Link me, Like me, Follow me……do you need a digital detox?

July 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

80 per cent of people would rather go without a car, chocolate or alcohol than be without their digital device for a day according to a recent report. Now I don’t know about you but when someone can’t go without something, or suffer acute withdrawal from lack of its use, I’d call it an addiction. Phones

Just as a person might crave their fix, or their next drink it seems that many of us simply can’t go for any length of time without tapping, scrolling, playing or watching something on a digital device. All the time we are feeding that habit and being kept on the electronic leash we are missing out on a whole world of creative opportunity.

Addiction is a relationship between person and substance. Being wedded to a mobile mistress (or master) is no different.  Read more

The pulling ‘Power to Create’ waves

July 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 
dragon boat

The West Kent Recovery Team pulling together in boat three

‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’ exclaimed Ratty in The Wind in the Willows.

And so it was when a motley crew was pressed into action and took to the high seas (Mote Park lake in Kent), in a quest for riches; while a land raiding party prised gold and silver coins from the dry, land lubbers watching the battles on deep blue (murky green really) take place.

But this was not just any scurvy bunch.

It was led by the infamous Captain Mad Sea Swashbuckler (aka the RSA’s Susie Pascoe according to a random pirate name generator), this rag-tail rabble was banded together from the three hubs (Maidstone, Gravesend and Tonbridge) of the West Kent Recovery Service. This was the first time the trio had connected for a community event.

The crew of 26 was made up of people in recovery from alcohol and drug misuse, staff and peer mentors from CRI (one of the RSA’s partners in the initiative), and of course other members of the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery team, namely able-seaman Jack Robson and the not-so-able yours truly. But to quote Martin Luther King, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now”. Read more

A Small Spark to Recovery

July 8, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us,” Albert Schweitzer

At the beginning of 2014 my life changed beyond all recognition. I, for the first time was brutally honest with myself and I realised that I needed help. My cocaine addiction had taken me to a point from which I thought there was no return.

Mounting debt, breakdown in relationships, the deception both to myself and others and my worsening mental health had meant I was out of control.

I self-referred to Priority House and spent two weeks in a mental health unit. When I came out I was clean, but realised that I could not continue on my own any further and needed external support, I self-referred into the West Kent Recovery Service and started to attend Aspire2be meetings. Read more

What does a neuroscientist eat for breakfast?

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Design and Society, Recovery 

In its quest for a more ‘circular economy’, the RSA Great Recovery is focusing on the links between design, materials and waste. Last week, I visited the Science Museum’s new installation on rubbish.

The bowels of the Science Museum are perhaps an appropriate space for an exhibition about waste. You can smell it even before you reach the entrance to the Rubbish Collection. The odour has been somewhat deodorised for public consumption, but the unmistakeable whiff of putrefying food, stale coffee and plasticisers reaches into the stairwell above.

Needless to say it is this ‘pong’ that seems to prevent some visitors from venturing down into the strip-lit atrium, where volunteers in boiler suits and gloves are tipping bags of rubbish onto a row of white tables.

The Rubbish Collection is a project by artist Joshua Sofaer which hopes to change people’s attitudes towards waste by bringing them into close proximity with it. Once an object is brought into a museum, says Sofaer, it is usually imbued with a certain value and afforded a kind of reverence. Not so once it turns to waste, and he is on a mission to involve the public in documenting and examining the museum’s discards over a period of 30 days. Read more

Pushing the Boat Out

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

There are so many different types of recovery. I believe that we are all in recovery from something, or someone. Any trauma in our lives, anything that makes our body, head or heart hurt takes time and effort to move past. Time to recover from.

We often hear about individuals in the West Kent recovery community working to help others. Many choose to become peer mentors in the service or volunteer for other organisations elsewhere. There is a fantastic sense of ‘giving back’ to the community.

Read more

Life’s a Picnic

June 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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There is nothing quite as quintessentially British as a group of people sitting together enjoying a picnic. Sitting on the grass in the grounds of the Archbishop’s Palace in Maidstone, not a stone’s throw away from William Shipley’s tomb sat such a group of folk.

 Strawberries pic Read more

You alright? You ok? Why we could all pay a little more attention to our conversation this month

June 3, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

Doug and Trevor had worked in the samStick Mane building for years. Their morning conversation went like this:

‘Morning Trevor, you alright?’

‘I’m alright Doug, you alright?’

‘Yea, I’m alright’.

Some mornings, of course, they were alright. But how often does your conversation go like this?

You ok? Yes, I’m ok. (No, I am not ok. My Nan has died, my goldfish is depressed, and actually, things aren’t going well in general).

Read more

Smelling the ethanol

May 16, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The links between alcohol consumption and offending are well-documented, at least at a topline level. Over a fifth of prisoners surveyed in 2012 reported an alcohol problem when they began their sentence (a survey which was likely to underestimate the prevalence of alcohol problems among offenders due to under-reporting and recognition of problems), and an earlier survey in 2010 found that three fifths of those entering prison with an alcohol problem would also leave with one.

This week the RSA asked how we might break the cycle of alcohol-related criminal behaviour. Informing the debate was a new survey from Addaction’s Alcohol and Crime Commission, which found that almost two fifths of respondents believed they had a ‘big drinking problem’, with almost three-quarters of them (some 25% of all respondents) reporting that they had been drinking at the time of committing the offence for which they were sentenced.

Read more

Let me tell you a story, about the Power to Create

May 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Recovery 

This is a guest blog by Steve Bodycomb. Steve is involved with the West Kent Recovery Service and a member of the service’s Research and Innovation Team.


Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago humans believed that if they travelled in a straight line for long enough they would fall off the edge of the world. What you might call straight line thinking. Even today many people believe it to be the best option. After all it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to prove the quickest way between two points is in a straight line. But by being blinkered and following the same path we may be missing out on a whole new world of possibilities.

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It’s a Kind of Magic!

April 3, 2014 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Recovery 

This is a guest blog by Steve Bodycomb. Steve is involved with the West Kent Recovery Service and a member of the service’s Research and Innovation Team.

There are good days; very occasionally there are great days. To an addict in recovery every day they stay safe is a good day.

It was psychiatrist Carl Jung who said there were two ways people could find recovery from addiction; through ‘religious experience’ or the ‘protective wall of human community’. This story is definitely the latter and the human community is family. Not blood-relatives but a growing family of recovering addicts helping each other.

So what makes a good day great? Let me elucidate… Ladybird
After a bad night’s sleep, I was not in the best of humour and the 5am start to the day did little to enhance my grumblings. Getting up and hobbling to the shower on my crutches, I slipped and fell backwards. Knowing I could not stop myself falling, I had no option but to use my one good leg to propel myself onto the bed, rather than risk more serious injury. Fortunately, the landing was a success although not dignified; flat on my back, legs akimbo, with crutches spread even wider like some helpless, flailing insect turned-turtle by a mischievous child.

By the time I had composed myself, made it through the shower, dressed and limped downstairs my daughter had rung to say she had missed the train so could I run her to school. Rather than her be late I agreed, collecting her before heading off in the opposite direction to where I needed to go adding some 40 minutes to my journey. Seeing the bus leave as I neared the stop, the 15 minute wait for the next one turned to a 28-minute wait in the cold wind and rain. After a walk, or hobble, of more than a mile on my crutches I arrived at the Maidstone hub of West Kent Recovery Service where I was due to greet and serve at the breakfast club organised by the RSA’s Whole Person Recovery programme.

Cold, damp and in pain I was, obviously, not in the best frame of mind and after the inauspicious start to the day it certainly wasn’t looking like being a great day.

Whether it was the effect of attending the ‘Action on Addiction’ seminar on the effectiveness of Mutual Aid recently I don’t know, but in the couple of hours following my arrival I witnessed something quite remarkable that had a profound effect on me.

The breakfast club had been going for about 15 minutes when a key worker appeared with a shy and anxious client. They had travelled from another service where they currently have no breakfast club or mutual self-help groups, such as Aspire2Be – a peer support group in Maidstone – and he felt his client would benefit from such groups.

Now I have to break away from the story for a minute; as I feel it only fair to say that the only reason I refer to the persons as the key worker and the client is to respect their anonymity. It is not a case of us and them. In reality it’s all of us together, as equals, no-one being more or less important than anyone else in the group.
Anyway back to the story….

I welcomed the client, introduced myself and the other club members nearby and offered to make them a hot drink. While they sat with their key worker, it was obvious that they were anxious and very nervous. Who wouldn’t be meeting a group of total strangers for the first time? I told her a little about the group and other activities at the hub with her key worker interjecting along with some of the other breakfast club members.

That’s when the magic started….
The client started relaxing, becoming visibly less anxious and started to engage with the group. Soon they were taking an equal part of the conversations. There were lots of smiles and jocularity as there always is at breakfast club. Help and advice being freely exchanged along with experiences, hopes, aspirations, fears and dreams.

We have a saying in recovery that ‘No one understands an addict like another addict’. Within 90 minutes of being at a mutual self-help group, a shy, highly anxious and stressed person was fully engaging with members of the group to the point of discussing which other groups and activities people did and arranging with some to meet at the meetings. New friendships formed in minutes, with the client telling the key worker that they felt safe and happy. They said that within the time they had been there they felt welcomed, listened to and part of the community. New friends that actually listened, understood and knew how they felt.

They also told the key worker that he need not stay as they felt okay to be left with their new friends and had indeed decided to stay on after the breakfast club and try out the Lazy Energy Workshop that followed.

I was still in the building when the participants were leaving the workshop and there were lots of smiles, goodbyes and see you on such-a-such night. The client also made a point to come and say goodbye to me saying that they had really enjoyed their time with us and couldn’t wait till the next breakfast club. They had also signed up to the Aspire2Be sessions.people pic

Whether or not they do return, time will tell, but I have no reason to doubt they will, seeing the smiles as they left. They saw in that short time, that recovery is possible and life in recovery from addiction can be fun and fulfilling. The very worst case scenario is that they were safe for the half-day they spent with us.

Personally I have always known the power of mutual self-help groups whether they be Fellowship 12-step higher power groups or non-secular groups such as Aspire2Be, or the even more informal breakfast clubs.

People helping people for the simple reason of wanting to give back what they have received. Real altruism in action.
The work and involvement of the RSA in the help and support of these mutual self-help groups cannot be quantified by me, other than anecdotally. All I can say is stories like the one in this blog happen far too often to be a mere coincidence. This isn’t some clever smoke and mirror trickery; designed to fool those whose only interest is the data on a spreadsheet. This is real, tactile, holistic healing. For those of us fortunate enough to witness, and be part of the power of these groups we have only one word to describe it….

And the people who were once the story are now telling and sharing the story. And with the continued support and encouragement from organisations such as the RSA (part of the West Kent Recovery Service), this amazing self-help community will continue to grow and flourish.

Myself, I am honoured and humbled to be able to serve and know such amazing people. So what started out as a good day turned into a great day. And the secret of its success?

Well, it’s a kind of magic!

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