Keith Stevenson knows the tears don’t always dry on their own – to paraphrase what has proved to be tragic wild child of pop Amy Winehouse’s self destructive swansong from her Back to Black album.
Sometimes others have help, with a hankie, tea, sympathy, and, for addicts, anything to beat the boredom, lack of true friends, the reality that it’s about so much more than saying yes to rehab, because treatment for addiction is one thing, recovery from that addiction another.
While Mitch Winehouse, father of the singer who died last month, is urging politicians to do more to help young people with drug and alcohol problems, Keith is already bridging that gap right across the age range.
His Blackpool-based registered charity offers supported housing to assist substance misusers rebuild their lives.
The Mulberry Community Project essentially offers a safe house, in north Blackpool, at a secret location, for those fighting to recover from addiction.
Keith, self-styled “founder, project manager, head cook and bottle washer,” does not beat about the Mulberry bush.
He points out it exists on goodwill.
It has been four years in the making, but only went live in May.
Its sole purpose is to help people who are serious about their recovery from substance misuse.
He explains: “We have one property at the moment where there are group sessions, as well as one-to-one work.
“When the first house is full and running as we want it, we will get another house and start all over again.
“There are long-term plans where training for work, and training for qualif-ications, will not only be possible but exp- ected.”
Ultimately, adds Keith, the aim is to see “an outbreak of recovery.”
He adds: “We believe recovery is possible for those who want to achieve it.
“We want people to sustain independent living and be out there working while being able to be ambassadors for recovery.
“They say recovery is contagious, and we would like to see an outbreak of recovery that could have a real impact on people’s lives.
“An addict never stops recovery and is always in recovery. One slip and they are liable to be back using again.
“We have not received any official help, but we have had some excellent support, especially from local councillor Kath Rowson and from Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard. Others who have helped know who they are, and our thanks go to them.
“We are all volunteers and we do not get paid as there is no money.
“Both the local Primary Care Trust and Blackpool Council have had severe cutbacks in budgets so there is nothing for us but, if there was, we could do so much with it.”
The project is now running a give a quid appeal via its website, as every penny really does count.
Keith adds: “When a person is in treatment lots of help is given and the process is highly regimented as it needs to be.
“Recovery has not had the same recognition and only recently are we finally starting to see that treatment only goes so far.
“Without proper recovery, it can waste thousands of pounds.
“Treatment deals with the here and now, recovery deals with the future.
“Support given to a person coming out of detox or rehab is vitally important.
“People who have relapsed and gone back to using their substance of choice often cite boredom, not being able to get decent accommodation as no-one wants to house an addict, going back to the peer group they had before treatment, lack of work opportunities, because no one wants to employ an addict, and lack of hope.”
Amy’s father Mitch is campaigning for greater help for others who can’t afford – as the Winehouse family could – private rehabilitation.
Keith concludes: “With what has happened, people are asking whether recovery is possible from drug or alcohol addiction.
“It’s a very costly thing to everybody, from the person addicted, to the family, society as a whole.
“It hits home when somebody like Amy Winehouse dies, but she was not the only one who died that day. Others lost sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, mums and dads to addiction, too. They didn’t hit the headlines. Amy’s beyond pain now. Let us learn from her death.”
The last word goes to recovering alcoholic Barry: “Before coming here, I was admitted to A&E having been found collapsed and semi-comatose due to alcohol.
“I suffered continual alcoholic fits and came close to death. I was in hospital for three weeks, pulled through, then went to a hostel run by the Ashley Foundation who told me of the Mulberry project.
“Since moving here three months ago I, a former chronic alcoholic, have been totally abstinent through the support and guidance I am receiving. I can only thank the excellent work here to help me this far and for the future.”