How has peer support shaped your recovery journey?
I am an addict and my recovery journey began when, after being in active addiction for 20 years, my drug counsellor suggested I try Narcotics Anonymous. There I met addicts who had found a way to not only remain abstinent but to realise a much more meaningful and rewarding existence. The 12 step program that was put together by hopeless alcoholics in the 1930s has been (and still is) my salvation.
This basic spiritual program of action has inspired me to look at how I might be useful to others who suffer from addiction and/or mental and emotional turmoil. Before this, I had tried to reduce my habit largely on my own, using will power; with this disastrous approach I ended up being sectioned and hospitalised before being treated in the community where I was medicated and received various forms of treatment.
Initially when I left hospital and was on medication I continued using narcotics and for a while this was my solution for getting through the day. It was only when the drugs no longer gave me enough respite from misery and depression that I accepted the solution of the 12 steps. Since then peer support in its various forms has been my ‘passion’ and I feel as if it might to some degree be my calling.
You have experience of both informal and formal peer support, which has linked you into other networks?
My experience of formal (including Solidarity in a Crisis, Missing Link) and informal peer support has given me great insight into the potential of both forms of mutual aid. The collaborative possibilities between them seem boundless and I have collaborated with a myriad of organisations, like the Certitude Community Connecting, Connect and Do, and Travel Buddy projects, to name but a few.
You say you are inspired when people you work with find their creative burst.
Yes I have indeed been inspired by feeling the seismic internal change in myself when I’ve explored my ‘passions’ and/or creativity. I have also seen the light come on in others that I’ve encouraged to do so.
This inspiration has led to me creating a personal development project for people with a lived experience of active addiction and/or mental and emotional turmoil. The project is called Recovery In Action and I’ve been given funding and support from CSV (Community Service Volunteering) and the Lambeth Living Well Collaborative Peer Exchange initiative.
How do these initiatives spur your hopes for the future?
I hope to see more forward thinking initiatives like the Peer Exchange. I hope the Collaborative continues to set positive examples like this for other organisations to learn from and maybe emulate. I am hopeful that my network of like minded individuals will grow and become part of the necessary change to support planning with our uniquely holistic approach to helping people maintain good levels of durable well being. My vision is for the implementation of this basic approach to be far reaching and boundless in its ability to influence positive change within services, organisations and charities that are resourced to help people with mental illnesses.