21st October 2015
Phil’s passing on experience to others
DESPERATION to get cash for drugs caused Phil Turner to inadvertently set fire to a derelict house.
The crime was one of 40 that he committed while addicted to amphetamine during a period in which he was reduced to stealing metals to fund his spiralling habit.
Following a nine year struggle to put his life back together, Phil is now one of Bolton probation’s health trainers, and is using his experience to help others.
The turning point occurred as the father-of-four was being sentenced to five years in jail for arson at Crown Court. Phil had set fire to a sofa in a derelict house in an attempt to get to cash that he could feel was trapped inside it.
He said: “I was in the house to knick scrap metal. I could hear lose change in the sofa, but couldn’t get at it.
“After I’d set it on fire, my dog started barking, so I went to see what was wrong. By the time I came back black smoke was pouring out of the sofa so I ran.
“My mate didn’t know that I’d fled the scene, he thought I was trapped inside. So he called the fire brigade and told them I was trapped in a burning house.”
Phil’s battle with drugs started when he was a teenager as he began to take amphetamine to help keep him awake at work.
He said: “I was 19, I already had two kids, and I was working six days a week at a warehouse. I ended up addicted to speed. By the time I was 24 we had four kids, our relationship broke down, my mental health deteriorated and all the problems were feeding off each other.
“I was staying awake throughout the week and only slept at the weekend. I walked away from the job because I was so tired I lost coordination and was shaking.”
Phil, who is from Kearsley, was sectioned four times because of his mental health and moved back in with his mum.
He said: “I’d got so low that I was thieving off my mum, thieving her jewellery, anything just to get speed. She couldn’t leave me alone in her house, she couldn’t go on holiday because she couldn’t trust me.
“She got me sectioned. I was having delusions. I ruined all my relationships. I told my kids I’d take them places, but then never turned up.”
Phil managed to quit drugs in prison.
He said: “I couldn’t get speed in jail, so I got addicted to heroin. I was in a really bad mental state, weak and vulnerable and I got beat up a couple of times.
“But I had time to reflect in the cell. I got really angry with myself, with how much I’d let people down. I said to myself it was ‘now or never’ – so I used the time as best I could and I went at it raw, I got ruthless and determined.
“I also began writing to my family to apologise.”
Phil began recovery by quitting all drugs and reading self-help books, including Buddhist literature about meditation and yoga. For the first six months Phil’s functions were still damaged by the drug abuse he had endured.
Phil said: “People thought I was mad, but I got respect for stopping smoking.”
Over time Phil became a peer mentor, helping other prisoners with their issues, and was even recommended by HMP Risley’s governor for the progress he had made.
Following release he served his licence supervised by Bolton probation’s Emma Crook, and completed a maths and English course run by the service.
He said: “My probation officer encouraged me. She attended social services meetings held to make sure I was a fit dad. It meant the world to me to have the law on my side for a change.”
Phil became a probation health trainer for the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company. His role involves working with offenders to improve their health, carrying out tasks such as taking them to the gym, providing nutritional and dietary advice, make sure they have GPs and dentists and taking them to appointments when necessary.
Phil said: “I love the job. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do – focusing on the health and rehabilitation of others.
“Some I work with have anxiety and struggle communicating when they get nervous. By accompanying them to the doctors’ surgery I can help break down barriers.
“Health, as my own story shows, is a key part of rehabilitation. It was only after I started to take care of myself that I could begin to address my underlying issues.”
Phil added: “I hate drugs now. I think about the damage, the crime. Being in jail opened my eyes to that, there are some good people in there who have made some bad choices because of drugs. I’ve also lost two friends to drugs.
“From getting sentenced in 2006, it took me nine years to repair the damage drugs caused.
“My advice to anyone in trouble is do as many things as you can that you can feel proud of – rather than things like taking drugs.”
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