Revisiting Old Memories, Part 2: Adam Brookes’s Recovery Speech

In July 2011, I gave an invited talk, Transforming Health Care Systems to be Recovery-Focused, at the Fresh Start Recovery Seminar in Perth. A good friend of mine, Adam Brookes, who was in recovery from addiction, gave a five-minute speech to open the day’s event. Adam’s speech is one of my endearing memories from the time I have spent working in the addiction recovery field. Here is that speech:

‘I am deeply honoured to be here today, opening this meeting. I thank my good friends and colleagues at Fresh Start for asking me to give this little speech, and for helping save my life. Just over five years ago, I had a moment of clarity as I walked through Mandurah. I looked at a gravestone and suddenly knew I was facing death or a long period in jail.

I was hopelessly addicted to alcohol, amphetamine and cannabis. I was homeless, carrying two black bags containing my only possessions, ten dollars and a cask of wine. I was cornered and in deep psychological pain. I couldn’t escape the consequences of my addiction anymore and there was nowhere I could turn… other than to the Salvation Army in Mandurah.

There, I met Paul, who immediately saw the pain I was in. He asked if I wanted to sort out my problem. I just broke down and started crying uncontrollably. For the first time in a very long while, I felt safe. I knew I wanted to sort my problem. Paul took me to meet George O’Neill and two days later I had a naltrexone implant. A day later, I began a 10-month stay in the Fresh Start rehab in Northam.

Here, I learnt to live again, to cope with life without drugs. I learnt to have normal interactions with other people. I lost the feeling of isolation I had always felt and found a sense of belonging. I felt loved and cared for. I shared experiences and a vision. Most importantly, I found hope. Through the 12-step programme, counselling, the kindness of others and finding God, I began to understand myself better. I began to accept myself for who I was. I found a new identity.

When I stopped taking drugs, I was flooded by emotions and I hated myself with a passion for all the damage I had done to others, in particular to my family. I hadn’t been in contact with them for years and they didn’t even know I was alive. Eventually, I learnt to forgive myself for committing all this damage and this forgiveness was an important part of my recovery journey.

I am now very close to my family. I thank them for all they have done since their son returned. I am also deeply grateful to all the people in Northam, staff and clients, for their kindness and support.

When I left Northam, Fresh Start gave me a place to stay and a job. They gave me the key recovery capital that I needed to maintain my recovery. I loved my work helping other people deal with their problems, and this also helped my own recovery.

All these years later, I am doing what I want to be doing. Helping others get their lives back on track. Anyone can make mistakes and descend into addiction. When you see the trauma that many people experience before they resort to street drugs, you”d understand why they do what they do. You also need to know that many of these people want to escape their addiction, but they don’t know how and they have so little resources.

Society needs to give these people every opportunity to get their lives back on track. We need to provide an environment that is supportive of a person’s efforts to find recovery. Remember, it is the person himself or herself who will do the work in finding recovery, but as a society we can help them in many ways. Not just by providing high quality treatment services, but also by providing a range of different recovery-based services in our communities.

From what I have been reading, I don’t think we do that well here in Western Australia. Far too few people find recovery from addiction. That situation must change! I know that we will learn something today that will help us in WA begin to create an environment which better helps people find recovery. We will start to learn how communities can heal.

I will go one step further in learning about this by travelling to the UK in September, to attend the annual UK Recovery Walk in Cardiff, Wales and visit a variety of recovery-based services. There is a Recovery revolution occurring over there, leading to many more people recovering from addiction. I’m going over to take a look, as I want to learn so much more so that I can help others take the journey to recovery that I have taken.

For now, I thank you all for attending this meeting. And I thank my colleagues and friends for helping me find recovery. Thank you.’

I had first met Adam back in 2010 and he quickly became someone very important in my life, a really good friend. He was close to my partner Linda and to my three youngest children who were living with us at the time. I saw that Adam had that something special, that empathic and caring nature that helps people get better. He was very charismatic. I knew that he was going to help many people.

Adam loved his trip to the UK and the recovery centres I recommended he visit. He realised that the UK was well in advance of Western Australia in developing recovery-oriented care and systems. He eventually lived in the UK for a number of years.

You can read Adam’s original Story, A Moment of Clarity, on this website, and a seven-year update of his Story in my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys From Drug and Alcohol Addiction.

I also wrote a blog, Welcome Home, Adam, about how he got ‘trapped’ in the UK because of Covid after deciding he wanted to return to Australia, and how he finally managed to ‘escape’ in 2021. He now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with his lovely fiancee Sarah.

The two photographs shown in this post were taken in 2011, just prior to Adam heading to the UK and then joining the UK Recovery March in Cardiff, Wales, walking alongside Wynford Ellis Owen of Living Room Cardiff, a community based recovery centre.