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Celebrating Recovery Month

Recovery Month is a time to celebrate the gains made by those in recovery, and remind those at the beginning of their journey that they are not alone. It’s an opportunity to let everyone know that although every journey is different, we’re all in this together.

This Recovery Month, we want to celebrate our lived experience workforce whose commitment, dedication and passion is essential to the work we do. We asked our staff what Recovery Month means to them in hope that their experience will inspire others.

By Iain Donald, Recovery Worker, With You in Glasgow North East Recovery Hub.

Personally, every month, every week, every day is about recovery for me.

I was born and brought up in a small village on the outskirts of Aberdeen in Scotland. Around the age of 17, I started using ecstasy and other party drugs on the weekends because my friends were doing it.

I started experimenting with heroin when my relationship ended in the 2000’s and that was the beginning of my downward spiral.

I constantly borrowed money from my parents, making excuses about what I needed the money for and if that failed, I stole from them. I also started breaking into pubs and shops, and eventually got arrested at the age of 26. I was sentenced to a year in prison.

I started using drugs again almost immediately after I was released and eventually sold drugs for some major drug dealers, who paid me with a personal supply of crack and heroin. During this period of chaos, I overdosed three times, each time requiring hospitalisation. I also did try to stop using drugs, but relapsed several times.

And then in March 2010, I started a structured day programme designed to help a person learn to cope with daily life without substances. I completed the programme in March 2011 having been drug-free for a full year and began studying for a Higher National Certificate in Social Care in September 2011.

Earlier on in 2011, a group of friends and I created RAFT (Recovery Aftercare, Friday Time), a recovery safe haven for people looking to move away from their substance use. It grew rapidly and in September 2011, RAFT was awarded the UK’s first Recovery Champion Award — an award made by the Recovery Academy and Wired In To Recovery.

I celebrated my second anniversary of being free of substances in March 2012, an event which stands out for me because it represented my longest period of time without drug use since starting my recovery journey back in 2006.

I have found that having a certain level of lived experience has allowed me to perform at a higher level. I’m able to identify with individuals in recovery and assist them by asking the right questions.

These skills however are not unique to individuals with lived experience. A sense of empathy and a desire to help others during a period of difficulty in their lives is always important.

I’ve also found that people open up quicker when they know they’re dealing with someone who’s been through their experience.

By Annie Lynn, Service Manager, With You in Liverpool.

Recovery Month gives an opportunity to shine light on the possibility of change and living a healthier, more fulfilling life. I think that there should be a focus on recovery and the endless possibilities that are available to all, everyday.

In the early 80’s, heroin flooded the area where I was living so I started using recreationally and then became a serious user for 10 years. My life spiralled out of control during this period and I eventually attended rehab where I was presented with the opportunity to look at my substance use. It helped me became aware of the reasons behind it, which enabled me to make positive changes in my life

I believe that working within the substance use field has always been my vocation. I started off as a volunteer and now manage services that support people with experimental, recreational and dependent drug use.

My lived experience enables me to be passionate about the work I do, and to be empathetic to those who need support because I fully understand the process of recovery having been through it myself.

By Johnny Lusk, Team Leader, With You in South Ayrshire Recovery Service

Recovery means everything to me as it’s a big part of who I am, where I’ve been and also a catalyst for shaping my future as well as my ability to deal with life’s challenges head on without the need to use drugs as a coping mechanism.

I have lived in North Ayrshire, Scotland all my life and had a happy upbringing until I started experimenting with alcohol and drugs recreationally with school friends.

I really enjoyed partying on weekends and loved the euphoria the substances I was taking gave me so I started to take them on weekdays as well.

This went on for years until I was dependent on drugs to function day-to-day.

But after searching for a way out, I attended a peer support recovery meeting in my area and have never looked back. I’ve abstained from all substances for 11 years, freeing me to live my life how I choose and not to let drugs be the driving force anymore.

In my early recovery, I studied counselling and worked in a Residential Rehab Unit as part of my placement. I then got a full time job from that and have worked in drug and alcohol support ever since.

Having lived experience gives me an understanding of the issues the people I help are currently going through and the passion to keep going when challenges arise as I know what’s possible.

