Aged 30, Adi was born in St James, Leeds and grew up in the Seacroft area. He had a younger sister who died of leukaemia when she was three and Adi was four, but he was too young to remember her. Around the same time his father left home; he didn’t learn the truth about his real dad until he was 11, from a relative in the family.
His relationship with his ‘new dad’ was a difficult one as he was a hard taskmaster, strict on homework (which he appreciates made him ahead at school) but wasn’t easy at home. Adi has two sisters and a brother. One sister has just had a beautiful baby girl six weeks ago and the proud uncle bills and coos over the photo on his phone, showing his niece off.
Adi was ‘a goody two shoes’ until he was 15 and a whizz at school, so much so that at Yr10 the teachers suggested that as he was so ahead of his school work he should sit his exams early. Adi agreed but was then told that wasn’t possible, which he accepted, till he returned to school to start Yr11 to find others had been given that chance and yet he missed out. Adi said he felt angry and bored – he’d done the work. So he decided to skip school. He turned up for registration and lunch each day but not the lessons – and they didn’t even miss him at school. When it came to the year end exams, the teachers looked for Adi’s coursework, of which there was none, only then did they realise he’d not been in lessons and this meant he got poor grades.
Adrian went on to college to do computer electronics but money was tight and this is when he started thieving. He describes himself then as “a little shrimp” and he was afraid he’d get caught so he left college. This started a fall-out with his mum who was furious at his leaving college, arguments at home and so at 17 Adrian left. He slept in the lifts of high rise flats, stealing to get by. A friend’s brother took him into his flat – a kind of commune for the homeless – and though this man was doing hard drugs, he protected Adrian, made him aware of their danger and wouldn’t let him near them. Adi remembers him fondly for helping him at this time but adds sadly that he died aged just 25.
Adrian was in with a bad bunch at this time and one day he and another lad were held hostage in the flat by two men who were accusing them of something they were not connected with. They were held hostage for six hours being beaten, threatened to have their fingers cut off. Adrian remembers the other guy was crying and crying throughout the ordeal – but he didn’t cry at all.
“I had nothing to live for so I didn’t care if I died – no family, no friends. I looked like a 13 year old, there was nothing of me and still they beat us. But I couldn’t cry.”
Scared, they left the flat and went to a hostel but here the crowd was even worse. Everyone seemed to be on Class A drugs, there was no advice or guidance for Adi and his mate, it was the accepted norm and in six months they had experienced a lot of drugs. From here they went to a shared house and things spiralled even lower, these were hardened drug users.
“You couldn’t own anything as it was stolen, not even food lasted a day,” said Adi. It was here he injected drugs for the first time – “with these people who I couldn’t trust who I’d known what a week? two?”.
Adrian ‘died three times’ through this period of his life due to the drugs – he talks about the emptiness, no trust, the nothingness. He got moved on again and this time as he came off the hard drugs he turned to alcohol. He was trying to renew the relationship with his mum again by visiting her but this wasn’t easy and one night he and two other men violently attacked another to steal money. Adi said he had never known violence in his life at all, not growing up nor through all these times. He’d just lost it.
Adrian volunteered himself to the police asking to go to prison, he served three years and nine months in three different prisons. “Jail’s not always a bad place, it changed me for the better.” He was released into his new life one month before he was 21. He says in jail you are taught there are three ways out: someone you know will give you a job (because you won’t get one any other way), you sell drugs or you rob a bank. Bleak options.
Adi was desperate to go the job route and tried for months attending ‘Second Chance School’ (where he was helping out after just one week). But no jobs. He did some college course and here he met with people who were studying and learning, improving themselves, their comfortable lifestyles and he thought ‘I want some of that. Why not?’
Adi went to a work agency and he got on well with the woman he met who in turn, took Adi under her wing. She asked him if he would turn up the next day and do a job – a menial task of sticking labels on sweets, not exactly what he had in mind – but it paid and he did it. She found him more work and Adi never let her down, always willing to try anything and keep himself busy. She then found him a job as a handyman within a large company and he thought he had finally found his feet. He worked seven days a week if needed, 12-hour shifts doing all sorts of tasks. Adrian prided himself on being busy, being challenged and the sense of responsibility and complete trust in him as he had access to the whole company buildings and was never, ever tempted to do anything other than work hard for his pay.
“I loved every single minute of it, I was happy. I was earning my own money legally not living off others.”
Adrian was however a little too efficient as his senior colleague told him to pad the tasks out to make them last a whole day – when he’s done them all by 11am and was looking for more. He was stitched up and lost his job and when he returned to the agency his friend had left. Adrian then had a bad motorbike crash that caused severe damage to his leg and despite trying work, physically he struggled with the ongoing pain.
