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Real-life stories: Involved in drugs and/or alcohol abuse or dependancy

Violent Biker Battles Incurable Disease And Wins New Life

From an early age, it became evident to my family that I was a wanderer.   We moved to Coventry when I was five and almost at once I started wandering around looking for places to play.  I found a lovely farm.   One day I was looking round a barn with loads of hay in it and at the back of these bales of hay was a motorcycle.

I started to play with it when the farmer came in and said, “What are you doing?”
I said, “Playing on this bike.”   At that, he dragged it out and told me all about it.   I’ll never forget it.

It was an old Grieves 250, a sort of off-road machine.   I loved it and the farmer actually got it going and took me around the field a couple of times on it. I think that was what started my life on motorcycling.

My mother gave me loads of love and affection, which made me a little bit of a mummy’s boy, but with my father it was different. When I was nine or ten, we moved to Thingwall on the Wirral.   My father taught in a technical college there. I hated my father and my father hated me and made no bones about it.   I was thick, useless and I would never aspire to anything at all, so he said.

He loved my sister; she was academically minded.   He would say, “Why can’t you be like your sister?   Look at her; she can do it, why can’t you?”  He was not a patient man.   Everything was clear-cut and simple and he couldn’t understand why you couldn’t understand.

For many, many years, if I had the opportunity to kill my father I would have done, but the opportunity, thankfully, never arose.

Up to the age of 16, I got bullied and beaten up something terrible, but then something clicked in me. The change happened when I was outside the art class with the rest of the students and a little guy called Roy Collins kicked me up the backside.

I turned round and I hit him.   I only hit him once, but it was a swinging punch and I broke his jaw, knocked four teeth out and broke his nose.   I hit him that hard that when he went down, he broke his arm as well.

All his mates wanted to be my friend after that but unknown to me that set something at work in me which wasn’t very nice. From the age of 16, I said, “Nobody’s going to stand on me or call me ever again.”

Just before I left school, it became apparent that something at home wasn’t right.   I couldn’t fathom what it was, but eventually I did – my father was committing incest with my sister.   I challenged him but he punched me and I told him, “I will do everything in my power to make sure you don’t hurt my mother or my sister again.   I don’t want to be near you, I’m leaving.”

He said, “Oh, that’s good.   I’ve just packed your bags.”  So, he bundled me in the car and he took me to the YMCA in Birkenhead.   I got a job as an apprentice panel beater for a local firm, but I was sacked when someone called me a liar and I hit him with a monkey wrench.

Quickly I turned to crime.  I ended up in and out of prison, small sentences.   By the time I was 22, I had quite a lengthy criminal history.

One night I was drinking in a pub when a girl came in with her boyfriend.   We started talking and hit it off really well.   Her name was Rose and soon after that she broke up with her boyfriend and we ended up getting married.   I was 22 and she was 20.   That was 1976.

We had a boy, Michael Andrew, and everything was really good.   I got a job as an underground electrician in a mine and everything was hunky-dory until Michael was nine months old.

Rose told me how she had bumped into an ex-boyfriend called Mark and they started off where they’d left off.   So consequently I was surplus to requirements.   She told me in no uncertain terms, which I’ve got to say was a bit of a shock.

After hearing that, I went out and gave the first person I saw a really good hiding.   I beat the living daylights out of them and got six months for that.

Whilst I was inside, Rose got a divorce and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

I came out of prison six months later and went to try and see my son.   I really didn’t know where they were so I got my bike (a Triumph 750 – which was still mine) out of the garage and went for a ride.   I ended up in a pub in Wolverhampton which, unknown to me, was the local bikers’ hangout.

This joker with all these tattoos and regalia on him came and sat down at my side and introduced himself and asked me what I was doing there.

I said, “Just out for a ride, mate.   I got out of prison today, my wife divorced me when I was inside, can’t find my son, I went for a ride and here I am in this pub having a drink, deciding what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

He says, “Do you smoke?”

I said, “Yeah, I do.”

“I mean, do you smoke?   Whacky baccy?”

Oh, yeah, I’ll have a bit of that.”

He said, “Here y’are”, and so we shared a joint and spent quite a few hours there sharing each other’s company.  After that, he invited me over to the “clubhouse” where I spent the next four years.   I very, very quickly became a prospect and then a fully-fledged member.

