Joseph’s life which had been absent for so long.
His gold medal for the long-haul cycle, which many might think little of, is a literal badge of honour which he wears with distinction. He identifies his final suicide attempt, when he overdosed on drugs after getting out of jail for the final time, as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
His father, Robert, found him in the kitchen, and again, his life was saved.
“I think that was the breaking point for me because it was the second time he had found me ‘dead’. It was either life or death. So I decided to try and change my life. And ever since that decision, I’ve been clean.”
Quite how a man who has been addicted for the best part of 12 years goes clean is incomprehensible for anyone who has not been affected by the destructive nature of drugs, but Joseph gives himself five simple rules to follow.
“There’s distraction – you have to give yourself things to do. Direction - which way are you going? Time – you have to give yourself time even if things are bad, you just think ‘if I wake up in the morning, things might be better’.
“Acceptance – you have to accept the decisions you make. And support – my support network, my family are the ones who have stuck by me. I’ve put them through hell – done really bad things to them. They’ve watched me since I was 15 but this year is different because I have changed because I want to change.”
His father, as much a victim as Joseph in this tale, echoes his son’s sentiments – realising that, despite over a decade of worrying and pulling his hair out, it has always been up to Joseph to change and, finally, he “wants to change and live life, thanks to this School of Hard Knocks”.
“He’s starting to live a normal life – which is what he wants. It’s been hard for me, but like I tell everybody, no matter what happens, he’s my son.”
Joseph isn’t the only one who struggled with heroin before finding a form of salvation in rugby.
Former teacher Steffan Owen had a stable life, owning his own gardening
business. However, the collapse of his 15-year marriage saw him spiral out of control and into the grasp of heroin.
“The thing with hard drugs is that it’s a whole different world altogether,” he said.
“You don’t feel the highs and lows, you’re just at a certain level.
“Heroin is a very destructive drug because it cuts you off from your family and friends. I wanted to block things out because my marriage had ended.
“I had to face the kids’ disappointment and I was missing meetings with them because of drugs. It was a dark time for me.”
A spell in prison saw him hit rockbottom, but it also sparked a passion for writing which has lifted him out of his mire.
A blog that he started while inside started with a post concerning a photo album that had always been too hard and emotional for him to compile – an experience Steffan found cathartic as his relationship with his children improved.
Since then, he has started writing short stories and he sees the Hard Knocks experience as a way of kicking on with his life after the eight weeks is over, with dreams of publishing a collection of his stories and setting up a new gardening company fresh in his head.
A transition back into full-time work will be far from easy for many of those involved in this rugby team with a difference, but the charity gives them the best possible chance.
Chartered psychologist Jess Brainch is working with the School of Hard Knocks to ease the process back into work as well as dealing with any “long-term speed bumps in life that they’re bound to face when building relationships and facing things in a new light”.
“Already over the last couple of weeks, the way they are dealing with uncomfortable environments and each other was refreshing to see. Just some of the decisions they were taking and making around life, work and social situations when they’re not with us is really motivating.
“It’s important we give them skills and a safety blanket as they finish the programme to ensure they can make these changes in life without us nec- essarily being beside them.”
Joseph, in particular, has found the social side difficult – his father describes him as sociophobic.
He could so easily have been another statistic, but life has given him another chance, and Joseph, so self-aware and rational about his flaws, is determined not to let another one slip through his grasp.
“I don’t know who Joseph Daly is. He is a drug-taker and a criminal. But personally I’ve never known him,” he says.
Joseph may not yet know who the real Joseph Daly is, but thanks to rugby and the School of Hard Knocks – he’s at least on the right path to finding out.
School of Hard Knocks are still looking for employers for these men so anyone interested in attending the jobs fair can contact liam@ schoolofhardknocks.org.uk . You can also follow their twitter page @ SOHKcharity for updates and news on how to get involved.
For confidential support, the Samaritans can be contacted for free around the clock 365 days a year on 116 123.
The School of Hard Knocks in training at Trelai Park, Cardiff. The team plays its first match next month