What is addiction? Addiction has the potential to affect anyone. It could be as an individual, a family member or a friend. Estimates suggest that approximately 1 in 10 people in the U.K. are dependent on alcohol or drugs. Addiction is not limited to class, race or gender, though circumstance can play a huge part. Abstinence based residential treatment offers people the chance to break the cycle of addiction. Through spending time understanding why they have an addiction, how to manage their addiction, finding new ways self expression and gaining life skills, they can return to the community as happy and functional
members of society. Currently only one percent of those who are acknowledged by an authority, such as the NHS or by social workers, receive residential treatment. Whilst the cost of this form of treatment is high in the short term, it can save on the cost of health care, social work, court and prison, in the long term. Those who go through this process into recovery very often feel the need to give back to, and re-connect with the wider community, with a new found sense of freedom.
In recovery: A conversation Jo and Frankie first met in 2005 when they were themselves both in residential treatment at the Nelson Trust for alcohol and drug addiction. They have both been in recovery and abstinent since then and are now both councillors at the same residential centre that they came to 8 years ago. Here they discuss some topics around recovery What does an addict look like?
F - Freedom.
Jo - 9 times out 10 we could recognise an addict but that’s from our personal insight.
J - Not having to get up in the morning and taking methadone, subutex or having a drink or doing whatever you need to do to get through the day. That’s prison in itself. Being sick and tired of being sick tired and not being able to function or do anything. The insanity of it. And choosing to carry on like that. It took me 22 years of that.
Frankie - But saying that, you can have someone who is clearly an addict but it isn’t unmanageable yet. For example they could be working. They could be a doctor or a solicitor. I knew a solicitor who was an addict but managed his life. Then you have the street guys, which are more obvious. You can’t tell, but, you can stereotype the ones on the street. It could be your mum, even! J - I think that the statistics say that 7 out of 10 people have addiction touching there lives in some way. When I looked back into my family history there was 4 or 5 who had problems with drink. F - In the 70’s they gave valium to the mums and they are only just getting to grips with that now; there are a lot of them that have taken it for 40 or 50 years and they’re addicts. But, its behind doors, they’re conducting their business, they’re doing their shopping and looking after their kids. What does the term recovery mean to you? J - It means turning my life around, doing something different, staying true and giving back. Everything I’ve learnt, everything that I’ve been taught through my addiction, I know the tricks and know the ways, which is why I choose to give back, which is why I’m in the job I’m in. And this job keeps me sane, knowing that I am there helping people, when I struggled to get that support. Those that come through the door and want help, I latch onto and give them all of my support.
F - It took me longer. J - Give me the insanity of what I’ve got today, I love it! How difficult is it to go through residential therapy? F - I found it extremely difficult but at the same time I was really messed up, suicidal. I spent many years in prisons and I was on an order to come here. Half of me wanted to come here, though part of me said that nothing was going to work. For me, I wanted to give anything a try. My headspace was gone. What helped me was the staff. I had never met anyone that had given me a chance to be me. My councillor was great. The staff supported me in every way. I was not used to this. J - It was a different world. I was hanging onto my councillor who brought me from prison saying ‘take me back, I’m not staying’. F - I had nowhere to go. I’d burnt a lot of bridges. J - Death was where you were going to go. F - I started thawing out like a block of ice. J - They start moulding you here, building you up. It’s
quite powerful. You’re held with cotton wool. They take care of every aspect. F - How hard is it? Its as hard you make it. Now that you are in recovery do you still have to keep your self in check? F - Absolutely! J - Hell yes! F - You don’t just do this and think that you’ve cracked it. It’s ongoing. If you don’t [work at your own recovery], thats when you relapse. What happens with addiction, is that you get clean and you buy into ‘normality’, you buy into Sunday lunch with a glass of wine. For me, I
know I can’t do that because all the hard work... J - ...is undone and you’re back to square one. How can life be for someone who has gone into recovery? F - How can life be? Absolutely amazing. J - It still blows me away. Even getting the car in the morning. Thinking, I can drive, I’m legal, I’m going to work, I’m doing something that I love. I’m working with people who like me, who understand me. F - You can do anything in recovery, anything is possible. J - When you get yourself clean, you can do anything.
