Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 1 (Kevan Martin)

My apologies that I have not posted on my blog for some time now. I was in Europe (UK, Sweden and Italy) for nearly eight weeks visiting family and friends. I hadn’t been back to the UK in two and half years, due to the fact that we were ‘locked down’ (our borders were closed) in Western Australia due to Covid. I came back home to Perth for a rest (!) and have also been catching up with work, which in part has involved working on a new recovery book. 

During my time in the UK, I travelled around visiting various friends who I first met whilst working in the addiction recovery field. Whilst staying in Manchester with my eldest daughter and her family, I took the opportunity to visit Kevan Martin, whose remarkable Recovery Story, He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good, I first published on this website back in 2013.

After 25 years of problem drinking and eight years in and out of psychiatric hospitals, Kevan set up and ran NERAF (Northern Engagement into Recovery from Addiction) which eventually had nearly 100 staff and volunteers and provided a support service across the north-east of England. It all began in the following way:

‘So, I started a support group for people with alcohol problems in my own home. I often used to meet people that I had been in treatment with out and about, and eventually I started to say, ‘Come down to my place Tuesday night.’ Within a month, I had six people attending. 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.’

Kevan was later sacked from his own organisation by two of his Trustees. His case for ‘unfair dismissal’ was heard at an Employment Tribunal in Newcastle upon Tyne on 19 June 2014. The judge decided in Kevan’s favour, that his dismissal was inherently unfair, and awarded him substantial damages.

Kevan and his partner Ann decided to move back to Kendal, where they had both previously lived. He now works as a Night Warden at a Holiday Park in the Lake District. Here is what happened when I met Kevan on 31 August 2022:

‘I take the train to Oxenholme in the Lake District to meet Kevan Martin. I feel like I have known Kevan for years, but we have never previously met, other than on Skype. I had first written Kevan’s remarkable Recovery Story in 2012/13 for my Recovery Stories website, and then expanded it eight years later for my eBook Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction. 

I arrive at Oxenholme Lake District station, but there is no sign of Kevan. I head out of the station one way and then the other, but still no sign of Kevan. I then look across to the platform on which I had arrived and see him checking his phone. I cross the bridge again, head down the steps, and introduce myself. 

‘You’re not here,’ he replies. ‘Your train doesn’t get in for another five minutes.’ He’s obviously confused about what train I was arriving on, despite an earlier email I had sent. ‘I thought I saw you getting off the train that recently came in, but I wasn’t sure because of your face mask.’ We laugh at his confusion and give each other a big hug before heading out to Kevan’s car.

‘Is there anywhere you’d like to go,’ Kevan asks as we drive off. I think for some seconds and then say, ’I’d love to visit Cartmel if it’s not too far, as I’ve recently discovered that I have some ancestors who lived there in the 17th and 18th Century and are likely buried in Cartmel Priory.’ 

Kevan changes the subject and we spend some minutes discussing how we had interacted over the years. I then ask him where we’re headed. ‘Cartmel,’ he replies. ‘I lived there when I was a child.’ It’s a small world. Who knows, we may even be distant relatives. Get your DNA tested, Kevan!

Kevan and I spend a wonderful day together. We have long chats about NERAF and Wired In, and the UK recovery field. And life after NERAF. It’s like we’ve known each other for years. And in some ways we have, given the time we have spent over the years working on his Recovery Story and keeping in touch. It was really good hearing, and seeing, that Kevan is really enjoying life. Sadly, I was not able to meet his lovely partner, but I know that will happen next year when my partner Linda and I visit Kevan and Ann in the Lake District. 

Kevan, thank you for that magical day. And for sharing your truly amazing story. Can’t wait to meet you again.

> He’s a Loser and Will Never Be Any Good

> Kevan Martin’s Birthday and Story Update