A young man who spent a decade battling drug addiction, completed 10 sentences in prison, and who was near death on a few occasions, has undergone a 180-degree transformation and is now helping others change their lives for the better.
“The last year has been amazing, somewhat surreal, rekindled relationships with old friends, and the family has never been closer,” Cullan Mais, 29, from United Kingdom told The Epoch Times in an email interview. “I made a bargain with myself that I’m here to do good and help others.”
Cullan, who originally hails from Fairwater, Cardiff, has struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and high anxiety levels since his childhood.
“If my dad was at work at night I’d be worried. If I went to my mate’s house I’d come home at 9 pm crying,” Cullan told Wales Online, describing his anxiety. “In year 7 I went to Llangrannog with my high school, and the first night there I’m ringing my mum and dad saying I want to come home.”
Although he was known as a fun-loving boy among his friends, Cullan said his anxiety was at its peak. When his parents were on a holiday he would constantly worry that the plane would crash and his family would die.
Apart from his anxiety issues, Cullen’s OCD led him to perform some dodgy rituals that made him lose many job opportunities.
“It was just mad. For years growing up I’d have four baths a day, brush my teeth ten times a day. I’d come into the shower and have to go back in ten minutes later. I’d go through whole packs of wet wipes,” Cullen said. “But I suppressed it, I never spoke to anyone about it.”
In order to mask the anxiety and OCD, Cullen resorted to smoking weed with his friends as a teen. The habit soon escalated, from smoking with his friends outside to smoking at home, and then he began to sell his PlayStation games to pay for his addiction.
“I found I was addicted to weed, I wasn’t doing it for enjoyment anymore,” he said. “I thought I wanted to be this hard man, you know. Cocaine, cannabis, pills—these things are the norm on streets in the UK. You can get it like that [he clicks his fingers], it’s easy.”
However, smoking crack worsened his OCD situation and that’s when he started smoking heroin. “I loved it not just because of the buzz, but because of how it took away my anxiety and OCD,” he said.
By the time he was 20, he was smoking every day. At this time, his life also took a drastic turn when he couldn’t keep up with any job, and he was running out of money too. Cullen then began shoplifting and shortly became classed as a professional shoplifter, as he had been shoplifting all over the UK.
“I had to make money other ways. My mom and dad weren’t going to lend me money anymore because they knew I was on drugs. I thought ‘I can’t ask other people for money and live my life bumming. I can’t get a job because I’m incapable of working.’ So I became a shoplifter,” he said.
Luckily, Cullen’s turnaround came last year in August when a series of events ended up changing his life for the better.
During the first lockdown, after he’d finished shoplifting with a friend, he received the devastating news that the same friend had died.
To make matters worse, Cullan was admitted to the University Hospital of Wales hospital the following day with sepsis and pneumonia. At the same time, he also contracted Covid-19 and was in a rough state.
Cullan was only six days away from his 29th birthday when he felt he was on the brink of death. However, looking at the people around him in his hospital bed, Cullan knew right then that he needed to change some aspects of his life.
“I thought I can’t do this anymore. I can’t go to prison again. I was striking a decade of being on drugs, and I was ready to change. I’ve never looked back,” Cullan said.
“From the moment I came out of hospital it was like a penny dropped,” Cullan told The Epoch Times. “I started going for long walks, getting involved with drug agencies to help my recovery.”
With the help of an addiction charity group called Kaleidoscope, Cullan started his journey in recovering from substance abuse. Since he’s gotten involved with Kaleidoscope, he said, he’s shared his past life experience with university criminology students and has started a paid job for the drug service.
“It is an actual dream job of mine, to be able to still be involved with these streets without doing the bad stuff,” he added.
In his mission to help others deal with drug addiction and drug abuse, Cullan and his two friends Luka and Tom have also launched a weekly podcast called “The Central Club”, and so far, they have completed four episodes.
“We have had such a great response, as much as we are helping others it is helping my recovery along the way,” said Cullan. “We have some great guests lined up, with some episodes having a great message but others that may be light-hearted or just inspiring.”
Cullan, who has now stayed clean for 11 months, said his friends and family have been really happy to see his transformation.
“My family is so proud, they were always there for me but they came to terms with me never getting clean, they were expecting a knock on the door to say I’m dead, so for them to see me turn my life around so dramatic and so quick is such a great feeling,” Cullan said.
Cullan admits that, since getting clean, his OCD has gotten better and his anxiety levels are easing from the positive steps he has been taking.