The clubhouse was a very big room in an old factory that had closed down.   All the bikes were downstairs in what was a bit of a workshop and we were upstairs.   I slept on the floor or on a chair or wherever.

My time in a Back Patch Club (motorcycle gang) was colourful to say the least – mainly violent, quite a few different drugs, loads and loads of violence.

One thing I could never get involved in was promiscuity.   Many, many a female threw themselves at me because I was a gang member and I said, “No, I’m not interested at all.”   I got laughed at for it.

Then one night we went to a place called Nuneaton to “pay somebody a visit”, so to speak.   He’d been saying things about us which weren’t true and so we’d gone to let him know the error of his ways and I’d been elected to do it.

But just as I was about to confront him, this girl stopped me and stood in my way.   She was about 5’4”.

So here was this big bleary biker just about to pummel this guy and she said, “What are you doing that for?   Leave him alone, you big bully.”

I said, “I don’t hit women.   Get out of the way, you silly little, bleep, bleep, bleep.”

But she stood there with no fear in her eyes at all.   And I said, “Do you realise what you’re doing, girl?”

“Yeah, I am supposed to be frightened, am I?”

“Well, most people are.”

“Well, I’m not.”

“Never met him before, but why hit people?   It’s not nice …”

“Well, he said something bad about us.”

“Do two wrongs make a right?”

“In my eyes, yes.   Now get out the way.”

As I went to shove her to one side, she hit me where it hurts and I went down.

The other guy ran away and as my mates tried to lift me up she said, “Leave him alone, he’ll be all right, I haven’t hurt him.”

She knelt down by the side of me and said, “Are you OK?”

I sort of nodded and she got me into a chair, she got me a drink of water and she made sure I was okay.

We had a little chat and she said “My name’s Gayle, where are you going tonight?”

I said, “Why?” and she says “Well, come back to mine for a coffee if you want.   We’re having a bit of a party.”

I said, “Coffee at a party?” and she said “Oh yeah, we don’t drink a lot.”

It was actually her sister’s birthday party.   After that we formed a relationship and we got engaged six months later.

We got engaged and we had a party during which this guy came up to me and said “Bob, whatever you do, don’t let her go, because if you ever turn your back on her, I’m going to steal her from you.”

I said, “You know what’s behind that bar over there?   I’ve got a sawn off 12-bore shotgun there and I’ll go and get it and I’ll come and hunt you down and I will destroy you….”

I decided it was time to back out of the Back Patch Club so I got a job as a taxi driver.

A little while after that, I went to work one night and came home about 2.30 in the morning.

I walked into the bedroom and there they were together in bed, Gayle and this guy.

My world just fell apart there.   To Gayle I said, “Don’t worry, I ain’t going to hurt you.   Get dressed, pack your bags, I’m taking you home to your mum.”

To the guy, I said, “Get out of bed and leave this flat.   Do not speak to me.   If you utter one syllable at me I am going to severely hurt you.”

He came through the door and he went “Huh” and that was it.

I punched him and broke his jaw.   He went down and I picked him up, put him over my shoulder and took him to the kitchen door which led to a flight of stairs.

I threw him down, over my shoulder, head first, downwards.   He landed at the bottom.

He wasn’t unconscious but he was in a lot of pain, screaming.

I took Gayle down to the car, drove her down to her parents, dumped her there and headed back to my flat really not knowing where I was or what I was doing.   My whole world had just fallen apart.

I headed over to the clubhouse and I got absolutely rat faced.   A couple of hours later I drove home and was nearly back at our flat when the man that was sleeping with Gayle walked out into the road in front of my car.   I ran him over.

I stopped the car and as I looked back in my rear view mirror I saw him twitching in the middle of the road.   I didn’t want to leave him there in pain, so I reversed over him.   I just wanted him killed.

When I got back to my flat, I phoned a couple of mates up and told them what I’d done.   They said, “We’ll come and get you.   We’ll get it all fixed up.”   I said, “No, I’m going down the police station.   I know what I need to do.   You come over here and help me get my things in order.   I’m going to go down for this.   I don’t know how long I’m going to do, but if he’s dead it’s going to be 15 years.”

