John Awen was addicted to heroin and crack-cocaine for 12 years. He has had some run-ins with the law and he’s had several experiences that you really wouldn’t wish upon your worst enemy. Having said that, he has made a complete recovery, he’s been sober now for many years, has published multiple books, is now a qualified nutritionist, as well as a vegan activist.
To put it mildly, John has had the best come back story of anyone that TRS has had the pleasure of speaking with. I hope you get out of this episode as much as I did. Here’s a taste of what we discussed.
TRS: So, John, how does your story begin?
JA: I’d always wanted to be a soldier, to join the Army. I’d passed the exams for REME and was due to join in Feb 1988, but on October 23rd 1987, I was involved in a motorbike accident. I suffered a badly broken leg and everything I’d ever wanted was suddenly no more “my world literally ended”. There was no longer a place for me in the Army and whether it was depression or something else “I got very angry with the world” and it was then at the age of 18 or 19 I found cannabis, LSD, magic mushrooms – anything and everything – and it just escalated, smoking and carrying large amounts to try to get one up on the society that had done me a wrong turn and deprived me of everything I’d planned”
“…. by 27, I was introduced to heroin and crack cocaine and my world was never the same again.” I was addicted for 12 years during which I had 9 drug-related prison sentences. By the age of 39 I’d had 3 heart attacks but “the only person actually suffering was me”. In 2008, I was attacked and suffered multiple stabbing on my way to collect. I remember being on the ground “…it felt so comfy, content, warm and blissful” but something clicked – a 6th sense – and I thought to myself “there’s more to life than this…”. That was my epiphany. I realised I had to change who and what I was.
TRS: Was there anyone along the path that tried to help or where you really on your own?
JA: My parents were with me, but I’d lost my dad when I was in prison. By that time, I’d already pressed the self-destruct button. My mum died in 2015, so she saw me get clean.
TRS: Did it all start off as a self-destruct from the beginning – was it a switch, or was there a gradual ease into your self-destruction?
JA: That’s a great question. At 18, I was still naïve, very raw, very angry and since I was young I’ve had a very inquisitive mind, and when I lost the Army career I just wanted to hide away “…smoking cannabis switches you off …. everything becomes a bit of a blur, one day just follows another.. that part wasn’t a self-destruct”. I got involved with some intimidating and heavy people, I got arrested in 1994 with intent to supply, and once I got out, “with (those) people around me, something happened. I stopped caring. I got acquitted but the next year heroin grabbed me again “I totally hit the self-destruct button”. I just did not care, I really didn’t. “The world would be better without me in it”.
TRS: Hearing that story – it just blows my mind that you are who you are…
JA: I’m so lucky. To get clean and stay clean. I’ve been shot, stabbed, overdosed and yet here I am – every day is a blessing and I do wish people would stop being nonchalant and stop taking others and life for granted. “If I could reach out and touch, comfort or inspire just one person to change the course of their life, then everything I’ve done and been through for me would have been worth it”