To an outsider, Lee, 37, had the perfect life – a loving wife, a successful career and a thriving social life. But behind that exterior, Lee was dealing with an ongoing dependence on alcohol. Two years ago he reached a new low, resulting in rehabilitation. Now, thanks to Ingeus’s Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) – alongside his own determination – Lee’s not only reviving his career successes, but as an Ingeus peer mentor he’s inspiring others in a similar situation.
Peer mentors have first-hand experience of the criminal justice system and volunteer to pass on their positive rehabilitation experiences to others. Ingeus’s CRS, commissioned by the Ministry of Justice, provide a host of services to help break the cycle of reoffending. Ingeus encourages people like Lee to share their skills and experiences as a former user of these services with others who may benefit.
Describing himself as “a bit of a scamp” at 19, alcohol steadily became a focal point of Lee’s nights out. Years later, despite a happy marriage and a successful career in the aviation industry, his alcohol consumption spiralled out of control. As the pandemic hit in 2020, Lee lost control of his dependency and was arrested for drink driving, for the second time.
“I was drinking anything from six to 14 pints in one night,” explains Lee. “I was struggling with anxiety and drink was exacerbating the problem – I was on a hamster wheel with it. The night I was caught changed everything. We re-set our lives while I waited for a court date.”
Undergoing a two-week rehabilitation programme while on probation, he re-gained control of his intake and got a taste for helping others.
He recalls, “I thrived in detox. I embraced the support and started to help other people to get through it too, and was making a difference to their success.”
His peer mentoring potential was soon spotted. Referred by his probation officer in Birmingham, he underwent an eight-week course with the CRS peer mentor training academy. Jade Taylor, Peer Mentor Lead for West Midlands and Staffordshire, eagerly got in touch with him when a mentoring vacancy arose.
“I knew he was ready to take the opportunity,” says Jade. “I could have cried with happiness when he called to say he’d got the job – whatever the outcome had been he had already made me proud for having the determination and confidence to be there in the first place.”
Starting his role as a Personal Wellbeing Mentor shortly, Lee will be working in prisons to help other service users to return to a normal life.
He explains, “I have lots of transferrable skills from my previous career, but I think it’s the lived experience which will be most valuable. I’ve changed my life in all aspects and if I can help other people to do the same then that’s fantastic.”