DDN December 2022 DDN Dec_2022 | Page 25

REAL LIVES ‘ You are worthy . You are capable . You have purpose . You are not alone .’


Cooking pizza saved Tom Gozney from oblivion , and gave him the impetus to turn his life around


turned to alcohol and drugs when I was young , lost and struggling to understand myself and where I fitted in in the world . In my early years I was always a timid , sensitive kid and then when I started school I began to struggle . Unbeknownst to me , I had dyslexia . But it was at a time when dyslexia wasn ’ t really recognised and I didn ’ t understand why I found everything so difficult when other kids were doing so well . I began acting out through frustration – I adopted this persona of the clown and the naughty kid that really wasn ’ t me , but it got me attention and made me popular .
When I was 13 , I was introduced to a friendship group outside of school that were smoking and using drugs and it felt like a natural progression for this persona I had embraced . It felt good to be a part of something . For the first time I really felt comfortable in my own skin , part of a group of boys that felt , at the time , like brothers . Drugs and alcohol became intertwined in my perception of who I was and allowed me to switch my brain off , or at least slow it down for a bit .
At that time , it all felt manageable and fun but it wasn ’ t long before I was expelled from school for reckless behaviour .
By the time I was 16 it had got bad . My mum took me into a rehabilitation centre after overhearing a conversation and realising I had been using hard drugs . I just thought I was doing what all teenagers do and so I rejected it and refused help . The reality of my parents finding out and trying to help / protect me drove me out the house and to the escapism of drugs even more .
I finally realised I might have a problem was when I tried to stop and couldn ’ t . I got into trouble with the police – the reality of going to a prison was sobering and I knew I wanted to change . This wasn ’ t the person I wanted to be or who I felt I was deep down . But I couldn ’ t stop and it turned my world into a horrible rollercoaster where my issues with drugs and alcohol got worse with inconsistent periods of sobriety and then intense relapses and benders .
One evening I was attacked by eight boys when leaving a club . I lost all my teeth , broke my eye socket and smashed my skull . As a result of my injuries after the attack , I was struggling to eat or drink and that triggered an insane escalation . In rehab they always say there needs to be a rock bottom but there was no moment until then . That was my rock bottom .
With the support of my mum and girlfriend I finally admitted I was ready to accept help .
We found a rehabilitation centre in South Africa that focused on addressing the deep-rooted causes of my issues and helping heal them . Even then I tried to sabotage it . I was petrified . But I think I knew deep down something had to change and that I was capable of so much more .
Rehab and my recovery journey was so hard but my life was instantly better for it . I was determined to prove everyone wrong and finally get sober . I was blessed with a councillor called Oliver who truly helped me flourish , helped me unearth the severity of my issues and accept the damage they had caused . He changed my perspective and allowed me to be vulnerable . He changed my life . Leaving treatment and returning home at 21 and sober was really challenging . I threw myself into cooking , there was something in the ritual of it I could just lose myself in , and it became a beacon of light for me in a tough time . I started having my mates over for dinners and one night we made pizza . Unlike other dishes or dinners , everyone rolled up their sleeves and got involved . I witnessed this insane sense of community and connection and it felt special .
I was inspired and began building my own brick pizza oven by hand . Building the oven and the experience of hosting those pizza nights gave me a purpose and a safe space to reconnect with loved ones . I don ’ t think anyone at the time really knew how much that oven meant to me . It saved my life and ultimately changed it for the better . All my mates started asking me to build them an oven and I became obsessed with the ritual , determined to build the best oven I could . I rediscovered my love for design and coupled with my drive for others to experience what I had . My company Gozney was born .
We ’ ve done some incredible things since , and I ’ ve built a business beyond my wildest dreams all with the aim of bringing that experience to as many people as possible . Today , the hardest thing for me in my life is maintaining balance , and it ’ s something I know I ’ m going to have to continue to work on .
You are worthy . You are capable . You have purpose . You are not alone .
Tom Gozney is founder of Gozney . Sales of his Signature Edition Roccbox pizza oven will raise funds for With You ’ s work across the UK .