I’m very proud to be in recovery today and to be able to break down barriers and stigma that still exist in our community.

By Will Whittaker, Team Leader, With You in Cornwall

For me, Recovery Month is a good opportunity to reflect on other people’s recovery journeys I have been involved in.

After experimenting with drugs in my teens I started using heroin in my 20s and became a heavy user within a few months. My use escalated over a five year period causing the loss of my job and damage to most of my relationships. I felt like my life had gone in a direction I didn’t want so I sought treatment and started on opiate substitution prescription which enabled me to get back to work, Although this felt okay at the time, it wasn’t a permanent solution.

At the beginning I thought I wanted to stay on the prescription for the rest of my life but this view slowly changed over eight years. A drug worker asked me if I was curious about what life would be like without drugs and although I wasn’t curious at the time, this question was a seed that later grew into a desire to give it a try. I detoxed from all drugs and slowly rebuilt my working and social life. About 10 years after my detox, I started volunteering at With You and became a Recovery Worker after a couple of years. I’m a Team Leader for the Outreach Team in Cornwall.

Having lived experience helps me to understand our client’s behaviours and drug use. It also confirms to me and my clients that recovery is not only possible, but can improve the lives of people who have issues with drugs and all those around them.

By Roberta McClung, Team Leader, With You in South Ayrshire Recovery Service

Recovery for me is a group of people who have shown me a way of life that allows me to be the best person I can be. It has given me the ability to be helpful to my family, friends and community, which has given me a purpose and made me feel valued as a member of society.

To me, Recovery Month means a month of events highlighting that recovery is possible, and giving families and communities hope for loved ones affected by drug and alcohol issues.

I’m a 54 year old female who has had issues with drugs and alcohol for 25 years. I had lost the will to live and caused a lot of worry for my family members. My whole adult life I’ve suffered with anxiety and low self worth. I’m now five years without mind altering substances, with peace in my heart and a belief that I’m a good person.

I was introduced to the recovery community at the age of 49 by a friend who had recovered from his issues with drugs and alcohol. I started to volunteer at a Recovery Cafe where I learned to be responsible and built up positive relationships with my peers. Helping out in the cafe gave me a purpose for my day.

I then started to attend recovery events and build up positive relationships where I was given the opportunity of six hours paid work to support people who had issues with alcohol and/or drugs by sharing my experience . This was the first time I’d been in employment in decades, it made me feel part of society, something I hadn’t felt in a long time.

I got the opportunity to sit several SVQ 3 qualifications that help me in my role working in Health and Social Care.

I was then employed by With You as a Recovery Worker where I once went for support for my issues with drugs and alcohol. The opportunities and support I receive within my service in South-Ayrshire have been endless.

I’m now a Team leader supporting people with substance issues in their journey through rehab. Using my lived experience, I’m able to give people who use the service hope that recovery is possible. I’m on a journey that I can only describe as wonderful.

By Sean Mason, Recovery Worker, With You in Liverpool

For me, Recovery Month means everything. It’s a time to celebrate alongside my clients and to be there for those at the start of their journey, which is a privilege.

My journey in recovery started in 2010 but it wasn’t until 2015 that I fully accepted recovery into my life and started to believe change was truly possible for me.

This was after several detoxes and being a three time resident in a 12 step treatment centre as well as multiple visits to hospital. After becoming drug and alcohol free, I joined With You where I learned new skills and eventually became a CRC for nine months and then a volunteer for over nine months. I eventually became a recovery worker representing With You and supporting our clients.

Having lived experience allows me to better identify with the people I work with. All recovery workers need to have sympathy, empathy and understanding but to have experienced a similar journey with drug use and to verbally translate this with warmth into the relationship a recovery worker must create with his or her clients is a priceless advantage.

Wherever you are in your recovery journey, With You services are open and we’re here to work alongside you.

Visit our website for information and advice, to chat to a trained advisor, to find your local service or if you’re interested in opportunities to support other people on their recovery journey.

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With You

We are one of the UK’s leading mental health, drug and alcohol charities. We provide free, confidential support with drugs, alcohol and mental health.