So a couple of my mates came over, and I signed all my possessions over to them in care, so technically the house was theirs, my bike was theirs and I gave them access to my bank account to pay bills for the house, and so on.

I thought, “I might not have a lot of money left, but at least I’ll have something to get me started.”

I went down to the police station and told them and they said “Come on, Bob.   We know what you are and what you’re capable of, but not even you could do that.”   They thought I was on drugs and had made it up.

They sent a police car to Queens Road where I lived, but there was no sign of a scuffle, absolutely nothing, so they sent me home.   My two mates had cleaned it all up.   Where the guy was I didn’t know.   I didn’t ask.

By this time I was beginning to think I could get away with it.   But unknown to any of us, somebody with a home camera had witnessed all of it, taken a video of it and took it to the police station.

So I got arrested.   The guy concerned didn’t die, but he’ll be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.   I ended up getting seven years for a charge of ‘grievous bodily harm with intent on diminished responsibilities’.

I did the seven years, took a train and went to the clubhouse.

There was a look of horror on their faces as I walked in.   I said “Have you got the keys to my house?”

But they had sold it.

“Some of the lads decided they needed some money and sold your house.”

“So, where’s my bike and my bank book?”

“They’re gone too.”

So my house, sold, my Harley Davidson worth £10,000, gone, and my bank balance with around about £13,000, gone.   I had absolutely zilch.

So I said, “If that’s brotherhood for you, you know what you can do with it,” and I walked out.   I burnt my colours there and then – in front of them and I said, “Anybody got any problems with that?”

Something in the back of my head said, “Go home, go back to Mum.”   I hadn’t spoken to my mum for 10 years, but I phoned her up and she said, “Oh hello, son, are you in trouble?”   I moved back to live with her and started to rebuild my life.

I got part-time work, bought myself another bike ….  I just wanted an easy life.

I got trained through Bass Charrington as a pub relief manager and I enjoyed the job, watching everybody else get drunk instead of me.   It was good fun.

My friends and I started drinking in a pub called The Commodore where I met a barmaid called Dawn.

She and I were married in 1991.   She saved my life basically because I was on a rocky road, taking any drugs I could get my hands on really – mainly marijuana and speed and a little bit of LSD.

Soon after my 40th birthday, my health began to deteriorate.   My vision went, my speech went, my sense of touch went and I thought, what’s going on here?   So I went to see the doctor and he said, “Ok, we need to investigate this.”   A little later he told me, “You have got multiple sclerosis – the worst kind, primary progressive.”   He said I had five, maximum 20 years and I’d be bedridden, probably on a ventilator.   MS doesn’t kill, but the body shuts down.

That was in 1994 so I said, “Is there anything I can do about it?”

“No.”

The next thing we knew was that Dawn was pregnant, expecting our second child, Robert Charles, who was born in 1995.

Dawn started going to church soon after that (she had a bit of a church background).   Then one Sunday afternoon she got home from church and she was glowing, a radiant halo around her.

I was so impressed that I asked if I could come with her next week, thinking it might help me a bit.   I thought it must have been the communion wine that did it.   I thought, “If the wine can do that to you, it’ll help me.”

We went the next week, but no wine, so we went the week after – still no wine, but I actually did enjoy the service and I sang to a couple of the songs.   I thought I’d go one more time.   I walked through the door on the next Sunday morning and this time there was wine – but when it came to the time of drinking it, it was blackcurrant juice.

I said to Dawn “Is there anything different about the wine today than what it was three weeks ago?” and she said, “No, it’s the same, blackcurrant juice.”

I said, “Hmm, something else is going on then, isn’t it?”

She said, “Fancy exploring it?”

Soon after that the church invited me to do the Alpha course.   That was in 1998.

On the first night of the Alpha course, the church people turned up to look after the kids and do everything for us.   By then I couldn’t walk and was in a wheelchair.   I weighed 30 stone but two strong lads pushed me over to the church in my wheelchair.

As we went in, I thought “They’re not going to win me over.”

We went through the meal and all the preliminary speeches and I thought, “Oh, shut up, just get on with it will you?   You’re boring me now.”

And then they put the video on and Nicky Gumbel came on the screen.

Oh man, … what a shock.   Everybody in that room disappeared.   Nobody else was there – just me and Nicky.   And every question I had in my heart, every bad thought, he was dispelling them one by one – just gone, gone.

