We were recently the lucky winners of a signed copy of the above book written by Andi Brierley as part of the Waterside Press “turn-around stories” series. The author today works as a Looked After Children/Care Leaver Specialist with the Leeds Youth Offending Service.

The poignant title of the book captures the essence of this memoir when Andi describes his teenage self as ‘zoning out’ as a Judge in passing sentence uses legal terminology and language that has no meaning for a young offender who has no voice at that moment. This book is his way of redressing that, and more.

Andi as a child was living in difficult circumstances where a lack of positive role models from the adults in his life inevitably led him and some of his siblings to drug use including heroin at a very young age.

By the time he was a teenager he was well known to the police and the criminal justice system and locked up in various Young Offender Institutions in a typical scenario of re-offending and repeat admissions. He describes too many occasions in the book where a proper intervention by the social care system may have saved him from an inexorable destiny.

Andi recognises and highlights in the book - usually with a wry aside - the failings in the system. But he also acknowledges the opportunities that being in prison provided such as access to books and learning.

However, the core message of Andi’s book is his fundamental belief that shines out of almost every chapter – that there must be something more to life than the one he was living and the reader has a sense of his ever striving for small incremental improvements. At times this meant distancing himself from childhood friends and transient relationships, and also from his immediate family when it would become impossible to centre himself amidst the ongoing chaos, often horrific violence and abuse.

Remarkably –  and a stand out aspect of the book – is his account of how as a young man he overcomes his by now entrenched heroin addiction without ever being in formal treatment or attending mutual aid groups. When preparing to use again after a spell without heroin he has a powerful epiphany and an overriding realisation that he that he did not want to be in a position of being addicted to heroin again. That was a significant turning point in his life as was the chance soon after to volunteer for the Youth Offending Service and the ongoing support from ‘accidental heroes’ including his kindly supervisor at the warehouse where he was working.

This is a compelling and inspirational book that has lessons for professionals, will resonate with people who use drugs and will make many of us think twice about how we can better practice trauma informed care on every level.

Book review by Elsa Browne.

DRAW: We will draw a name from entries at the end of November 2019 and the winner will receive a copy of this book, signed by the author. THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW ENDED.  Congratulations to our lucky winner - Dr Shirin Lakha.

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