From zero to hero - how Craig Doel changed his life

ONCE it was a story of reporters and robbers. Former Chard man Craig Doel was the robber and Herald editor Belinda Bennett was constantly on his case. Seven years later, they are reunited to tell a truly positive and inspiring story...

ONCE it was a story of reporters and robbers.

Former Chard man Craig Doel was the robber and Herald editor Belinda Bennett was constantly on his case.

An alcoholic and heroin addict before most young people leave school, Craig served his first term behind bars at the age of 17 - after being sentenced to two years in a Young Offenders' Institution for robbery.

He went on to spend years etching out a living to pay for his next fix on the streets of his home town, Chard.

Seven years later, the story couldn't be more different.

Craig was reunited with Belinda to bring you this - the positive and inspiring account of how he turned his life around, with appreciated support from some special people.

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CRAIG Doel is a picture of health. The 29-year-old gym instructor, and personal trainer, is brimming with confidence and full of enthusiasm about the future.

But it hasn't always been like that...

Seven years ago Craig was lucky to be alive. An alcoholic and heroin addict, he spent his days living hand-to-mouth - stealing just to pay for his next fix.

His name was rarely off the court list and he was trapped in the classic revolving door syndrome of drug-related offending and prison.

"I started using solvents - gas and glue - when I was 12, and began drinking heavily when I was 14," he said.

"By the time I was 15, I was on heroin. I had done all the other drugs in between.

"From then until I got clean, each day all I did was get up, have a drink, take drugs and go out to get money to buy more drink and drugs."

Because of his chaotic lifestyle, Craig suffered bouts of homelessness.

He eventually moved into a small flat, but says: "I lost it, because I didn't keep on top of housing benefit claims and kept having a lot of people around. It turned into a drug den.

"I ended up sofa surfing and was sent to prison a few times, but never for as long as my first sentence. I got two years for robbery, involving a knife, when I was 17."

Craig, a prolific shoplifter, was eventually made the subject of the first Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) in Chard.

"I was still shoplifting, taking drugs and drinking in public, but was more careful," he said.

The turning point came when he hit rock bottom.

He crashed a car into the Esso garage in Chard and says: "I realised the only further I could go was six feet under."

Community workers in Chard secured funding for him to receive detox treatment at the highly acclaimed Clouds clinic in Salisbury.

He emerged, six weeks later, clean and sober.

After refusing a secondary treatment programme based in Bristol, because he spotted a drug dealer opposite the centre, he enrolled on a programme in Weston-super-Mare.

It was while he was undergoing that part of his recovery that he started going to Bodytone health and fitness gym three times a week.

After he completed the programme, Craig moved into a dry house in Weston, where he lived for 18 months, and continued going to the gym.

When he met Aret� personal fitness trainer Ben Harris at the gym, he found not only a mentor but a firm friend.

Ben recognised Craig's determination and supported him through a major stage of his recovery.

"He latched on to everything; he is so meticulous in everything he does," said Ben. "He does everything exactly right and he has turned a passion into a career."

Ben is keen to point out: "This isn't a case of Craig switching one obsession for another; it's not like that.

"I can completely rely on Craig. I don't have to worry about him veering off."

Eddie Scanell, owner of Bodytone, in Churchill Road, recognised Craig's potential and offered him voluntary work at the gym while he studied for professional qualifications.

Eddie said: "Craig is an inspiration to anybody who is in the position he was in before.

"We do have people from rehab centres come here, and Craig is always open with them about his past - to try and bring them along."

Craig is now a qualified advanced gym instructor and nutrition expert.

He has been clean and sober for five years.

Craig said: "When I look back, I know it's me - bit it was a different life.

"It feels so far away, but so close.

"I'd like to publicly thank Ben and Eddie, because I couldn't have done it without them."

Craig is now poised to enter the competitive world of classic bodybuilding and will appear in his first contest in August. He is also preparing to write his life story.

You can find out more about Craig by visiting

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