'I was trapped in a cycle of addiction and offending - now I’m helping others'

A man who spent a decade battling drug dependency and mental health issues has turned his life around and now wants to help others to do the same.

Cullan Mais, 29, says he has struggled with severe obsessive compulsive disorder and anxiety since childhood and began misusing substances in a bid to suppress how he was feeling.

He went from smoking marijuana to being hooked on crack cocaine and heroin, spending years trapped in a cycle of addiction, offending and spells in prison.

"I'd wake up in the morning - all that would be on any addict's mind is your next fix," he told ITV News.

"I'd do anything - stealing from shops, sometimes stealing from people. It's sad, because people know you as the young, once-cheerful person you were, and to see you go down that road is terrible."

Cullan says he will never go back to his former lifestyle and is determined to make up for lost time. Credit: South Wales Police

A turning point came last year when Cullan contracted sepsis and pneumonia and was admitted to hospital, where he fought for his life.

He knew things had to change, and with the help of addiction charity Kaleidoscope he has now been drug-free for nine months.

Aiming to support others who are struggling, Cullan has launched a new weekly podcast - The Central Club - along with two friends, Luka and Tom.

Cullan will interview guests on issues from addiction and mental health to current affairs, with local icons, musicians and actors lined up to take part.

He hopes it will give people the strength to overcome mental health challenges and destructive cycles, as well as dispelling some of the myths about addiction.

"I've met some of the most intelligent, talented people who have gone down that road," he said.

"Not all of them are bad people. They are human beings who are less fortunate than others.

"So many people out there are struggling, I think lots of young people feel lost and don't get the support they need."

Along with two friends, Cullan hosts a podcast aiming to help others who are struggling. Credit: The Central Club

Cullan has been open about his own mental health struggles, especially with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

The condition can lead to repeated unwanted thoughts, or the person feeling compelled to do certain things over and over again.

Cullan said: "My OCD makes me believe that if I don't do certain rituals, something bad will happen to me or someone I love.

"For years growing up I'd have four baths a day, brush my teeth 10 times a day. I lost countless jobs for being late because of all the rituals I'd have to complete before leaving the house.

"But I suppressed it, I never spoke to anyone about it, and drugs really masked those anxieties for me. It's easy to fall down a slippery slope."

Now Cullan says he will "never go back" to his old lifestyle, adding: ''I've lost a decade of my life being addicted to heroin and crack, being in and out of prison, but finally I'm hopeful about the future.

"Most people had a really difficult 2020, but I can honestly say I had the best year of my life, I have a girlfriend, a new home. Life is good.

"There were so many things I wanted to do over the last decade - go on holiday with my friends, visit my family overseas. I wasn't able to do any of that. But I'm making up for lost time."

Rondine Molinaro works for Kaleidoscope, the charity that helped support Cullan during his recovery.

She told ITV News: "It's never too late to do something about your drug and alcohol abuse, and Cullan is living evidence of that.

"It's a 'goosebumps' moment for people like myself, who are passionate about helping people not only to change, but to then give back to society. It's challenging and it takes a lot of courage."

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