June Letters and Comment

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DDN welcomes your letters Please email the editor, claire@cjwellings.com, or post them to DDN, CJ Wellings Ltd, Romney House, School Road, Ashford, Kent TN27 0LT.

Letters may be edited for space or clarity.

Serious stress

I was pleased to read Victoria Hancock’s article about secondary traumatic stress (DDN, May, page 14), especially her call for this to be taken more seriously by senior management. I must confess that although it’s an issue that’s concerned me for a long time, I wasn’t even aware that it had an official name.

I’ve worked in this sector and associated fields like homelessness and mental health Ð for close to two decades, and some of the stories I’ve heard from clients have been truly horrific. Hearing about this kind of trauma and abuse, and witnessing its often still-raw effects on clients, is something that can be extremely difficult to switch off from or forget Ð and I’m not sure what it would say about me if I was easily able to do that.

In my experience it’s not something that necessarily gets any easier, either. I remember asking a colleague how they coped with it early on in my career and being light-heartedly assured that I’d soon ‘toughen up’ Ð the implication being that if I didn’t then I’d probably be better off in some other line of work. Obviously things have moved on since then, but this is still an under-discussed issue and it’s good to see it getting some attention.

Name and address supplied

Best buddies

I read with interest the article about Lancashire’s Recovery communities working together during COVID-19 (DDN, May, page 8) and thought you may be interested in our ‘sobriety buddy’ initiative.

For members of any detox community meetings are a cornerstone of recovery, but this is just not an option for anyone leaving a detox facility right now. So at our Birchwood residential detox centre community in Birkenhead we’ve created a new initiative – each member can have their own personal ‘sobriety buddy’ (see news, page 5). The idea is to provide support for people while they undertake a detox programme, so that support can continue when they return home too.

We realised extra support is needed under current conditions, and so we set about finding volunteers to help service users in this difficult time and be that person on the other end of the telephone with some good sobriety time under their belt.

Research shows that coping with stress and isolation can make a relapse more likely, especially in the early stages of sobriety. When our coping skills are tried, we often revert back to behaviours that are not necessarily serving us.

We offer people this service before they arrive for their detox. During their first telephone consultation with our office we ask if they would like a sobriety buddy to support them. Their buddy will then text first to introduce themselves, and they can move onto talking daily if that support is wanted. There is no better way to learn than from someone who has been there and is happy to share their experience; we are able to guide people on how to deal with difficult life events without resorting to past behaviours and it’s been getting great results.

It’s already been such a success we are going to continue running this after lockdown as the support people have received has made all the difference.

Jo Moore, manager at Birchwood (a Kaleidoscope Project facility), Birkenhead

In solidarity

When I was at school I always thought that I’d make something of my life, do something exciting and follow my dream of helping others. However, it turned out I’d end up on a different path.

I joined the ambulance service the day after my 18th birthday and worked for them for over ten years as a paramedic. Six years ago I developed a brain problem and ended up needing multiple surgeries over the following two years and during this time I was prescribed Oramorph. It turned out that I’d become addicted to it and I never thought I’d end up becoming one of the people I previously cared for. I then began injecting the Oramorph when taking it orally wasn’t working quickly enough. When my prescription was abruptly cut off I went into withdrawals and ended up swapping to injecting heroin and crack cocaine.

After getting myself clean I decided to start a blog to help those who are in my previous shoes and the family and friends of those with an addiction. The blog can be found here at: www.drink-n-drugs.com or on Facebook and Twitter ‘Drink ‘n’ Drugs’. I hope it helps others as writing it helps me!

Dave Richens, by email

In memory of Kevin Knott

It is with great sadness that Bradford Drug Services report the passing of our colleague Kevin Knott after a short illness. Kevin was a drug worker in the Bradford and Airedale district. Kevin was a big supporter of service user influence and involvement and he frequently attended the DDN service user conferences.

Kevin was a great guy who was very popular and loved by all – such an inspirational, funny, caring and genuine individual, fantastic at his job and able to instil confidence in anyone he met. He was a proper character who loved a laugh and was a true legend. It was such a pleasure to have known him over the years and his legacy and treasured memories will last forever.

Gerard Smyth and all his colleagues in Bradford