Recovery worker Matt Baker describes one man’s journey from addiction to a new outlook on life…
Helping others helps us
As we all know addiction is a huge problem within our society. We’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an affliction that only effects certain demographics or socio-economic groups. However, for those of us who have seen the ravaging effects addiction can have on the people we love, we know this not to be true. Addiction does not discriminate and can take a hold of anybody regardless of gender, race, sexuality, financial status, or any other label we use to separate ourselves. I firmly believe that the solution to addiction lies in a cultural shift away from stigmatisation and toward compassion and understanding.
I understand the mixed opinions of addiction. It is an emotive subject and depending on how you’ve been effected will largely determine your conclusions. If your only experience is having been mugged by a person desperate to get their fix, then I do not blame you for thinking “lock them up and throw away the key.” Whilst an understandable position to take, this does not solve the problem. As we all know, the key will not be thrown away. It will be used to re-open that cage door a few months later and the addict will return to the exact same life circumstances they came from. It is fairly obvious what will happen next and the carousel of chaos keeps spinning.
Now at this point I would like to contextualise my argument. It is not one of “they’re addicts so they are not accountable for their actions” as they clearly are. This would be hugely disrespectful to the many victims of these crimes who deserve justice. My point is that in order to prevent us having to seek justice for future victims, we need to offer help to the offender. Prison has two functions, to punish, and to rehabilitate. I believe that only one of these functions is truly being fulfilled. Punishment of offenders serves the victims, but only the victims that have already been created. What about those yet to come? Helping the addict helps us.
One man’s experience of addiction and recovery
With this in mind I spoke with a former Recovery House resident the other day about his experience of addiction, prison, and his subsequent recovery. For the sake of his anonymity I’ll refer to him as Mr M.
Mr M was talking me through his history of active addiction. A history that included 101 criminal convictions and almost six years spread across numerous sentences served at Her Majesty’s pleasure. He told me that all of these convictions were a result of the obsession for drugs that he was plagued with. We worked out how much this had cost the tax payer and it was in excess of £370,000. He told me how out of a group of six friends, two are serving sentences over 12 years, two are dead, one suffered a severe stroke as a direct result of substance abuse, and he is the other. Every single one of these men was once a child. All of them had people that loved them, parents, friends, children, or partners. All of them once had dreams, ambitions, and had love reflect in their eyes.
It would be easy to lump these guys off as nothing more than criminals on the fringes of society. Looking at it from an outside perspective with finite empathy toward our fellow man, this would probably be how most would view them. You could argue they had no empathy for their family or society whilst they were out committing crimes. This would be a way of justifying distain for them and affirming our favoured life position of “We’re the goodies and they’re the baddies.” However, we at Recovery House choose to look for solutions. As Martin Luther King Jr said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” When it came to finding compassionate solutions to seemingly insurmountable social problems, this guy seemed to know what he was on about.
Time for change
In 2015 Mr M decided he needed to do something different. Prison was a far cry from this “holiday camp” that society had seemingly come to perceive it as. I’ve been to some pretty shocking holiday camps but rarely has it resulted in being in a state of perpetual fear for my life, no matter how bad the breakfast buffet was. Witnessing numerous horrific assaults over the years had left its mark on Mr M. The fact that an occasional X-Box was thrown in was little consolation. He spent each day surrounded by all the local criminal minds. He said, “It was like networking for criminals.” If you are into interior design, then you go to the Better Homes Exhibition and you come away having a whole plethora of new and innovative ideas. If you commit crime and go to prison, the same logic stands true.
Prison had fulfilled part of its promise in that Mr M felt he had been punished, but he felt far from reformed. He decided that he needed to do something to address his addiction and found out about Recovery House in Northamptonshire. He planned to come in after his release date and the rest is history.
Recovery House did not cure Mr. M. It simply provided a platform for him to learn to believe in himself and his ability to be a fully functioning member of society. It gave him an opportunity to learn about the diseases of addiction and alcoholism and how they manifested in his life. It provided him a safe place to emotionally recover and facilitated his interaction with 12 Step fellowship groups. In short it made recovery possible if he was willing to put the effort in himself. I’m delighted to say that he was and is thriving in his new life. His parents have their son back.
Mr M now has his own flat and his own business. He has offered other recovering addicts the opportunity to do some voluntary work with him and is looking to employ in the near future. If nobody had believed in Mr M when he was struggling to believe in himself, this self-actualisation would not have been possible. Now he pays his taxes, abides by the laws of the land, and strives to support others who are in that seemingly hopeless place he once found himself in.
This is just one man’s experience. These stories are being written daily at Recovery House but we can only continue to do so with the help, support, and understanding of the community.
Recovery can feel like a mountain to climb
I would like to finish with a few words from a man named Elliott. Elliott’s step-son was a resident at Recovery House. He too has now moved into his own accommodation, has a job, and spends his free time either with loved ones or endeavouring to help the still suffering addict. Elliott has taken on the enormous challenge of climbing Mont Blanc in July to raise money for us here at Recovery House. He is a brave and kind man and we thank him for taking on this monumental challenge.
Here is what he had to say:
On the 22nd of July 2017 I am setting out to climb the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mount Blanc in Chamonix France. This is the highest mountain in the Alps at 4810m above sea level and I know it will take total commitment, mental strength, courage and a lot of heart.
The main reason for the trip is to try to raise some much-needed funds for a treatment centre in Northamptonshire called Recovery House. In 2016 it opened my eyes to the world of alcoholism, addiction, therapy and the need for necessary treatment having had my step son as a resident.
Having been guilty of being ignorant and uneducated in the past, I never knew how important places like Recovery House were. They have literally given my wife her little boy back, given his children their Daddy back and replaced an integral missing piece of our family. They have helped us put ourselves back together and I will be eternally indebted.
I owe them everything and hope that by putting myself in the same position as their residents I can hopefully inspire people to give a little help to people who need it. On a daily basis in Recovery House its residents have to go through physical distress, emotional turmoil, extreme heartbreak and the harsh reality of taking responsibility for their actions and past behaviour. This is all voluntarily done in the search for recovery from an illness that they have no physical or mental control over until they reach the Treatment Centre.
My team of 3’s aim on day 1 is to climb the Gouter Route from the Chamonix Valley to the Tete Rousse refuge at 3187m .
Day 2 is the crossing of the infamous “Grand Coulier “a treacherous and technically demanding scramble and climb to refuge number 2 which is the Gouter Hut at 3863m .
Day 3 is summit day, A 4 am start , a 3 hour snow plod climb of 900m at altitude to the Pinnacle of White Mountain
If anyone reading this could possibly find the kindness and generosity to help in anyway it would mean the world to a lot of people.