Sunday, 27 March 2011

Seize the day service user conference Birmingham

We certainly know how to Seize the Day!

Wow guys. Just to let you all know about my experience at the National Service User conference yesterday in Birmingham – ‘Seize the Day’.
Alistair Sinclair and I were asked to speak about the UK Recovery Federation (UKRF). As you know speaking at a conference in front of lots of people (over 400 I think) is never easy. I usually don’t feel too apprehensive but yesterday I felt really really nervous.
I’m used to speaking to ‘professionals’ but this was different. A room full of recovering people and people in recovery and people from the harm reduction world. It felt really important to get our message out and really do it justice. I think the apprehension was because of the gravity of the occasion.
This wasn’t a case of ‘preaching to the converted’. Many of the people in the room hadn’t even heard of the UKRF and I think many have received very mixed messages as to what recovery is. I felt a similar responsibility at the first service user conference in Scotland (see earlier blog). There’s never been a second much to my disappointment.
Anyway as I say, I was really nervous because there was, for me, a need for acceptance with this audience that I don’t feel with a general professional audience. I had all that, “I hope they don’t think I think I am someone”, business and, “Please God, let me do them justice”, going through my head. As if I could possibly control what other people think of me huh!
But this audience’s approval meant so much to me that I was physically trembling when I approached the podium. I needn’t have worried of course as the vibe back from everyone was really accepting and supportive and they even very graciously laughed at my very bad jokes.
My piece was on how the UK Recovery Federation came about and I think I did it justice. But I can tell you I was so relieved to hand over to Alistair who went on to speak about how we’ve developed and where we are now which was the really important bit. Again everyone was very supportive to Alistair; whooping and clapping as he talked about the UKRF aims and Recovery Principles. So overall I think we did a good job and I hope served the audience well.
I wanted to let you know something very powerful that struck me at the conference yesterday. Now I don’t know if this has always happened, as it was my first time, but when people from the audience were getting up to speak, or challenge the speakers, many identified themselves as in recovery. Many stating the time they had in abstinent recovery. Which really blew me away, as there was an atmosphere of celebration and achievement. Especially as we all reacted to this with great applause and pride.
I don’t know if this is significant but it really did feel wonderful to be part of the day.
So many thanks for all the hard work from the organisers who looked after us wonderfully and if you think we were rubbish and I am totally deluded let me know quick. The UKRF has been booked to speak at five different conferences over the next few months which will give us some practice and any feedback you have will be very gratefully received.
We make the path by walking it.

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