Filling the void: Story 6 continued...

Why I think you should volunteer and why recovery for me isn’t all about meetings.

There’s an earlier story on here which I wrote on the 11th anniversary of my last heroin use, read it here. I’d like to follow that with what came next. Unlike most of the people who work at Recovery Connections, I don’t go to a lot of meetings and I’m not part of any of the fellowships. I’ve got no problem with that as I believe there are many paths to recovery, this story is just about mine. 

When I walked (just) out of the hospital in November 2009 and back into a treatment service I was a wreck but I had a plan. Sort of. 

There had been some long dark nights in my 3 weeks in hospital and a lot of time to think. I’d had a year of abstinence in 2005-06 which had culminated in me falling off the wagon. When I first used heroin it had been a quite private, occasional thing, my ‘f*!£ you’ to the world and a way of shutting out the noise of all the idiots in the world, the fools in my life. There are some lines in the song Heroin by the Velvet Underground that I really related to. Still do; I just deal with it differently now.

Why had I relapsed in 2006 and what was going to be different this time around? Partly I’d been trying to rediscover those early days when I controlled my drug use. When I relapsed in 2006 I quickly realised I’d made a terrible mistake but for a long time I’d just felt trapped. Almost dying and facing multiple amputations in hospital had been a possibility. I realised that there really was no going back to when my drug use was a weekend thing.

So, on one of those long dark nights I made a promise to myself. I was going to scare myself a bit and if somebody asked me to do something I was going to give it a go. 

I was lucky. There was a new manager in the drug service and she wanted volunteers there. That service being part of a large bureaucracy there were forms to fill in, hoops to jump through. I started filing this stuff away. I’m a university-educated former manager in the chemical industry. I still had a support system in place but started looking at the hurdles that society, organisations, the system, the ‘man’, puts in place through laziness, spite or just an inability to understand somebody’s recovery journey. If I found it difficult, somebody who had a life before drugs and found it relatively easy to avoid my former friends in the drug-taking world, what was it like for people who didn’t have those advantages?

And how do organisations give people hope and help them recover if they’re not sure what they’re hoping for or recovering to? I still haven’t fixed that one but we’re working on it.

So, what does that mean for me now and for Recovery Connections? Well I’m currently Volunteer Coordinator for Recovery Connections in Middlesbrough. So, it’s me having those conversations and supporting people on that step in their journey and supporting them and nudging them through the bureaucracy (we still have some but we explain it and contextualise it). I try to connect people with their community, to connect with other like-minded organisations, to challenge them a bit, let them scare themselves by trying new stuff while we stand alongside them until they learn how to fly.

Want to do something that has a positive impact on your recovery? Want to give back to the community? Come and talk to us about volunteering. Come and connect. Email