Revisiting Old Memories, Part 1: Drink and Drugs News (DDN)

I’ve just been reading through a chapter I have written for a book I am working on, tentatively called Those Who Came Before: A Personal Journey Into Understanding Drug Addiction and Addiction Recovery. In the chapter, I describe how I started writing for the magazine Drink and Drugs News in late 2004. I wrote a series called Background Briefings for nigh on four years. Here’s how it all started:

‘In the summer of 2004, Simon Shepherd of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) was approached by Claire Brown and Ian Ralph, who worked for a public health magazine. They asked him whether there was a case for a regular magazine focused on the treatment of substance use problems to be distributed bi-weekly for free to the field. The idea was for costs of the magazine to be covered by advertising. Together, they sketched out the bones of what the magazine might look like, and came up with the name Drink and Drugs News (DDN). 

Simon contacted me and asked if I would meet with Claire and Ian, as he thought that my community initiative WIRED (later known as Wired In) could play an important role in this venture. The four of us met and planned a strategy. Soon after, Claire and Ian left their jobs, rented a new office near the Thames River in London, and a special new venture began. 

I remember how thrilled I was when I saw the first issue of a high-quality DDN come out on 1 November 2004, with a banner at the top reading ‘From FDAP in association with WIRED’. Mind you, I must make it absolutely clear that Simon and I (and our organisations) had little to do with the preparation of the magazine and almost all of the content. Our organisation’s names were used to help the magazine ‘take off’ and become part of the field. Simon and I did all we could to promote the magazine. 

Claire commissioned me to write content for the magazine. In the first edition, I wrote an article on ‘the story behind the WIRED initiative’, as well as the first part of Natalie’s Story. Natalie was the young woman who inspired me to start writing Personal Stories about addiction and recovery. I also arranged for Dave Watkins to write an article, A day in the life of…, which focused on his activities as a Community Support Worker for our local treatment agency in Swansea, West Glamorgan Council on Drug Abuse. 

In the second edition, which appeared two weeks later, the second part of Natalie’s Story appeared, along with an article I wrote on Internet treatment and support in which I argued ‘that there is an urgent need to be innovative in developing ways of tackling substance misuse.’ My first Background Briefing, Drugs in society, appeared in this second edition of DDN. My Background Briefings, an educational piece related to addiction and recovery (and related matters) of just over 900 words, appeared in almost all editions of DDN until late 2008. I also wrote a number of other articles for the magazine during this time.

Claire and Ian, and their team, have done a remarkable job with DDN over the years. Initially, it helped realise Simon’s and my dream of seeing a field that was better informed than it was. It helped me find a new audience for my writing, for which I will always be grateful. Today, it still remains a magazine of the highest quality.

I am still in touch with Claire Brown all these years later, despite living on the other side of the world. I remember the four of us had a number of good times together.’

You can find a later version of Natalie’s Story on this website and an update in my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction