EVERYDAY LEGEND: From Gang Leader To School Hero - How One Man Overcame His Addiction
By Lucy Myers, Legends Report Writer
‘Tackling drugs, saving lives.’
Meet the man behind the motto who overcame his drug addiction, took responsibility for himself and now gives back to the community he once stole from.
Paul Hannaford grew up like many young children, attending school and obsessing over football. However, when he was introduced to drugs he soon lost interest in these things and began a downward spiral into a life filled with destruction. He began to take drugs and drink heavily with his gang. By 21 Mr Hannaford had become his gang's leader engaging daily in theft and violence. Around this time he tried heroin for the first time and was soon addicted.
He spent 10 years on the streets, living in crack dens and stealing over £5 million worth of goods in order to sustain his addiction. After serving numerous prison sentences and with extremely poor health Paul Hannaford turned himself in. He says that this was the best decision he ever made as it saved his life. Paul’s health was so poor it was a surprise he was even alive and his leg needed to be amputated. Doctors saved his leg using live maggots and Mr Hannaford saved his life by checking into rehab. This gave him a second chance at life.
He is now using this second chance to prevent other children going down the same path as him. His motto is ‘tackling drugs, saving lives’ since drugs were at the root of all of Paul Hannaford's bad life choices. He travels around the UK giving talks to school children and has spoken to over 300,000 young people. He paints a frank and honest picture of a life of drug addiction in his hard-hitting talks - speaking emotionally about the loss of his family and showing horrific pictures of the injuries he sustained. Paul tells a story of redemption as he reconciles with his family and heals both the physical and mental wounds his addiction has left him.
Mr Hannaford believes his life may have turned out differently if he had a workshop, like the ones he carries out now, whilst he was at school:
‘Looking back when we was all young not one of us ever had a workshop at our school - pru and I believe we were all miserably failed. Everything I did was all related to drugs. I committed over 5000 crimes, I went to prison 14 times and stole over £5million pounds worth of goods from shops but today I'm putting something back as I've dedicated my life to educating kids all over the UK in hundreds of schools from years 3-12 and spoken to 300,000 in the past 7 years, changing many young minds hoping their future won't be like mine or my old gangs!! A wasted one.’
What Paul Hannaford's story teaches us is that when we take responsibility for our own lives, including our mistakes, it's never too late to change. After many failures, He took responsibility for his life by realising the root of his problems. He knew he had to overcome his addiction to change his life and actively reversing the damage he had caused in his previously destructive life. He now travels to London and Havering because this is where he committed the majority of his crimes and he now wants to give something back to this community. He realised his past mistakes and in doing so realises he has the ability to learn and improve from them.
This act of taking responsibility is inspirational and something we can all bring into our own lives and it's something that true legends do. What might Mr Hannaford's life have been like if he hadn’t ultimately taken responsibility for his actions? How might our lives be changed by taking responsibility for our actions? By saying that "we are responsible" for our actions we can realise that like him we have the potential to change our lives for the better.
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