Reflections on Kevan’s Story (Part 3)

Kevan MartinHope you’ve been following Part 1 and Part 2 of my reflections on Kevan’s Story. I’ve been highlighting some of the processes occurring in Kevan’s recovery.

We’ve seen changes in his thinking and behaviours, and followed the lifestyle changes that Kevan made. We’ve seen how Kevan’s confidence in himself has grown over time and as the changes have occurred.

What is absolutely clear is that this recovery process was driven by Kevan. It was something he did, not something that was given to him by someone else. In fact, he spent many years in and out of a psychiatric hospital and no one suggested to him that he had a drinking problem. When he did meet with a drug and alcohol counsellor, the advice he was given was nonsensical!

The help Kevan received from a vicar –  a discussion at a time when Kevan was distraught – created a moment of clarity and triggered a whole series of new thoughts in Kevin’s mind. It helped him move along his journey in a series of leaps and bounds. Still a long way to go though, but these words really helped Kevan (and remember he is not a religious or spiritual person).

It’s amazing how what you might think is a little thing can have such an impact. At the same time, we must appreciate it wasn’t just the words that mattered, but the fact that someone spent some time with Kevan. Someone cared about him and showed him  love. Someone appreciated what he was going through and showed empathy.

I cannot emphasise to you enough how important these factors are to a recovering person.

Anyway, Kevan stopped using Antabuse two years after stopping drinking, knowing he could now move forward without this form of support. Some months later, he started to reflect on:

“… how I had tried and failed to find a service that would help me with my personal needs when I was trying to stop drinking. I had met so many people along my journey who had similar needs and who had found that AA did not suit them. The kind of service we all needed did not exist – at least where we lived – so I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t I develop such a service?’”

So, Kevan invited people he knew with alcohol problems to join a support group which met in his living room. “Word of mouth ensured that my home was soon packed with people I had met throughout my years of spinning through the revolving door of treatment.”

When the group got too big for his home, he started knocking on the door of local service providers to access a meeting place. After what seemed like an eternity, he obtained suitable premises. Kevan also set up a charity (NERAF), which again was a problematical process. However, Kev overcame these obstacles – and as for money to run the support groups, he used his unemployment benefit!

News travelled fast and it wasn’t long before treatment workers were knocking at his door and later commissioners. And over time, NERAF grew and grew until it was offering peer mentoring, recovery coaching, group sessions and a range of other services to help people find recovery across the north-east of England. Now, NERAF has nearly 100 staff and volunteers and offers 50 support groups across the patch.

Not bad for someone who everyone gave up on – “No hope,” “He’s a loser and will never be any good,” “He’ll never change.”

However, what about Kevan’s personal life. Well, that has changed in an amazing way. He is now very close with his family and I loved the bit that Kev describes where after he refused wine his sister said, “Fucking hell, I never thought I would ever hear you say that, but we are all proud of you for sorting yourself out.”

And then something that teared me right up:

“Three years ago, I was at work in a meeting when my Admin knocked and came in to tell me that someone wanted to see me. I replied, “I’m in a meeting. Who is it?” She replied, “It’s your daughter, Sarah.” I ran out of the office and there she was in front of me. We cuddled and cried together. It had taken 16 years, but there she was. Sarah had seen me on the local news a few days earlier and found out that I was actually alive. We have a great relationship now, making up for lost time and just recently she gave birth to my first grandchild, Benjamin David.”

And one more piece of the recovery jigsaw (as Kevan calls it) fell into place when he “re-met” Ann on Facebook, many years after they had stop going out together. They fell in love and will get married in the not-too-distrant future. And Kev thinks the world of Ann’s son, Aidan!

To me, this is an amazing Story. It shows what can be achieved in recovery. But it also shows that you have to work the journey to get there… and it can be hard work.

Kevan, I can’t wait to meet you, mate… and the family. For all of you out there, PLEASE read Kevan’s Story in our Stories section.

I leave the last words with Kevan:

“It is fantastic to know that I set up NERAF from nothing, starting as a support group in my flat and employing people that wouldn’t usually been given the opportunity. Knowing that we have made a difference to so many lives puts a big smile on my face.

“I now have a fantastic career ahead of me, a loving family supporting me, and my lovely lady Ann by my side. Now that’s Recovery and I’m the happiest man in the world! If I can do it, YOU CAN!”