Happy ending for ex-jailbird author

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A SCARBOROUGH man who fought back from alcoholic despair has released a debut book chronicling how he overcame his demons to become a beacon of hope for fellow sufferers.

Adrian Arnold, 58, has penned The Chinese Year of the Prat, an autobiographical chart of his ascent from teenage rebel to finding ultimate solace in higher education and international aid work.

Mr Arnold left school practically illiterate aged 15 and soon found himself on a downward spiral of temporary unskilled labour, alcoholism and various tenures in detention centres from burglaries that saw him hit rock bottom.

Learning himself to read by leafing through his parent’s Shakespearian collection, Mr Arnold continued to battle against his problems but ultimately struggled against anxiety attacks and inevitably fell foul of the law.

He said: “When I realised what I had done the day after I was absolutely horrified because to me, that wasn’t me who was doing those things.”

Still receiving support from his family, which included nine brothers and sisters, Mr Arnold, of Westover Road, chance of redemption came in the most unlikely surroundings of Strangeways Prison in Manchester, in 1973, after being served with a 15 month sentence.

He said his first evening of incarceration in his “filthy” cell had left him fearing the worst - before a chance moment gave him real hope.

He added: “It had been a very fearful and unpleasant night, locked up with two inmates in a ghastly cell that beggars description.

“Deep depression began to settle over me that first night but the morning brought salvation.

“We were allowed to go to the library to choose some books and I told the governor I did office work.

“It was plain to see how very fortunate I was and it made me determined not to mess it up for myself.”

After spending ten months in the prison - which included showcasing his musical and guitar skills to wardens - Mr Arnold found himself in the outside world again and was determined not to succumb to his problems again.

He said: “I had grown up a bit and was a lot less anxious and flighty.

“I had done a lot of reading and read about dreams, education, child development, and history books about Freud, and with this came a lot of thinking.”

Embarking on various therapy courses and meetings to curb and eventually end his addiction, Mr Arnold, then embarked on college studies before winning a place at the University of Hull to gain an upper Second Class degree in Medieval and Modern History - a mark that set him in the top five per cent of his peers on the course - while chairing a Mature Students’ Society.

He said: “The History department was my holy of holies, the Doctors and Professors had their offices and I had read many of their books which was awe inspiring.

“It had been a long five years since my studies first began at college but no one wore their cap and gown more proudly that I did.”

Mr Arnold moved to Scarborough in 2003 to work in a treatment centre to offer support to sufferers and is currently helping people with learning difficulties.

It was another change of scenery, this time a Kenyan orphanage, where Mr Arnold achieved another notable personal and humanitarian achievement after helping it to become self-sufficient after restoring a well to give needy youngsters a chance in life.

However, he said seeing his book - named from a prison warden’s quip about the year of Mr Arnold’s birth - come to fruition, after a near insurmountable challenge, was something he would cherish forever.

He added: “I am over the moon to have this published because it proves that you can do anything you want to achieve.

“Anything can be overcome when you realise only you can do it.”

Mr Arnold will be signing copies of his book and reading a chapter in Scarborough Library, in Vernon Road, tomorrow, from 1.30pm until 5pm.