"Having been single and living away from family for a number of years, it'd be fair to say that from time to time I've felt lonely. It's always been a fleeting feeling though, dissipating just as quickly as it would arrive. I'd never really felt alone though - not until I was arrested at least.
It's difficult to say what it's like to open your door to four police officers with a search warrant – especially when you know what they will find. The best way to describe it is like your world immediately shrinks to a small bubble with just you inside it. Right in that instant there's you in your bubble and then the rest of the world in theirs and they're completely separate.
There's also a strange duality of thinking that happens – the police are asking questions which you're hearing and answering, but they somehow feel muted and your responses automatic and reflexive. Most of your brain is busy with scattered thoughts that pop in and out at their own will; “my life is over”, “will I ever get to come home again?”, “what will I tell people?” etc..
After being released from custody that sense of separate bubbles persisted. I'd had to tell my employer I'd been arrested and they'd suspended me, which meant I'd lost the most regular contact with people I'd had.
I'd also taken the decision not to tell my family what was happening. At the time I felt that it was better for them not to have to worry through bail dates, court hearings etc and for me to just talk to them once I'd gotten to the “end” of the process. In retrospect that was probably the wrong decision – not least because I could've been calling them from prison if things had worked out a little differently.
Not only did it compound my sense of isolation, but I think they felt robbed of the opportunity to support me through the process which in the end lasted eight months. It also meant we were in different places – my wounds were healing (kind of) whereas theirs were fresh and I had to relive some things that I'd wanted to move on from.
Nothing stays the same forever and, over time, the sense of isolation has gone away. Conversations with family have become less about past misdeeds and legal issues and moved back to general chatter about life in general.
Talking to Safer Lives in the weeks after my arrest really did provide a lifeline. It helped to expand my bubble, or at least to put some people in the bubble with me.
Please don't think you can just handle everything yourself – maybe you can, but the scars will probably not be worth it. If you know your use of the internet already breaks the law, talk to someone whilst you have the chance to fix things of your own volition. If you recognise that your use of the internet has increased over time or you're looking at images that are more extreme than you were previously, again talk to someone."
Paul from Greater Manchester