Expression Sleepless Night I recall an anxious wait Befriended by a stranger I lay in my tent spare clothes hung over me and the night drew on The silence cut a lifeless calm I knew I had to see the night out Me, my friend and the night ahead together, but not at ease only one blanket between us who was I at this point in time? a walrus or a coward I knew I had to ask his help though it wouldnâ€™t change a thing. Though it wouldnâ€™t change a thing I knew I had to ask his help A walrus or a coward Who was I at this point in time? Only one blanket between us together but not at ease me, my friend and the night ahead I knew I had to see the night out the silence cut a lifeless calm and the night drew on I lay in my tent spare clothes hung over me befriended by a stranger I recall an anxious wait.
Polly-Emily Taylor is a recovery worker with the Nelson Trust based in Stroud. Here she talks about the residential therapy treatment and what her role is We have a myriad of people, from all walks of life coming in for treatment. Addiction is one of the few things in this world that doesnâ€™t discriminate. The reasons that people start to use drugs and alcohol are vast. Our main ethos, as a residential treatment centre is to give clients a dignified, autonomous and nonjudgemental approach. It is important for our clients, that they can come to us and leave all the judgment at the door, to not be discriminated against any more and have support from staff and other clients. When people take drink and drugs to deal with life, this replaces other ways of coping with everyday things. When they become abstinent they have to learn those skills. What we do is help people cope and find the skills that they need. When clients come to our residential treatment we put together an individual care plan for them and continue to work closely with them throughout their time with us. Our primary intake house has 24 hour staff that are there to interact with and learn about our clients. We have a relatively short amount of time compared to their lives to help teach them the skills that they need. We are always open and available for them to come to us. The intake procedure for every treatment agency is different. With us generally, clients willl have accessed a service of some kind with their local authority who in turn will refer them to us to assess whether they require a more intense treatment. It is quite a thorough process as we have to make sure that it is the right treatment for them. It is this gatekeeping processing that ensures that we can offer the client what they need. Once they have had an assessment and been given a green light they come to Nelson House, our primary intake house, we give them a very structured day of individual and group work as well as other workshops. We have therapeutic interventions, work on initial behaviour that needs to be addressed, deal with health issues, give clients assignment work and determine the main points of action for them. It is dynamic and constantly evolving.
Clients will spend a maximum of 12 weeks in this primary stage before, depending upon funding, before moving onto the second stage at one of our other houses. This encourages a more independent approach to their recovery and means clients have to manage their own time more. Clients will have more freedom to go out but they are still within a safe environment with staff available if they need them. If they choose to, clients can then go into a third stage whereby they stand on their own two feet, potentially getting into education or voluntary work. Our Educational Training and Employment service helps people to do this and be functional, happy and safe members of the wider community. Days for the clients are well structured. They are expected to have breakfast together at 8am and the therapeutic day then starts at 9 with initial reflections to check how individuals to feel emotionally. We discuss events that may have happened the day before and any fellowship meetings that they may have had. Then there will be a therapeutic process group that will allow clients to talk to their peers about how they are progressing and helping them to identify issues that may require attention. We have a range of workshops on anxiety, stress management, anger management as well as dealing with other issues that clients may act out on without knowing why, which we must identify. Relapse prevention is especially important and is the main aim. We give them the tools so that they can manage this. We also have what is called, recovery capital, which looks at what skills people have and what they need to work on. For example physical health can have a real impact on how they may be able to cope. Everything we do is for a purpose. Its not always obvious to the client but it does affect other parts of their treatment. Everyone, innately, has the answers to their own problems.
Produced by Daniel Day. With thanks to The Nelson Trust for their support.