And I got home at the end of the night and I was absolutely blown away.

I said, “What’s going on here?   This is not me.   I’m stronger than that.   I’m not going to be won over by this silly fella speaking sweetly to me in a nice, soft gentle voice.”

But I liked what he was saying.   I understood it and thought it made sense.

The next Wednesday night I was saying, “Come on Dawn, we’re going to be late.”

And when they played the video of Nicky Gumbel speaking, exactly the same thing happened; it was like it was just me and him, with me not saying a word, but him knowing all my thoughts, concerns, doubts and fears and just chipping away at them.

At the time I had a particular problem with my left arm.   Three fingers were near enough numb all the time because of the MS.

I never said anything about it but the Alpha leaders said “Have you got a particular problem?”

I said, “Well, these three fingers are numb, but it’s to do with the MS.   There’s nothing you can do about it.”

They said they would like to pray about it.

I said, “Pray for it if you want, but nothing’s going to happen.”

Three ladies prayed for me and it felt as if my hand was on fire.

I said, “Has anybody got a cold blanket or something?   My hand feels as if it is on fire.”

They went and got me a cold cloth but the feeling returned to those fingers and I’ve never had a problem with that hand to this day.   Not from that moment.

I started going to church and became a regular there.   One Sunday, they had an altar call during a baptism service asking for anyone who wanted to give their lives to Jesus.

I remember closing my eyes and ignoring what was going on, I was determined I was not going to get pulled into the emotional bit, you know.

Then I realised my hand was up here, and I was waving it like crazy.   The more I said to myself “Stop”, the further it was being pushed up and the wilder it was waving.

And this coloured guy who was the minister said, “Oh yes, the gentleman at the back there ….”

As I sat there, I heard an audible voice saying “Bob, life is going to change.   Just let yourself be free.”

That day I gave my life to Jesus Christ and I became a Christian.   After that, I couldn’t shut up about it and I still can’t.

The very next day I got out of my wheelchair and I managed to walk from my house to the church.

When I got home Dawn said “How did you get there?”

“I walked.”

“On your own?”

“Yeah.”

“How did you get back?”

“I walked.”

“But …..”

I hadn’t walked for four or five years.

Two weeks later I got called in for my regulation consultation at the hospital and they did some tests.   At the end of them, the doctor said to me, “You haven’t got MS any more.”

I said, “Thank you, Lord Jesus.”

And he goes, “I knew you’d say that.”

So now I ain’t got MS any more, but I have got Jesus and I don’t need anything else.   I really, really don’t.   I’ve got my wife, I’ve got my children, I’ve got my bike.

When I was healed of MS I thought I might have a try at riding a motorcycle again, I got checked by the doctor to make sure it was ok, then bought a bike.

I wondered if there were Christians involved in motorcycles and I searched on the internet and came across CMS – Christian Motorcycle Association.

I joined in 2004 and now I am Chairman of the North and West Wales branch.   We are an evangelistic group – going to bike meets, races and rallies, and setting up stalls to tell about what we do.

We give out Bibles and tracts and meet once a month as a branch – it’s totally opposite to my old biking life which involved everything illegal.

God and bikes are compatible – it’s all about freedom.   I know all about living on the wild side.   I’ve had people say to me, “You’re a Christian biker?   Nah!”  But I know what my life was like without God, the thought of how I was before makes my skin creep, when I was in the grip of Satan.

Now I’m a different person, I’ve been washed clean.   God guides me and encourages me, he knew what he was doing when he let me go off the tracks, He knew I’d come back to my senses.

I am now a member of my local church.   I never prayed once before I was a Christian, now I pray all the time whenever I can – when I’m driving, when I’m sleeping, when I’m awake, all the time.

I just have a conversation and that’s what praying is, there’s no specific pattern to praying.   When I do pray, I always say “Thank you” first.   “Thank you for the fact that you’ve shown me the way.”

And the Bible?

I knew it existed but I never read it.   I used to call people who professed Christianity or religion ‘Bible Bashers’.   But now, yes I do read it.

Jesus is now my everything.   Without Jesus I don’t live.

Bob Hughes-Burton

 
Extract from Alpha News :  November 2010 – February 2011.


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