“I just kept this down like a pressure cooker I suppose, and when that day came the pressure cooker exploded.”
David Haze had been keeping a lot to himself, storing it – as he says – like a pressure cooker.
The day he refers to was his day in court, a day when he’d finally have to face up to crimes he had committed.
It was also the period his family found out what was really happening with him.
“The court date came along and I didn’t go to court,” he says. “I had a mental breakdown I suppose and I disappeared for five weeks.”
David’s decision to go on the run had its consequences, in that five-week period he tried to take his own life twice.
But how could this have happened to a man who, seemingly, had it all? He had previously been working as a foreign exchange broker in the City of London, making decent money before drug taking and the descent into crime began.
Yet David’s turnaround from prison is even more remarkable. The now 36-year-old is a paddleboarder and he currently has six world records to his name – an attempt for a seventh is set to take place in February this year.
In his words, and despite all the pain, David eventually found his “why in life”.
“Moving to London was probably the biggest mistake I ever made in my life”
On the face of it David had it all in his 20s, a great job in the city, a girlfriend and a good education at a boarding school behind him.
But the truth was something very different and David’s life as a foreign exchange broker wasn’t all it seemed.
“I sort of lost who I was growing up,” he explains. “I lost that sense of adventure I had as a child.
“I loved being outdoors and moving to London was probably the biggest mistake I ever made in my life.
“I made some decent money in London and was living that playboy lifestyle sort of thing – going out eating and partying – but I lost connections with who I was and I then lost my job. I got too big for my boots.”
Losing his job set his descent into crime in motion and, for David, it all stemmed from a lack of being able to cope with the first serious failure he had experienced in his life.
“The next morning [after losing his job] it was literally like, ‘oh s*** what do I do?’” he continues.
“The thing with boarding school, it gives you so many opportunities but it never gives you the opportunity to deal with failure.
“When I lost that job it was the first biggest failure I ever had to deal with. But I was never given the tools on how to deal with that failure so, when it came, I just didn’t know what to do.
“I’d done so well for myself up to this point on my own, suddenly I left and was on my own and was like ‘s***, what do I do now?’
“I didn’t want to tell anybody, I wanted to keep up this facade that I’m still doing really well so I used to put the suit on and pretend I was going to work.
“Actually I turned towards gambling to try and get the money coming in.”
“I was just in this pit of misery”
Trying to gamble for a source of income, unsurprisingly, wasn’t going to work and – even though David was looking for work at the time – his level of money was going down and down.
But still his family had no idea where he was spending his time and how his life was spiralling.
“When I was doing the broking I’d use it [cocaine] every now and again,” he explains.
“Then I ended up turning to it more. It wasn’t an addiction as such but it numbed my brain and I forgot about the suffering I was going through.
“I would take it just to forget that my life was spiralling out of control and I hadn’t got a grasp of it anymore.”
But then came the moment when the pressure cooker burst as David, at the age of 27, was arrested for handling stolen property.
With the court date looming he then disappeared for that five-week period and reached some of the lowest points of his life.
Samaritans : Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, in confidence
Platform 1 men’s community group : Support for issues including mental health problems and addiction recovery. Visit the website or call 01484 421143.
Andy’s Man Club : email@example.com
PAPYRUS : A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141
Mind : A charity offering support and advice for people with mental health problems.
Bullying UK : A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) : For young men who are feeling unhappy. There’s a website and a helpline: 0800 58 58 58
MindOut: Provide support and advice on mental health for members of LGBTQ communities. Phone 01273 234839
“The second night I tried to take my life and just disappear from it all,” he says.
“Two days after I tried again but then it failed and I was just in this pit of misery I suppose.
“I just didn’t know what to do and eventually I just assumed that my family had stopped thinking about me.
“I tried to wipe it out of my mind but the reality is they’ll never stop thinking about you. What I do with my life, my family will always be there and that’s what’s amazing about my family.”
After days of staying in hostels, and a stay inside a house, David’s time on the run eventually came to an end.
“I was eventually caught, but the moment I was, the weight was just lifted off my shoulders,” he explains.
“It was like ‘thank God’ and I wasn’t handed the prison sentence so, after that, I got to spend some time with my family.
“But they didn’t know exactly what happened in those five weeks.”
“I might have gone to prison but I’m not a criminal”
Eventually, however, David’s life continued to lead him down a dark path and he was sent to prison – being handed a three-year sentence for burglary.
On his release David started to use drugs once more, reverted to burglary again and was then sent back to prison for a second time.
But this time, while at HMP Guys Marsh, he enrolled on a prison reform programme that proved to be the turning point in his life.
“The second time when I was inside I realised the only one really in charge of your own destiny is yourself,” he says.
“I had to take this journey of self-discovery to learn my red flags, my green flags, what I’m capable of and what I truly want from life and what makes me happy.”
He adds: “I just want to live a healthy and happy life but after going through what I’ve gone through I realised so much needs to change in the criminal justice system.
“That’s why I work as a consultant for the criminal justice system and try to highlight the importance of rehabilitation by putting myself out there.
“I want to change perspectives on people like myself but I also want to prove to others that your past and your mistakes don’t define who you are.
“I might have gone to prison but I’m not a criminal – I’m a person who’s committed a crime and that’s what people need to remember. I’m a person.
“I also want to show the power of adventure and the power of sport. For me it’s completely transformed my life and it’s what gives me clarity and vision in life. It gives me drive and it gives me purpose.
“I want more people to reconnect for themselves through sport, through anything, and for me, my life has completely transformed.”
“I’m much more than a number”
The power of sport is one of the key aspects in David’s journey and is a significant part in understanding who he is today.
Now living in Bournemouth David, is currently a paddleboarder with a huge six world records to his name.
A seventh attempt is also on the horizon in February as he attempts to cross Iceland’s longest lake, Lögurinn, in the fastest time.
The lake covers an area of 32sq m with David needing to cross it in less than six hours to be successful.
That dream to break those records was born when he was inside, and in doing so he’s also hoping to raise awareness on penal reform and water safety.
“When I was inside I was thinking, ‘I’m going to paddleboard the four longest lakes in the UK in four days,” David remembers.
“Originally it was going to be like the Three Peaks – it’s never been done before.
“When I was inside people used to say, ‘stop daydreaming, you can’t do it now’.
“‘You’re a number now and once you’re a number you’re going to come back’.
“I’m much more than a number. I’m somebody with a dream and I’m going to commit to this dream.
“I’m going to prove that with the right commitment and the right attitude I can change my ways and I can be much more than my past.”
David Haze isn’t daydreaming anymore.