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Former addict Darren treks 400 miles to give back to people who helped his recovery

2 years ago

Former addict Darren treks 400 miles to give back to people who helped his recovery

Former addict Darren Bailey is walking 400 miles from Land’s End to Liverpool – and every step he takes will support the people who helped him on the road to recovery.

Darren, 37, from Prescot, is hoping his mammoth trek will raise £15,000, which will be split between Damien John Kelly House, a residential recovery centre in Wavertree, and the charity, New Beginnings Improving Lives.

He says: “They showed me a different side of life, one where people give instead of taking all the time. It’s a life which is rewarding and where you feel you can achieve something.”

And Darren adds: “Without them, and the help I got, I don’t know where I would be right now. But hopefully I’ve got my life back on track and I want to give something to the people who have given so much to me.”

Darren has suffered with mental health issues and addiction problems for most of his adult life.

And it cost the former truck driver his job, his house, his partner and his kids, his sanity – and, ultimately, it cost him his freedom.

Darren has had a few spells in prison, many drink related, and the last time serving 13 months in Walton Prison for punching a police officer. “All deserved and all my own fault,” he admits.

“My mental health has not been the best over the last 15 years or so, but it took a turn for the worst about five years ago. I suffer with ADHD, depression, anxiety and psychosis, and, of course, some days are harder than others.

“And my addiction to drink was very damaging. I didn’t think I had a problem, but I was lying to myself. When I started, I couldn’t stop.

“It left me with literally nothing.”

But in prison the last time in 2019, while he lost his liberty, Darren found something else. Hope.

For it was while he was inside, he met PJ Smith, recovery community lead at Damien John Kelly House, an abstinence-based accommodation centre run by Vitality Homes which houses people who are committed to becoming better members of society, and he began to rethink his future.

“When I was in prison I came close to suicide. I had lost everything, and I’d had enough.

“I don’t know what led me into the chapel where PJ was giving a talk about recovery to inmates. I didn’t know what was going on – I didn’t even know what recovery was! – but I knew there was food, and I was hungry.

“But I listened to PJ and to Wayne who had turned his life around. And I thought, if he can do it, so can I.

“If I hadn’t gone in there on that day, I don’t know what would have happened. I might have ended up back in prison… I might not have been here now.

“But that was the moment that changed my life forever.”

Darren, who last had a drink in July 2019, went into DJK House in 2020 and he has never looked back.

He has followed DJK House’s programme and been in recovery for two and a half years.

“A good routine, exercise, and sharing how I feel with people – it’s good to talk – has been key in my recovery.

“I will likely be taking medication for the rest of my life – but there’s no shame in this.”

As well as DJK House, Darren has been helped by Michelle Roache, who he met at a mental health boxing group she runs through her charity New Beginnings Improving Lives (NBIL).

And that’s why he wants to raise money for them both.

Darren, who has already done a sky dive, a marathon and a bungee jump to collect cash for charity, will divide the funds he raises from the Land’s End to Liverpool Walk between them: for DJK it will go towards football equipment, photography gear, bikes, and even a mini-bus for lads in early recovery, and for NBIL it will help cover the costs of  the weekly food hub Michelle runs, and boxing sessions and circuit training for men and women struggling with their mental health.

“This all goes towards promoting good mental health and wellbeing, reducing isolation, creating job opportunities, saving and using surplus food, and uniting communities.

“I’m passionate about these things and I want to raise as much as possible for as many people as possible.”

PJ Smith says: “Darren is the personification of Damien John Kelly House. He is selfless, and always on hand to help. He is a shining example of finding recovery through arts, sport and culture. He gives people hope.

“What we do at DJK House is try to encourage people to lead lives that are open and curious to new ways of living. You don’t treat an addiction by simply ceasing to use substances. That’s the easy bit.

“Addiction is treated by changing, living a new life where it is much easier to not use substances. It’s all about connection, purpose and belonging. How we interact and approach our relationships is the key.”


He adds: “We haven’t got come into recovery to just sit on the couch. We want to make positive changes within our own lives, our communities, families, and to the people who aren’t in recovery…yet!”

Darren is one week in to his four-week walk, and as well as creating a better future for others with every step, he is making strides for himself too. When he returns to the city Darren will move into his own flat, and start training sessions which he hopes will see him becoming a counsellor or support worker, so he can continue to help others like him.

“I’m doing 15-20 miles a day. I’ve got blisters but when the going gets tough I remember why I’m doing it,” he says. “I am doing this for the people who have given me a future, and for other people like me.

“And I want to raise awareness of mental health and say to people, if you are worried about your drinking, or drugging, or you feel low and no-one cares, even like life isn’t worth living, reach out for help today…

“It might be the first day of the rest of your life.”

Your can donate to Darren’s Go Fund Me here.


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