Paul Stevenson is in the business of rebuilding lives in Blackpool – one “brick” at a time.
What’s more, he can count on some high-profile supporters – Kate Middleton is a big supporter of one of the Liverpool projects Paul will be visiting early next month, in his quest to get more local addicts clean of drugs and dry of drink.
He’s one of a number of new BRIC (Building Recovery in Communities) co-ordinators appointed to spearhead an ambitious new programme.
The focus is on challenging the accepted wisdom that substance misusers need to replace one addiction with something less harmful – in light of criticism of long-term prescription-based treatment methadone.
Instead, the emphasis is shifting to recovery and supporting people to become drug and alcohol-free, and play a more active role in the community.
Paul was appointed by the Lancashire Drug and Alcohol Action Team as north Lancashire co-ordinator for the programme. He will be helping them deliver the Government’s national drug and alcohol strategy across Lancashire
He explains: “People can, and do, walk away from their addictions and move into recovery, and recovery is a reality for a lot of people.
“People coming through the other side of addiction suddenly wake up to the world around them, to find that it can be a big and scary place. They have lost most of their friends and family along the way.
“People need people. We are a sociable species and gain support, motivation and a sense of belonging from the people around us, so imagine having no one you can fall back on in your hour of need.
“You can do it, but you cannot do it alone. We can achieve the things together that we could never do on our own.
“People in recovery also tend to be very positive about life. They are seeing the world again, smelling the roses and taking time to remind themselves what a great world this can really be.
“These feelings can either motivate them, or conspire to push them back towards the comfort they once found in drugs or drink.”
Paul works in tandem with professional agencies and treatment providers, such as Journey to Recovery (J2R), which provides alcohol and drug services across north Lancashire.
He has already identified the lack of opportunity for groups of people in recovery to come together and celebrate their freedom from addiction and socialise in a safe environment.
“To get that ball rolling I’ve lined up a visit to the Brink Dry bar in Liverpool on June 6. This high-profile project has the support of Kate Middleton, and an amazing track record of bringing people through, from abstinence to employment to become a fully functioning member of society.”
Local addicts in recovery include Mark, who’s now in his early 40s. Mark spent 26 years in addiction. Now he’s planning to attend the event.
He admits: “When I came out of rehab, I didn’t know which way to turn. I was clean for the first time and adamant I wasn’t going to return to the places and life I used to know.
“I have attended many different services over the years and now volunteer with a couple of them to help other people who are where I used to be.
“I heard about the trip to the Brink and have to say I can’t wait. I hope we can look at what they do, and bring a little bit of it back up here to Blackpool.”
Paul concludes: “The point is to let people see what is possible. Recovery should be shouted from the rooftops, and I want the world to see the great work that goes on in north Lancashire. I want people to come away from the Brink buzzing with ideas and hope.”
Anyone interested in learning more can attend a meeting at Claremont First Steps community centre, on Dickson Road, on Monday, May 28 at 5.30pm. Tickets for the Brink trip are limited, and anyone wishing to go should attend the pre-trip meeting.
If you’re over 18 and want to talk about drug and alcohol issues, the J2R team can help.
It works across NHS North Lancashire and has a base in Fleetwood. For information, visit www.j2r.co.uk.
jacqui.morley@blackpool gazette.co.uk or tweet her @ jacquimorley