My Friend Bradley Miah-Phillips: In Memorium

It is with great sadness that I have to announce that one of the Storytellers for my Our Recovery Stories project passed away on 10 February 2023 at the Calderdale Royal Hospital. I am still having trouble coming to terms with the idea that Brad is no longer with us, but I know I have some special memories of him, albeit most of them on Skype, and in the words he and I wrote for his Recovery Story.

I first met Brad when Mark Gilman and I travelled up to Halifax in April 2009 to meet Stuart Honor at the Breakfast Club, a recovery-based initiative that Stu had set up and which later became The Basement Recovery Project (TBRP). Brad cooked our delicious breakfast. I was by then living in Perth, Western Australia, having moved there from South Wales at the end of 2008. 

I met Brad in person a few times after that when I visited Halifax. During one of those visits, Brad introduced me to his magic tricks, two of which you can see in the short video below. I got to know Brad better when he became a regular blogger on our Wired In To Recovery online community. We were in regular contact with each other. 

In 2012, I decided to develop a Recovery Stories website, an educational resource that I hoped would help individuals and families recover from addiction and mental health problems. I had always believed in the power of story from my early days of working in the field with my grassroots initiative Wired In, so I decided to include a number of recovery stories of people I knew. Brad agreed to be one of those storytellers. And what a Story it turned out to be!  

I interviewed Brad a large number of times during 2012/3 and gradually wrote parts of his Story. I would send him back drafts and we would then discuss and change or add parts to what I had written. Gradually, the Story formed, and by the end both Brad and I were really pleased with the final product. 

I then updated the Stories in 2020 for my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys From Drug and Alcohol Addiction which appeared on 9 April 2021. By now, Brad’s Recovery Story, A Life Beyond My Wildest Dreams, was the longest in the book. He was now married to beautiful Emma and his gorgeous little daughter Heather was growing up fast. 

Last September, I visited Halifax and had arranged to meet up with Brad at TBRP. Stupidly, I forgot to remind  him the day before I arrived… and he forgot I was coming. I later received an email from Brad saying how he regretted not meeting me. And now, I will never see my good friend again.

But I have his Recovery Story and what a remarkable Story that is. And I have enjoyed many hours working with Brad on that Story, albeit us being on different sides of the world. A number of things struck me during the writing process. 

1. Brad’s honesty. He certainly led a wild life, to put in mildly, but he never shied away from talking about what he had done. 

2. His resilience to come through so much adversity in his life. 

3. His gratitude towards Stuart, Michelle Foster (CEO of TBRP) and his other colleagues at this amazing recovery community.

4. His wanting to pay tribute (by writing a short story) in his Recovery Story to some of his recovery friends, each of whom had passed on. 

5. The insights he showed into the recovery process and the work he did in helping others. I know he impacted on many people’s lives. 

6. Brad gave me great insights into what it must be like as an adult to not have a normal emotional development as a child and teenager because he was sniffing glue and other substances and then drinking excessively. 

7. His love for his daughter Heather and wife Emma. 

8. His bravery in travelling from Burnley to Halifax by bus to pick up his daughter when he was almost blind (see below). He had lost the sight in one eye some years earlier when a surgeon damaged the retina during an operation. He then woke up one morning unable to see at all.  

‘After about two weeks, I started to see some white patches flashing in my vision. I could see something, but I didn’t know what. I started to go out with that type of vision and somehow or other managed to get around a bit. I worked my way around the streets by ‘interpreting’ the black and white flashes I could ‘see’ and listening to sounds… and using a good deal of guess-work. I got used to getting around like this and became better at it. I know this must sound crazy—it does to me now—but I just got on and did it! 

Things began to improve a little—I could see more ‘shapes’—and I started to travel to Halifax on the bus. I hadn’t seen Heather for a month or so. The bus-stop was about six minutes from my flat and I knew that the only buses that stopped there travelled in the same direction, either to Halifax or to Todmorden. If I got on the latter, I could catch another bus in Todmorden to reach my ultimate destination. 

I knew I had arrived in Halifax because I could ‘see’ a long-thin dark shape, which was Wainhouse Tower, reputed to be the tallest folly in the world. I also knew roughly how long the bus took to travel to Halifax. Of course, things were easier when I was travelling with Heather. Although she was only four years old when I lost my sight, she was very good at helping me get about.’

Brad died sober and so very happy with life.

You can read my blog post about Brad discovering from a friend at TBRP that alcohol wasn’t his problem… it was him! 

And here is Brad’s full story. It is well worth a read. [NB. All the full Recovery Stories from my eBook are now available on this website.)

Bradley, I will miss you greatly. However, I will always cherish our friendship, memories of our interactions (both in person and online), and your Story. Thank you, my friend. Big Hug. RIP.

My thoughts are with Brad’s family. Sending my love.

Whilst visiting The Basement Recovery Project in Halifax with CEO Michelle Foster, staff member Bradley Miah-Phillips shows me two of his coin tricks. 6 December 2011.

The photograph at the top of this post is taken from Brad’s Facebook page (posted February 2020).

I have received the following two special messages relating to Brad:

‘Shocked to hear this sad news! Brad was a fellow traveller who attended several of our retreats and enthused about the experience ever since. He was loved beyond compare, treasured, valued, and appreciated. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this sad time. Brad became a selfless “giver” through his recovery, and contributed handsomely to life’s rich tapestry. His was a great example in how to live the inspired life. I will miss him terribly. X’ Wynford Ellis Owen, Specialist Counselling Consultant, and Former CEO at Living Room Cardiff – Stafell Fyw Caerdydd

‘Here was a man who had unselfishly given himself to the service of others throughout almost 15 years of sobriety and freedom from drugs; a man whose time in prison and sleeping rough on the streets were probably better qualifications for his work in the recovery field than the degree in Criminal Psychology he achieved in his early years of sobriety; and a  man who sought no recognition whatsoever for his work, let alone any gratitude for it.

He simply gave. All that he had been gifted, he gave to others.

Those whom he saved; the colleaques he worked with; and the people who loved him will never forget his humility and self-sacrifice. That is how he will be remembered; not for the things he did for himself but for what he did for others. That is how we should all wish to be remembered, but sadly it is a bar set way too high for most of us.

When I arrived home, I opened my notebook at a random page. At the bottom of the page was a quote: “No light shines brighter than the light which shines within us”. No light shone brighter than the light which shone in the man I was privileged enough to call a true friend.

God bless you, Brad. We will hold you in our hearts forever.’ Stuart Forshaw, Chairman, The Basement Recovery Project