part of Leamington abob told me. He’s my sessional worker through social services. And my personal advisor told me too.
Tell us a little about your life?
I had a challenging upbringing. My mum was using drugs. I wasn’t safe at home, my nan called the police and I got put in a care home when I was 13. I got into drugs from the age of 11 as a way of dealing with all of that.
How was the care home?
I went through lots of different places, most of them were terrible, until I landed at one in Worcester. I was there for six years and it was really good. I’m still in touch with people that lived there.
What happened as you got older?
I got into selling drugs to make money and at 17, I was stabbed in the head. That was a hugely significant traumatic event in my life. One that I’m still dealing with now. It affected my mental and physical health. I’m still pretty limited in what I can do now.
And how was your mental health?
No-one wanted to be around me because I was so unpredictable. I was very angry and I didn’t know how to deal with it. I didn’t understand why it was happening to me. I don’t talk to my family now which has been a positive change. I have been diagnosed with complex PTSD and Autism. it helps to know that.
And what did that look like out on the streets?
I did a lot of fighting. I didn’t go to school. And lots of drugs.
How was the rites of passage weekend?
I went in open-minded because I had no idea what was going to happen. It was hard to sit in a circle with new people but as I heard their stories, I felt a huge amount of relief. I no longer felt alone. And we bonded. This group have really helped me to become the man I want to be.
And what did you take away from it?
Controlling my anger was a huge thing for me. Abob men taught me to have a healthy relationship with my anger. To release it in a safe space rather than in fighting with other men.
And I learnt to be empathetic with others. Hearing their stories, I learnt to put myself in their shoes. Autism stops me understanding other people’s expressions so I had to learn what they all meant. I learnt to gauge how men are feeling when they are talking to me. I learnt a lot through the emotional sharing work, like not to hide my feelings.
How did it go with your mentor?
Fran was my mentor and it was great. He was so interested in me and how I am. We met every week at 2 pm on a Thursday and went for a walk. I talked about what was going on for me. We shared too. Fran would give examples of how he dealt with difficult situations. We talked about quantum physics which Is one of my main interests. I can talk for hours about that…
And you have a partner and new baby?
I’ve known my partner since primary school and we’ve just had a son. My main focus at the moment is to move out of Coventry.
Has being a part of abob helped you relate better to your partner?
Yes, it’s helped me be able to communicate and explain myself so much better. I’m also on medication which helps keep me stable. I can say what I want now to her. I couldn’t before.
Have you got a plan for the future re abob?
Yes, I want to staff on more weekends and be more involved in serving others.