Friday, 2 October 2009

Recovery History

For too long, the majority of people affected by alcohol and other drug problems have been absent from the public policy debate. Well, last night we certainly were not absent to the public of Liverpool.
All the hard work done by Jackie and Co will not have been wasted, regardless of who did not turn up, disappointing as this is. This celebratory event will continue to grow each year whether the historically dominant providers and regulatory bodies support it or not. Jac and I will continue to be inspired by the people we work with every day and the writings of historian William White.
The march was a culmination of months of work and years of a slow burning growing advocacy force among individuals in long-term recovery from addiction, their families, friends and allies. This force is now burning brightly and strongly here in the UK.
What I witnessed last night was an historic event that celebrated and honoured recovery in all its diversity, inspired by our recovery cousins in the States.
So what is recovery? What are we celebrating? Well, how about this for trying to explain?
I phone Carl Edwards, an acquaintance I know who is in recovery, who I have met briefly on a couple of occasions. Because I know he is in recovery, I know I can pick up the phone and ask him about accommodation in his city, as he very kindly paid for me to stay in a lovely hotel when I was invited to take part in a filmed debate regarding the state of current treatment provision (hope to see it soon).
So anyway, I have probably had about 10 mins conversation with Carl face to face over the years, but because we know that each other are living by a certain set of principles I know its ok to give him a ring and ask for advice about where to stay. Actually, I was hoping he had a deal with the nice hotel as I didn’t know anyone well enough in Liverpool to go stay with.
So after a 5 minute conversation with Carl I have another two 2-minute phone calls from Ellen. Not only do I have a free room in Park View, I also have my very own personal angel (Ellen) who I had also met briefly for about 5 mins at the debate, to come collect me at Lime Street station.
When I got off the train, there she was smiling brightly with open arms as if we were long lost friends (which indeed we are now). Ellen, full of enthusiasm and compassion, chatted animatedly, between bursting in to song (that she writes herself) and skipping along the streets of Liverpool.
She takes me to meet a load of other women in recovery for coffee. They embraced me whole heartedly and reassured me they were there to support me later on during my speech.
The coffee shop share up. Carol about 3 years clean and in considerable pain with letting go. Save me the biggest hug and strong words of encouragement.
Nicky (7 days), who sat quietly obviously in pain too, while we all chatted about the deepest and most painful experiences we have had, before, during our addiction and in our recovery. Nicky said, “She was taking it all in.“
Kim (still in active addiction) who the girls knew from meetings past and was passing the coffee shop before I took her hostage for about an hour to join us in our wee share up with each other. All the time my phone was buzzing with text messages from many friends and acquaintances around the UK wishing me well for the March that night.
Now remember, none of these girls know me, or I know them, from Adam and yet we are sharing with each other on a level of intimacy that I suppose others would only envy or run terrified from.
This freedom we have where we know that our experience will help others leaves us with no regrets and for some of us, even grateful that we have experienced the pain for this very reason.
Elllen then took me home to Park View where a kind gentle man who I still have not met, made my bed and room comfortable for me. Ellen has promised to thank him for me.
We shared a tuna sandwich, got our lipstick on and headed up to Genie in the Gutter to meet some others in recovery to walk to the march together. All of them fired up and again hugging me like they have always known me (which in a sense they have).
Arriving at City hall where about 600 people gathered to start the march. I again got many hugs and words of reassurance from acquaintances that embrace me like a long lost pal.
I also had the pleasure of putting faces to many cyber friends and bloggers from Wired In, again from all over the UK. Our very own Michela, Julie and Matthew from Uchoosit and James from BAC O’Conner and the coach loads he brought with him. (I hope I did them proud).
Listening to Simon speak and knowing I am not alone and others don’t have to be, listening to the wee girl sing and watch her papa cry as her daddy passed away on New Years day from this illness.
Seeing Jac keep the police and everyone up to date and inspire her raucous caucus recovery chorus to sing. Taking a moment to look out to the hundreds of faces and marvel that we are recovered, free and productive again in our communities, making ripples in those communities every day and soaking up history right there!
I hope from the wee speeches (mine was too long, sorry) we were all able to inspire and foster others to become part of the growing recovery advocacy movement here in the UK.
At the end of the speeches, Jac’s wee boy handed over the baton to me to take to Scotland for 2010 and I can confirm that I will be handing it to Simon Jenkins too take with him to London for the 2011 March.
All I have to do now is organise 2010 which I will blog about soon.
We had a great event. Everyone was so excited to know that recovery was being celebrated. We all believed that the Liverpool March was about those of us in recovery coming together and encouraging each other to organize and speak out to end stigma and discrimination.
To learn from one another and discuss ways to build stronger events, attract media attention and build advocacy into our day to day activities.
Now that is all well and good and even fantastic, but the best part of all was meeting Ellen. She’s the type of woman who has just got it! You know in recovery!! !
She had the gift of desperation and from that gift has a depth of understanding for human frailties, a love and compassion from her heart, that sings with gentleness and depth to soothe even the most troubled …. And that thing I identify with (not recognising her value to those she touches).
I’m just thinking all those things that Ellen is will annoy some. Make some scared, make some devious and want to harm her but you know what…..
Ellen is in real recovery because she sees that and feels only sad that they have not yet quite got it. But she knows it’s there, available to all of us and she has great hope that she can be a part of passing it on……


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