In 1985, aged 14, Gareth turned to alcohol & drugs as a way of coping with his abusive childhood. This lifelong journey continued to spiral downwards until a chance meeting in 2016.

Joe Lockley of Energize STW tells Gareth's story

In  2016, a chance meeting led to Gareth moving to Telford from the Black Country and entering a ‘Dry House’ project called A Better Tomorrow. ( ABT) This was to prove a journey he hasn’t looked back from.

In April 2017 Energize STW supported ABT to start a cycling project for its service users called ‘Breaking Chains’.  With a coach that had used cycling for their own recovery, Gareth was one of the first participants on the weekly group rides. Within weeks he was going out on his own having realised that cycling gave him that feeling of ‘ peace and tranquillity’ he had been searching for and an opportunity to ‘clear his head’

His newfound passion for cycling led to him completing the Boston Rider Sportif, another 65 miles ride in around 4hrs and volunteering as a martial at The Blists Hill Cycle Cross event.

Gareth provides coach support on group rides and says responsibility has helped improve his self-confidence. Gareth also become a volunteer/mentor at ABT and Aquarius often representing the ‘voice of the service user’ at regional and national meetings.

Gareth positively sought opportunities for personal development and has recently completed the Ride Leader Qualification. He is also taking his British Cycling Level 1 qualification.

Gareth says that cycling has undoubtedly improved his physical health/ mental wellbeing but feels the greatest gains have been in his self-confidence and motivation.  I have witnessed Gareth speaking in front of large audiences at recovery conferences, employability events and he spoke at our recent Strategy Launch Event. Gareth says “there is no way I could have done this 18 months ago”    

Gareth has become an important role model, not just within ABT, but within the wider recovery community and his strengths as a mentor have recently been recognised with an award at the Telford & Wrekin recovery conference. Having completed 2 years at ABT he has now moved into independent living and taken on a paid role at ABT working the maximum number of ‘permitted hours. He continues to volunteer in his spare time.

There is undisputed evidence that positive peer support and transitioning people from negative social groups or social isolation into positive social groups are key elements in the recovery process. Gareth has not only used cycling to make huge inroads into his own positive transition, he has taken and continues to take other people along with him on this journey. His dedication is an inspiration yet he remains grounded by his daily interaction with new service users who remind him of where his journey started.

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