A FORMER heroin addict and ex-convict is taking his story into prisons in the hope it will help others change their lives.
The Leopard That Changed Its Spots tells how a poverty-stricken childhood blighted by abuse led Tim Haigh into a life of gang violence, drug dealing and addiction.
“A lot of what I went through, I was a victim – but a lot I was a perpetrator,” he said. “People want to talk to me because I’ve been there. I’ve suffered. I’ve felt that pain and the hurt.”
Tim has previously spoken at churches, youth groups and support groups, and carries out chaplaincy work in West Yorkshire prisons. But by publishing his story in book form, he hopes to share it with prisoners across the country.
The book begins at the moment, aged 17, that he was convicted for a violent attack on three other youths in Wakefield, which left one in a coma.
While serving his sentence at HMP Leeds in Armley, he began to dabble with drugs. Eventually Tim was dealing heroin on the streets of Leeds and Wakefield, and later stole from his family to fund his own habit.
Tim, 44, said: “Being in prison is not easy. Giving them education and qualifications is a good thing, but I think if they don’t believe they can change then it’s putting a plaster over a broken foot.
“People mainly do want to change. They think they can’t. I’m an example that they can.”
The turning point for Tim was when his brother persuaded him to go to church to hear the stories of former addicts helped by the Christian charity Teen Challenge.
He said: “It’s not just getting off the drugs, it’s not just staying off them. It’s building a life where your hopes and dreams can become a reality.”
Now clean for 17 years, Tim has studied to degree level, run his own building businesses and lives in Bingley with his wife and two youngest children.
He said: “I can’t make laws, I can’t set the legislation. What can I do? I can tell my story.
“The biggest hurdle to someone changing is their belief system. It’s like ruts in a field. Once you’re in then it’s hard. It needs someone to stop the tractor and say you don’t have to go take that route again.”
The book is available to buy via Tim’s website where visitors can also sponsor copies to be distributed to prisoners.