After a troubled childhood which included drug use, exclusion from school and going into care, Ryan, one of our young people, is on course to fulfill his potential of becoming a youth worker and hip-hop artist.
Read, in his words, his journey thus far…
My name’s Ryan, born and bred in Blackpool until the age of 10 years. My parents broke up when I was 7, and I can still remember sitting at the top of the stairs one day to see my father walk through the front door after work, to then hear nothing but loud shouting and not knowing what was going on. It is such a shame I had to witness the breakdown of their relationship, but I guess at the time I just accepted it. When I was 10, my mother began to act apprehensive around me like she had news to break to me. She told me she had met a new partner, and that he wanted her to move in with him, along with me and my sister in Accrington.
For the first time in my life I was broken. What about me? What about my friends? What about Blackpool? And most of all what about my father, who I missed a lot? My mother didn’t hear my side of things, she just kept saying that everything’s going to be fine, assuring I will see my father each week, and that I will make new friends. As I grew older, I began to question my worth, became insecure, and did not believe in myself.
Once in Accrington, my stepfather and stepsister were cool, but I made friends with the wrong crowd. I surrounded myself with people not bothered about doing well at school. They wanted to smash other people’s property, set fires, and take drugs. In order to fit in, I partook in everything, and enjoyed it all the same. Going into high school, you could already predict the person I was becoming…
In Year 7, I was already a foul-mouthed pothead, who broke every rule in the book. I didn’t want to learn, I wanted to chase girls, smoke on breaks, and jump over the fence for last period. I was excluded in Year 10 with no GCSEs – just 23 smoking warnings, and around 20 records of truancy.
Before my exclusion, my family was planning to move to Clitheroe, and already sorted for me to go to Ribblesdale High School. At this time, I was going out with a girl called Bethany and I was a lot more interested in her. I had become too challenging for my parents, as I had been given so many chances.
I decided to walk out the house, as I was grounded. Missing my girlfriend, I walked from Clitheroe to Accrington. My stepfather decided he didn’t want me back in the house, and luckily my girlfriends mother said I could live there, so my mother did nothing other than allow me to stay there.
After around 6 months, my relationship between me and my girlfriend deteriorated. We began to argue, and her mother kicked me out. I remember sitting in some sort of strange room with my mother, father, stepmother, and people from the council. I was only 15, and had no idea that they were social workers, saying I can either go live with my father or move into supported living.
My stepmother didn’t want me to live with my father and her. She hated me and the rest of my family from day one, only wanting my father for herself. But, my father insisted on taking me in – after all I did see him every weekend. We loved each other, so I was happy at this idea.
Return to Blackpool
As soon as I got back in Blackpool, I started stealing money from my father, and selling my own possessions to buy weed. It was the one thing that took me out of me, the one thing that stopped all the questions of whether I’m good enough or not. It was crazy. But I couldn’t for the life of me stop myself. Every time my father confronted me about my actions I would just deny it to him. I was out most nights though at my mates, who smoked it with me.
My father decided enough was enough, and that I would have to leave. We ended up at South King Street [Housing Options], discussing where I would live next. I met my social worker, Andrew McLean, and placed in a semi-independent care unit. But with no spaces for two weeks, I had to reside in Streetlife’s night shelter, which was daunting at 16.
After my short stay at the shelter, I moved to the care unit on Myrtle Avenue for a year, in which they helped me get my own flat. It was only a bedsit, but the first time living on my own. I struggled with budgeting, and had to borrow money to eat, as I continued to spend it all on weed. After a year of living there, I moved down to St Annes, with the same letting agency. I continued to surround myself with weed, smoking it day-in, day-out. I got into debt, wasn’t eating, and brought stress with me everywhere I went.
After several more moves around the area, I ended up at Streetlife again – shattered, broken, and not knowing what to do. They helped me with everything, including securing me a place at Elm House. But it didn’t last long, as I was kicked out for too many drug/alcohol-related incidents and fighting with other residents.
Returning to Streetlife after eviction, I took part in everything, such as residentials and other activities. I felt down and out, but they kept assuring me I was worth it, and that my music was worth it – I wrote songs on and off in my spare time (influenced by hip-hop artists like Tupac and Eminem), as an escape from all my troubles. One staff member in particular, Lee, saw my potential.
One day, someone from the BBC came in wanting to get someone’s story, and said I would do it. To be honest, I just saw it as an opportunity to promote my music, but it boosted my confidence and self-esteem to new heights.
Claudia said to me I had great potential to be a youth worker. She said I would be able to convey positive messages to young people, using my creative writing to do so. But I had to stop the weed. I decided I was going to do it, as I was also given the chance to go to university. I still haven’t taken any drugs until this day.
Streetlife helped me move into an amazing home [via Barnardo’s Supported Lodgings], and now I have everything I need. I have become more confident and resilient than ever before. I’ve also been given studio time to record my LP, and am supported by my new girlfriend, who I can see myself with long-term. Finally, I support life skill sessions at Streetlife twice a week, and I am looking forward to going to university in September.
I couldn’t thank everybody enough. They saved me!