Adi was back at his mum’s in Seacroft with a bad crowd. Then there was a dreadful murder of a two-year-old baby and Adi not only knew the killer, but he had also been sleeping with Adi’s girlfriend of three years.
“I wanted to be dead. I couldn’t believe I was living in this world with these people.” Adrian spiralled into a huge depression, he was back down again and couldn’t cope. In 2005 he suffered kidney failure and was in intensive care.
Someone he knew showed him how to build computers and Adi spent more time learning from him, this at least occupied his hands and his mind and for three years he concentrated on computers. The friend even asked Adi to go into business with him – but as there was also some association with heavy use of cannabis too in the relationship, Adi has tried to protect himself and keep away, to build himself other options.
Adi left Seacroft and went into two further hostels, one went wrong as he was presented with overdue rent bills when he had no idea he owed anything. The debts without work were unpayable, the negative spiral began again. On top of this, he was savaged by a police dog attack (on the same leg as his motorbike accident) which rendered him unable to walk or work again.
Adi went back to St George’s Crypt, “which felt like a five star hotel. It felt good, I put on two stone in weight, they looked after me.” From here Adrian went into a sheltered hostel and one of the residents mentioned they were going to try the Create Potential Academy course on Monday, did Adi want to go with him?
“I’ve done every course there is,” says Adi, “been there, done it, got the t-shirt. So my first response was it’s not for me as I want to DO something. But I also figured I had nothing to lose, so I joined him.”
“That first week made an impression on me. I thought, wow, can you actually do that? I came back because of Leroy, he sold the course to us. He treats you as an equal.”
Adi heard about the work placement opportunities and had his own views about the world of catering, having heard others. He was not at all sure that would work for him but he was willing to give it a try, it wasn’t going to be forever.
“Wow, I loved it from the first day I walked into Tom’s kitchen, you are just busy all the time. Tom is the BEST boss I have ever worked for. Well, that’s because he’s not a boss, Tom treats every single person in his kitchen as an equal. He never tells me to do anything, he asks me. It’s total teamwork, I just love it.”
“What I love about catering is it’s a job well done, you can see at the end what you’ve done. We all know how to organise ourselves in the kitchen to get the orders done. One day Tom left us for a couple of hours and when he came back we’d worked through the checklist and finished it. He was impressed, said his kitchen was in safe hands. We just all feel motivated to get the work done.”
As Adi is so effusive about his baby niece, I ask him about his hopes for the future, relationships. He says without hesitation how much he would love to have children one day but straight away he says he can’t see a way as he can’t do relationships. Trust is a huge issue for Adi, he has gone for years without a girlfriend having been so messed up by the last one. “I can’t give my heart away again, I’ve had it smashed into pieces too many times.” Adi is concentrating on getting his life sorted first.
Earlier this year Adrian’s dad died and he describes how the funeral was a day of massive sadness for him, raw emotion. He said how he cried and cried all day long, had to be moved from the graveside at the end. “Funny thing is, I wasn’t that attached to my dad as I’ve said. I realised the tears were for me. All the hurt, sadness, grief was eating me alive. I thought it could be downhill again, but I’m here at Create now.”
“In that kitchen, I know I am useful, I know I am alive. I can do things, I can learn a new skill and produce things. It’s lit up a new way for me, every day is a fresh new day.”
I ask Adi what has got him through the dark times and without hesitation he says:
“I would not change a single thing that has happened to me. It has made me who I am today, I wouldn’t be me. I know I can be strong. I have given up the drugs – it’s not easy but I have done that. There are still people doing drugs who did it when I was 17, one woman has lost her leg but still she won’t stop. But I did. It takes a weak man to go on it and a strong man to get off it.”
“Forget all the other courses you’ve been on, this one is different. I have choices now, I’m learning to protect myself.”
Adi talks about how he volunteered to help Tom do a wedding for 100 people last month. He worked a 14-hour day on Saturday after a full hard week in the kitchen.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life,” says Adi, glowing as he recounts. “We were so bigged up, it was great to hear what folks were saying about us. Then the parents of the bride announced to all the guests that Create had done the food and they clapped for a full minute whilst we lined up at the back of the marquee. Tom’s professional team. Buzzing. I felt so proud to be in that team. Everything was perfect.”
We have a look again at his beautiful baby niece. What do friends and family think of Adi at Create I ask?
“They are so impressed, I told them all about the wedding. They are amazed at the difference between me 13 years ago and now. Now I am volunteering full-time, loving every minute and helping people.”