Addicted to hard drugs and committing crime to fund his habit, Steve Clark realised he needed to change.
Coming out of prison, he was keen to find some focus in his life.
Now, after kicking heroin and ditching friends who were known addicts, he is back on the right track.
After coming off all drugs in December, 2015, Steve, of Portsmouth, was signed up through probation to a pilot scheme at the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy.
He had been addicted for his entire adult life to a number of drugs, including cannabis, crack cocaine and heroin.
Under the steady eye of head trainer Dave Johnston, the former burglar was able to stay on the straight and narrow.
‘I was fed up with my lifestyle and I wanted to change but I needed something to focus on.’Steve Clark
‘For the first time in my life I’ve developed skills and achieved qualifications and I’m taking up opportunities to give something back to the community, to contribute instead of taking,’ Steve says.
‘I had committed burglaries to fund my drug-taking. But since my last crime, I’ve become aware of the damage my lifestyle was doing to so many people.
‘The crime attracted publicity and this upset my family badly and I’d started to understand things from the point of view of the victims of the burglary.
‘I was fed up with my lifestyle and I wanted to change but I needed something to focus on.
‘The boxing awards and coaching training has opened up new circles for me to thrive in. I’ve met new people and I feel like a new person.
‘The Boxing Academy Programme has given me stability and a new commitment to helping others. It’s a world away from my previous lifestyle and the behaviours that led to time in prison.’
Such is his progress that he was handed a platinum Boxing Award and the Tutor Award in June last year.
Steve is now turning his success into helping other people.
Apart from playing badminton several times a week, running and going to the gym, he volunteers to help others.
Each Saturday Steve coaches children in boxing skills at the Heart of Portsmouth boxing gym. He also has a health and safety certificate which was completed as part of the Boxing Academy Programme.
As a volunteer for Re-Fit, he gives support to people battling poor mental health and addiction, along with meeting members of the Portsmouth Users Self-Help (PUSH) group.
He hopes he will secure paid work as a facilitator or support worker in the future.
And because he managed to change his life, he knows what is at stake.
‘People would come to me to score,’ Steve says.
‘I wanted to give up the drugs, but it was all I knew.
‘I almost lost my place at the Society of St James-run Integrated Offender Management house because I was visited by “friends” who were known drug users.’
But now he has won nothing but admiration from those involved in helping him.
Dave Johnston, head trainer at the Heart of Portsmouth Boxing Academy, says: ‘Steve has been our star pupil, he shows a real talent for coaching and it’s great to see him volunteering with us and helping his local community.
‘During the course he progressed through all the levels, ultimately achieving a Platinum Award and a Boxing Tutor Award.
‘I enjoyed running the course. In all 12 probation service users took part, eight received awards and four, including Steve, are still training with us.
‘It was rewarding for me to see how they turned their lives around for the better.’