After jail time, Chris Lewis wants to tell story

After jail time, Chris Lewis wants to tell story

Last year Chris Lewis came out with an autobiography “Crazy: My Road To Redemption” which was well received and now he’s busy working with writer-director Jim Graham-Brown, under the pen name Dougie Blaxland, to give the finishing touches to the play “The Long Walk Back”.

As those titles suggest, former England pacer Lewis wants to tell his tale from struggles to safety — not from a career-threatening injury to a rip-roaring performance but of man who spent six and a half years in jail after being convicted of cocaine smuggling.

“Jail can either make you or break you, depending on whether you are a cup of half empty guy or a cup of half full guy,” starts the 50-year-old about the journey at HM Prison High Down. “There are challenges, challenges that you necessarily haven’t had the skills to cope with to be honest. More than anything else, it was more of a mental journey, getting yourself organised and finding the space where you can think positively about yourself or about what’s happened and having hope again.

“One thing I learnt is that in order to get through the ordeal of jail you have to focus on you and what actually works for you and not think too much about what people expect out of you. In jail you are not so much in a place where people can expect a great deal out of you because mentally you are not in a great position and physically you are actually confined. So it’s about you personally doing stuff just to cope. So whatever helps you to cope; if you are the sort of person who likes talking to other people that helps you cope then works quite well.”

Lewis, who played 32 Tests for England in a wildly fluctuating career where he even scored a century against India in Chennai in 1992-93 series, said he did a lot of reading in jail as it strengthened his mind. “I did loads of things but a majority of it was reading. The thing you have to organise in prison is your mind because you can spend all day thinking about the negative aspects of where you are. There's lots of cues there and lots of reasons for you to think that you've mucked up. It's healthy and important to get your mind into different places, positive places. And one of the ways to do that is reading, another way is just staying active, so you haven't got too much time to actually dwell on your situation. From my perspective, dwelling makes it worse.”

Lewis thanked his family for standing by him despite having caused massive embarrassment for them. “I think everybody who wrote a letter, everybody who sent wishes, everybody who came to visit helped me during my time in jail. It still showed to certain amount of people that you were valued. In that place it gives an awful lot of encouragement because all your cues in that place tend to be negative. If you want to add on top of that, perhaps your family not supporting you, your friends not supporting you, make it an ever darker place. It was a beautiful thing, all those people who wrote to me, all those people who came to visit to wish me well, all of them helped me to feel better of myself. They give you the determination to get through the ordeal.”

Lewis though felt he deserved the punishment for the mistakes he committed. “I don't necessarily feel a sense of regret. For me, this has been my journey and along the journey there are things that have happened that I would class as mistakes. However, it's been my journey and it’s that journey that's gotten me to the place I am in now, which is being happy with the person I am. I'd be fearful of changing anything, in case I didn't get the learning experience that I got. My journey has worked well for me although many things have been wrong. Because it’s allowed me to learn that.

“You can say life has at times been a struggle even after coming out of jail. But if you make a mistake life doesn't go back to how it was straight away. There's a period of struggle, a period of getting it right, a period of clearing up the mess -- that you made yourself. I don’t necessarily look at it as a struggle. It's a part of a process.

“Opportunities have been lost but you go and create new opportunities. But that may take a while. Things have been lost, and perhaps you would say they should have been, for the sort of mistakes I made. But the positive news is that in time you can do something else. If you go doing things that are wrong, you can't expect a level of support. I made mistakes, and as a consequence of that things aren't necessarily going to work well, whether that is your relationship with your family, your friends... All those things take time to repair.”

Lewis is slowly repairing all the damage and hoping his story of drugs and jail acts as a lesson to others who may fall in a similar trap.

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