Concluding our three-part series on the demons of drug addiction.
IT had taken a violent road accident and a coma.
But Paul was finally rid of drugs for the first time in over a decade.
With the support of his family he gradually started to build a life for himself again.
When he woke up after the accident, he had thought he was 16 again but gradually his memory returned and he started to look for work.
Paul left school at 15 and had been told if he had sat his exams he eould have achieved at least a C grade in nine of the 11 subjects he was taking.
But now in his late 20s, all he had were skills he had learnt from the drug world – dealing, fighting, protecting himself, avoiding police and surviving.
With the help of his mum, he was able to start training with The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme and acquired several skills so that he could start working with troubled youngsters. He began going into high schools, including his former school in Calderdale, helping teenagers on the alternative education programmes.
“I found I was able to relate to them,” he said.
“I could say to them ‘I’ve been there, seen it, done it. The book you’re reading, I wrote it’.
“I loved it.”
Instead of taking drugs, he poured his energy into music and writing rap and ragga songs. “That’s what kept me sane,” he said. And he started to get fit again. Drugs and living on the streets had left Paul – who is 6ft 1ins tall and has been told he should weigh between 14 and 15 stone – was just nine and half stones on the scales.
He started running, something he had loved before drugs, and even ran the Great North Run for mental health charity Mind.
One of his proudest moments was beating 80 other applicants for a position working with young people in Bradford.
But his happiness was not to last for long. He started a relationship with a woman and bought a house in Mytholmroyd.
He tumbled back into depression when she left him, taking with her two of her children and leaving him in £169,000 of debt.
He didn’t finish his job contract and he found himself homeless again, this time sofa-surfing.
He got into trouble with a gang in Huddersfield, with matters coming to a head when he woke up one morning to find a man towering over him wielding an axe.
“I was a mess,” he said.
Again with the support of his family, Paul is now trying to get his life back on track.
He wants to focus on being a good father to his children, and says they are what are stopping him from returning to drugs.
He is in a loving and supportive relationship and wants to be the best son and brother he can be to his family.
“It’s not about me any more, it’s about my kids, my family and loved ones,” he said.
If anything can come from his experiences, he says he hopes it is a warning to other about getting involved with drugs.
He says people seem to consider cannabis harmless, but wants them to know that every crack and heroin addict will have started by smoking the drug.
“People think ‘It’s is just a bit of weed’ but when you start smoking cannabis you have made a decision to start taking drugs,” he said.
“It’s downhill from there.”
“Once you’re in that world, you have no choice in the matter. You’re hooked.
“And it’s not just you that you are destroying, it’s everyone around you – your partners, parents, children and friends.”