Opened by John Liddle from the NTA (National Treatment Agency) the meeting began by John informing the group that from 1st April 2013 the NTA will become part of Public Health England . Under their new remit the NTA could no longer support service user forums, as their focus will be on the wider public health agenda. Rather than viewing John’s address as a negative, people in attendance were positive and eager to continue the forum independently and felt able to do that without the level of support previously given by the NTA. Taking ownership of the forum themselves, discussion moved on to how they would continue with the same passion and commitment to recovery. Their commitment was summed up by one member of the group who stated “We must continue to protect the voice of people in recovery in the North East” “Unity is strength, the power of coming together in these forums helps motivate people in their recovery” added another. This was the first time the North East Forum had been held in Hartlepool.
DISC Recovery worker Steve Loxley outlined the development of the new recovery focused model of treatment in Hartlepool, which is a partnership between DISC, Intra Health, and Lifeline , and introduced speakers who have used Hartlepool Journey to Recovery Service to talk about their experiences. A music group supported by Lifeline took to the stage first with everyone on their feet and applauding as the singer struggled to complete the song shaking with nerves. “You can do it!! Come on” they shouted out words of encouragement which was really moving and demonstrates the support and motivation this group share. David, now a volunteer and peer mentor at Journey to Recovery then got up to discuss his experiences. “I’ve been an addict for over 26 years. I didn’t ever think I could change, now I know I can” explains David. “Since going to rehab and now back in Hartlepool volunteering with Journey to Recovery I’ve finally built bridges with my family and for the first time in my life I’m happy” adds David. “I’m now trying to use my experience to help and support others” said David to a burst of supportive applause. “Peer mentors like David are such an inspiration to others” comments Recovery worker Steve, “These forums are so important to people in recovery across our region. It enables people like David to come and share their recovery journeys and helps motivate others.”
Alan, a poet in recovery from Hartlepool then took the opportunity to read one of his recovery poems entitled ‘The Drug Addict’ The drug addict lies Alone in his room In his own little world Filled with fear and gloom The money he needs He must get it fast Where will it come from How long will it last He steals for his habit The craving to feed The heroin feels good He buys what he needs He gets his next fix With money he stole He still doesn’t realise The drugs taking its toll He digs in the needle Into the vein in his arm He’s no longer craving It’s worked like a charm The damage is done He’s had his last hit He’s gone into spasm Which leads to a fit They found him next morning Alone in his bed But it was too late The addict was dead Alan started writing poetry over 10 years ago and has written hundreds of poems as well as a published poetry book ‘Behind the Voices’ which features poems about Alan’s mental health issues. “I hope to show through poetry that even with a mental illness and fighting an addiction you can overcome the daily struggles of life and do something constructive if you believe in yourself enough” said Alan.
Lee, a volunteer in recovery was next up to speak discussing how he as a volunteer for Journey to Recovery has set up and runs a mutual aid group in the community, MAGIC. The group accessed its own funding and is ran by people in recovery for people in recovery, truly inspiring stuff!
Paul finished the section from Hartlepool with a song about recovery, ‘The right Track’. Paul also a volunteer and peer mentor plays the acoustic guitar and himself and poet Alan had written the recovery song. “I’m so glad to get my life back” concluded Paul to raucous applause from the whole hall! Hartlepool Journey to Recovery DISC provide community recovery support to problematic drug users. The project supports those people who want to stop, reduce or control and recover from their drug use. The team helps to address psycho-social issues which could impact upon drug-taking and lifestyles. This may include issues around self-esteem confidence, social skills health and housing support.