Revisiting Old Memories, Part 8: Recovery in the North-West

In mid-June 2008, along with my Wired In colleagues Lucie James and Kevin Manley, I visited the North-West of England, where there was a fast-growing Recovery Movement.

We travelled to Manchester where we visited Geoff Allman, Director of Spoken Image, whose team was developing a Wired In educational CD-ROM for us. Geoff was kind enough to drive us around for two days, which gave him the opportunity to see some things happening in the field.

We stayed two nights in a bed & breakfast run by a close friend of his. When I headed down to the kitchen on the first morning, Lucie asked if I recognised the room. I didn’t. She told me to look around again, but still no recognition.

Finally, she had to point out that I was in Pete and Jenny’s kitchen from Cold Feet, one of my favourite TV shows. Lucie then asked if I had recognised my bedroom. I hadn’t. She then told me that I had slept in the room that Adam had woken up in at the beginning of the first ever episode. Our host’s house had been used for two of the ‘Cold Feet houses’.

We spent the first day with Jacquie Johnston-Lynch who ran SHARP Liverpool, which offered a structured day-care recovery programme based on the 12-step abstinence-based approach. We also met Mark Gilman of the National Treatment Agency (NTA), a man committed to the development of a recovery culture, and Peter Naylor of the Spider Project, a creative arts wellbeing recovery community project. Mark not only has a wealth of knowledge, but is one of the funniest people I have ever met. I was fascinated by the ideas behind the Spider Project, which still runs today. They offered a range of Creative Arts Courses, Holistic Therapies, and Physical Exercise sessions.

We talked with the SHARP clients in a group session and Kevin and I were both greatly moved by the occasion (I had tears in my eyes). The session emphasised to me the power of the supportive community or social network. I just felt the empathy and positive feeling throughout the room.

Mark Gilman had arranged for us to join him and a group of recovery advocates in a Manchester café—Stuart Honor (researcher and recovery advocate), John Hopkins (ADAS/Acorn in Stockport), Colin Wiseley (Commissioner, Salford DAT) and Ian Wardle (Lifeline Project)—the following day.

Two lads who were sitting across from us on another table recognised me from my photo in the magazine Drink and Drugs News, for which I wrote a bi-weekly education column (Background Briefings), and Kevin from his Recovery film—and then Stuart, an old mate. We were thrilled that this wonderful coincidence had linked us to Paul Hutchins and Jason of the Thomas Project in Blackburn. Stuart was pleased to see them doing so well in their recovery.

What an inspiring group of Recovery Carriers, a term used by Bill White. And what a wonderful  day!

It was a long train trip back to Cardiff and I was pretty tired by the time I got home to Cowbridge at 21.15. No rest for the wicked though, since Kevin Skyped me two hours later. He was absolutely ‘buzzing’. He pointed out to me that he wanted to develop a Recovery Community here in Cardiff, although I had to remind him he had already started the process.

There was an expression on Kevin’s face I had not seen before—a sort of serenity. I realised how much fun it was talking to, and working with, people in recovery. I was lucky and proud to be associated with such people.