Ben

When I was 12, two major things happened in my life – I was signed up to the Queensland Reds as part of their junior development squad. And my parents got divorced. Mum got custody of me, my sister and 2 brothers but we were obviously too much of a handful, and when I was 13 us 3 boys had to leave home.

We had nowhere to go and hardly any money, so had no choice but to live on the street. We found a youth centre and would camp out underneath the building at night. When I was 14, we met a group of older guys, they’re what you’d call old school criminals. They were definitely a bad influence on us, but we didn’t know any better at the time and they became like our family. They taught me my first job – stealing. We had to steal to live, and I got really good at it. Because I was the smallest of our crew, I would be the one to squeeze through windows of houses to let everyone else in.

The older guys were into weed, speed and heroin. It was only a matter of time before we got caught up in that as well. It started with speed, at first I’d eat it but then it was the needle. I had a really bad habit for at least a year before I was arrested for the first time. By this time we were stealing not just to live, but to buy drugs. We were addicts. I was charged when I was 17 for B&E (break and enter) and when the cops read all the charges to me I couldn’t even remember most of them. Overall I was charged with 73 B&E’s. I spent a year in custody but when I got out I just took up with the same guys and life went on as it had been. But this time I got into bigger drugs – heroin – and bigger crimes. I went back into jail for over 5 years, at times all 3 of us brothers were in there together. As bad as it sounds it was good having my brothers in jail with me, we could look out for each other.

When I got out on parole I would try to give up heroin, I kept saying to myself “I can give this up” - but I was still spending my days with the same crowd, and when the needle was passed round it wasn’t long before I simply couldn’t say no.

I went back to jail a couple of times after this – basically I spent 8 out of 10 years in and out of jail. In 2006 my younger brother hung himself. In 2012, my older brother overdosed on heroin. I was in jail when both of my brothers died.

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