Rashid came to NAAMA through our charity partner, the Nehemiah Project, who work with men in drug and alcohol recovery. Rashid’s prison tattoos remind him of a difficult time in his life - one he spends every day trying to rebuild. Now clean, he dedicates his time to volunteering and helping others. But now it’s our turn to help him. This is his story.
I’m in recovery, but I had a drug problem and a very troubled upbringing. I spent time in prison. But completing the drug rehabilitation programme opened up so many doors for me. I found my faith, reconnected with family and my daughters, and I live in a clean, honest way. I’m a completely different person today.
One of the lovely facilitators at the Nehemiah Project told me about NAAMA and SECOND CHANCES. I didn’t think it was true, because I’m not used to getting help; I usually give help. When I heard about it and you heard my story and were willing to help… I’m so thankful. When you do good, good comes back.
It’s weird because when I was using and in active addiction, I didn’t really care about them. I didn’t really care about myself. But as I’m meeting new people that are good for me and I’m rebuilding my life, I’ve started to dislike them. I can’t thank this place enough. I really can’t.
“I started slipping back and, if you want me to be honest, I was getting cocky with being clean. I fell, and I fell hard.”
Would you tell us about your tattoos?
These are prison tattoos. They were made with the stereo cassette motor. It was a very bad time for me. I didn’t realise what I was doing at the time. I was in a dark place.
One of my tattoos says ‘Kelly for life’. She’s the mother of my children. I was facing a big sentence and I’d been letting her down. I remember it clearly, the guy before he did the tattoo, he looks at me and he goes, ‘are you sure you want to do this?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, of course I do.’ And I wish I hadn’t. So he did it and I showed it to her. I think it brought us closer, but I do regret it.
The other names are my mum’s and my two daughters’. Even though I love the people, I’ve decided to have them removed because I have a new life. I want to forget about the past. My daughter said to me 'you’re not going to take our names off' and I said ‘yeah, everyone is getting removed.’ But they understand.
It’s a reminder of the time. Every day I’m trying to rebuild and do some good to counteract the bad I’ve done, and these tattoos bring me back to a different life and time.
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Can you tell us a bit more about rebuilding your life?
I was wanted by the police and I tried to escape to Morocco. Everything had gotten too much for me and I couldn’t handle it. But then I got arrested at the airport. I thought it was a bad thing at the time but it wasn’t, it was good, because when I got to prison I made the decision to get clean.
I got clean before, for five or six years. I loved it, it was the best time of my life. Then obviously, I was taking it for granted. I was hanging around with the wrong people, missing a few things that I should have been doing - like my prayers and treating people with respect. So I started slipping back and, if you want me to be honest, I was getting cocky with being clean. I fell, and I fell hard.
But it’s one thing falling - it’s getting back to being clean that’s hard. They say it’s two things: getting clean, and staying clean. With me, it’s getting clean. I knew from experience what I needed to do and not do to stay clean. It took me five years to get clean again but I promised myself that if I got clean, I wouldn’t go back down that road under any circumstance.
So fast forward, I’m in prison. Everybody in the prison was drinking, I felt alienated. I was the only one on the wing that wanted to get clean. If someone didn’t take Class A drugs, he smoked spice, if he didn’t smoke spice, he drank alcohol. It felt like I was on my own. It was a dark time.
But experience and my faith helped me. I got clean and I went to the Nehemiah Project. I still remember how it felt and that deters me from using or taking my recovery for granted.
It was really, really, really hard to get clean. You’ve got to make the decision on your own. You can go to any treatment but they’re not going to make you better, you have to make the call inside you first. And then once you do that, people can help you rebuild your life.
I made that decision in the cell. And I just kept going, kept going, kept going. It’s when you’re in the cell on your own, that’s when you know who you are. It was a very dark place. I locked everybody out, I didn’t talk to anyone. Just my sister. Even my daughters wouldn’t talk to me, but they understand now. Just day by day… I just take it day by day.
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“Even though I love the people, I’ve decided to have them removed because I have a new life. I want to forget about the past."
How have you found your removal so far?
Treatment isn’t bad. The one on my hand hurts, but I thought I was going to live with these forever. I was thinking about getting them covered up but I’m Muslim, so I’m not meant to get tattooed in the first place. I was having a fight with myself, praying to God saying, ‘God, forgive me. I want to cover it up. Please forgive me.’ But then NAAMA came along. I don’t care how painful it is, because having them removed is priceless.
Everybody at NAAMA is so helpful. They open the door for you, get you a drink. It’s a nice area. Everybody’s polite. You feel like somebody.
I don’t have a lot of people around me, but the ones around me are really excited and really happy for me. I couldn’t be more grateful.
SECOND CHANCES is here to help
To nominate yourself or someone else for our SECOND CHANCES programme, complete the submission form at the bottom of our SECOND CHANCES page with your tattoo story and what it would mean to you/your nominee to receive treatment.