‘I was losing the person I loved’ - How a university lecturer helped her boyfriend overcome drug addiction
- Credit: Archant
With armed police standing over him and his face pressed against the M11, Elliot Murawski's last taste of freedom was Tarmac.
The former stonemason had been caught transporting Class A drugs from London to Norwich in order to fund his own crippling heroin and crack cocaine addiction.
Aged 26 at the time, he was jailed for possession with intent and conspiracy to supply.
More than two years later and the 29-year-old is almost unrecognisable from the gaunt addict photographed by police in 2016.
With support from his partner Lisa Selby - a university art lecturer and artist - he used his time in prison to get clean of drugs.
And following his release from HMP Hollesley Bay in April this year, he has turned his life around and now volunteers to help others suffering with addiction problems.
He said: "It has been a massive transition for me. It has gone from the initial shock of prison, to the physical detox and addressing my mental health.
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"With support and guidance I have managed to address the issues that led to my addiction."
His journey has been documented on his partner's Instagram account 'bluebaglife'.
With more than 13,000 followers, the account provides a rare insight into the life of a recovering drug addict and the difficulties of having a loved one in prison.
Its name derives from the small pieces of blue plastic bag used to wrap heroin.
Lisa, a 41-year-old former Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) lecturer, started the account in 2017.
She said: "I initially set up the account to document the aftermath of my mother's heroin addiction, standing in her flat after her death, I wanted friends to see what I'd been hiding all my life.
"Elliot's addiction helped me to understand my mother's addiction and how, ultimately, it wasn't a choice.
"People began to listen, then relate, and some started to speak out for the first time. A network began to grow, with us all educating and supporting each other."
Elliot started using drugs from a young age as a way of dealing with his anxiety.
He initially used cannabis, but by the age of 15 he was taking heroin.
"As a teenager growing up back then, you were not encouraged to talk about your weaknesses or fears," he said.
"I had a fairly average childhood, but I had anxiety and mental health issues, and that led me to self medicate."
Elliot was initially able to hold down a job while still using heroin. He found employment as a restaurant manager and a climbing instructor.
But in his early 20s he started injecting and the addiction consumed his life.
"When I started injecting, the need for the drug outweighed any benefit it had," he said.
"I was unable to fund my habit at that point, and I turned to petty crime."
In an attempt to get clean, Elliot moved to Norwich with his family in 2012.
He found work as a van driver and met Lisa three years later while attending an Alcoholics Anonymous session.
While she worked as a lecturer at NUA, Elliot changed jobs to become a stonemason at St Clement's Church.
The couple appeared to be living a normal life. They had jobs and a flat on Bethel Street. But unbeknown to Lisa, Elliot had relapsed.
"My addiction had progressed to the point where I couldn't maintain any functionality," he said.
"I was erratic and unpredictable. Lisa couldn't be around me and I went off and got involved with a criminal network."
Lisa said: "I could feel I was losing the person I loved.
"We tried to detox him a few times, but it was really hard because if I had to go to work, I would come back and he would be gone again with a note saying 'I'm really sorry'."
She eventually left for Hong Kong for an art exhibition and during her travels heard that Elliot had been arrested on drug charges.
He was jailed for four years, but served two years and eight months.
Lisa moved to Nottingham to become an art lecturer at Nottingham Trent University and wrote to him in prison, eventually paying him a visit.
While inside, Elliot became a peer mentor and also started contributing to Lisa's Instagram account, detailing his past struggles with drugs and experiences in prison.
He said: "Writing became a big part of it [my recovery]. It was therapeutic.
"It helped me and helped others who were unable to express what they were going through."
Following his release on April 26, he has started volunteering with the Nottingham Recovery Network to help others suffering with drug addiction.
He is now two years clean of drugs, while Lisa is almost two years clean of alcohol.
Elliot said: "I am now finally becoming the person that I want to be and also helping others who are going through what I've been through."
The couple, who now live in Nottingham, are also beginning to work in prisons around the UK with drug services and family support networks.'
They have also contributed to the new book 'Prison: A Survival Guide' by Carl Cattermole, which is published by Penguin and is out this month.