A charity that supports individuals in recovery from substance misuse has collated stories of love, loss and hope amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Faces & Voices of Recovery UK (Favor) – which aims to promote the right to recovery through advocacy and education – hopes the work will help to create change in order to save lives.
As well as tales of hard-fought recoveries and an inspirational poem with hope for the future, one story in the booklet highlights the difficulties one family had trying to organise a funeral amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘It’s tragic – I only ever wished for once he could be happy.’‘Fred’ on late brother John
‘Fred’ said they wanted to participate “because most addicts do not have a voice, and they surely need a voice”.
Speaking about their late brother John, they said: “It’s tragic – I only ever wished for once he could be happy.
“He had a terrible life, his whole existence was so sad.
“After he died and organising his funeral, the celebrant asked his children if they had any memories or thoughts that they would like to share. It was so sad; they couldn’t think of anything.”
Trying to organise John’s funeral during the pandemic was “very difficult”.
Fred added: “How do you say goodbye? Nearly everything we did was over the phone.
“I feel like I’m in a bubble because of the pandemic, things just feel unreal.
“It’s hard to feel my emotions. I so wanted the best for my brother. Now all I can say to his children is that their daddy is in peace, there’ll be no more chapping on the door.”
‘Donna’, who was repeatedly abused as a child, said she would still be abusing drugs and would most likely be working on the streets had it not been for rehab.
She said: “My recovery has been totally different during Covid-19 as I have been able to access more meetings through Zoom and connect with a lot of inspirational women which I had never done before.
“I feel like I have the foundation to keep going in my recovery and I am stronger in my faith in the 12-step program.”
Annemarie Ferguson, program manager at Favor UK, carried out the work in response to Government spending cuts, community perceptions and stereotypes that have led to stigma and discrimination towards recovering addicts and their families.
Scotland has the highest reported drug-deaths rate in the EU. The most recent statistics available indicate 1187 people died of substance misuse in Scotland in 2018, nearly triple the UK rate and the highest on record.
At Favor UK’s annual conference on Friday, the charity highlighted that a YouGov poll found that 39% of respondents in recovery from addiction had suffered a relapse or re-occurrence of their addictive behaviour since lockdown.
Speaking to STV News, Ms Ferguson said: “We are calling it a relapse avalanche.
“There has been an increase in suicide and again an increase in drug-related deaths.
“As services have been so massively impacted by the pandemic, people feel cut loose. It’s like they are afloat, and we are hearing on a regular basis that another one of our community has relapsed or another one has died.”
Many of those who participated in Favor UK’s booklet of stories and poems did not feel it was safe to break their anonymity. They believed it would have “personal and professional repercussions”, with some fearing their children would be discriminated against.
‘Each of these personal stories has filled me with admiration, sadness, inspiration, hopelessness and righteous anger.’Annemarie Ferguson, project manager at Favor UK
Writing in the booklet, Ms Ferguson said: “The development of this project – whilst always a professional endeavour – very quickly became personal.
“Until now my story and experience with substance addiction had been kept in the realms of no one’s business but mine.
“That changed after meeting these storytellers and hearing their stories first hand.
“Each of these personal stories has filled me with admiration, sadness, inspiration, hopelessness and righteous anger.
“The loss of so many lives, the discrimination, the stigma, the disregard of utter human misery offends the very core of my being and has roused the sleeping tiger in me.
“To that end I made the decision to join these courageous folks and stand alongside them willing to let my face, my voice and my story be seen and heard.
“My name is Annemarie and I am a person in long-term recovery.”
Poem by J
You threw the dice, brought me into your game
Stole my innocence, left me with shame
Took my childhood
You filled it with pain
Left me feeling I was to blame
I feel your touch
I feel your haste
I have your smell
I have your taste
I’m your damaged goods
Your left-over waste
So, I tapped on the wire
I smiled through my frown
I sunk the spike and filled my veins with brown
It lifts me up as it lays me down
Your pain and your abuse have just left town
I’m dying in my future
Living in my past
Going down this road
My recovery won’t last
I won’t be the black sheep of the family or bottom of the class
I refuse to be just another social outcast
For 40 years I’ve lived with this s***
Now I ain’t taking any more of it
I’m gonna take more punches
But I won’t take another hit
I’m taking back my life bit by bit
I am no longer the child filled with fear
I’m no longer the adult who has to take gear
I’ve kicked out the whisky, pills, powder and beer
So, watch this f******
Space cos this is J’s year
- For help and support, go to facesandvoicesofrecoveryuk.org
- Email: email@example.com
- Telephone: 0141 946 2710 or 07727 255 808
By Jenness Mitchell & Sharon Frew