By Chris Eyte
Cyril Wilding lay slumped on his caravan sofa with blood pouring from both wrists and two empty bottles of vodka lying on a table nearby, while his dog jumped on his chest trying in vain to get a response.
His sister, checking on his welfare, found him half-dead and quickly called for an ambulance. A paramedic had to administer electric shocks to kickstart his heart after he flatlined.
It wasn't the first time that self-harmer Cyril, a drug addict and alcoholic, had tried suicide, and neither would it be his last. The criminal's emotional wounds ran very deep - birthed in dark pain many years earlier. In his early teens, Cyril had been the victim of a five-man paedophile ring. The gang were later jailed.
Even so, the horror of the abuse led him to 'self medicate' with drugs such as LSD, speed, coke and drink. Gang violence, drug dealing and other criminal activity put Cyril in jail on four separate occasions.
The first sentence was 12 months when he was 18 for robbery, and the last time inside happened after a car accident. He was sentenced to 21 months in jail for dangerous driving, driving whilst disqualified, driving with excess alcohol, failing to stop and report an accident, and having no insurance. In prison he was put on suicide watch.
"I didn't want to live anymore because I was sick of being a bad person. The crimes I had done ... the hurt I had caused [overwhelmed me with guilt] and I wanted freedom. I didn't want to do life anymore, I was sick of fighting," Cyril recalls.
"I had a lot of unforgiveness in my life and a chaplain came to see me. She said: 'Do you realise that when Jesus died on the cross it was to forgive all the sin in your life?'
"I thought she was off her head. But she gave me a Bible and I read Psalm 23, which begins 'The Lord is my shepherd...' I got on my knees crying and she came back and prayed with me to accept Christ into my life.
"That was in 2003, and I had 18 months left in the prison. I felt I wanted to help people [during the time I had left] and so became a prison listener. Someone whom people could go to, to talk."
When Cyril was discharged, he had given up drugs but alcohol and self-harm were still an issue.
One day his son told Cyril's partner at the time that his daddy needed a plaster because his arm was bleeding. Cyril had cut himself again.
It marked a turning point for Cyril as he realised his issues were affecting his family. He believed his life was worthless and that is when he headed alone to his caravan - to end the suffering.
Or so he thought.
Cyril found himself in Southport's main hospital, when he regained consciousness. A male nurse gave him a Bible: "I was there for three days and I never saw that nurse again." He was transferred to a psychiatric unit and when he was stable, began working as a volunteer at a charity shop at the hostel for addicts.
Then a phone call came - his sister was in trouble. Cyril visited her with other family members and she died from alcohol issues, aged just 29. Cyril was devastated and reached for the bottle and drugs again but felt God say firmly "Enough!". He checked into Victory Outreach Manchester, a Christian rehabilitation centre.
It was here in a prayer room that Cyril realised he carried a burden of unforgiveness towards his abusers during his early teenage years. He decided to forgive them all and prayed for each one separately. He had Christian counselling and has now found inner freedom, despite it being 'a long journey'.
Cyril, now aged 44 and living in Manchester, England, says "Jesus means everything to me". He works for a Christian organisation and goes into prisons to encourage addicts to embrace the hope and help he has found in Jesus. He recently led 15 women prisoners in prayer to give their lives over to God.
"I have got true freedom. I took drugs to find freedom but actually found freedom through Jesus. Because Jesus stripped it all back. If it weren't for God I would be dead.
"My hope in the future is that I will still be reaching lost people for Jesus. I'd say to anyone give Jesus full access to your life. Not little bits of life - give Him everything. He knows the plans He has for you, to prosper and not to harm you - as it says in Jeremiah 29:11."•