Voices of recovery

Vital core

Harnessing the passions, strengths and skills of individuals shows the power of community-led recovery, says Alistair Sinclair

September saw a lot of recovery activity. There were recovery walks in Trafford, Ireland, Weston-super-Mare, a recovery festival in Leeds, rather a lot of recovery-themed conferences and, of course, the big one – the fourth UK Recovery Walk in Brighton on 29 September. We’re going to see a lot more community-led recovery activity in 2013 so I thought it would be good to hear from Brian Morgan, my fellow UKRF director and UK Recovery Walk planning group member on the ‘abundance’ and assets that are starting to become more visible in communities:

‘We decided to hold the UK Recovery Walk for 2012 in Brighton and Hove because of the emerging strength of recovery communities in the South East.  I had started to develop a network in the region, affiliated to the UKRF, and there was lots of energy and enthusiasm for recovery evident in the Brighton area. Brighton is well known for its proliferation of community activists, its liberal mindedness, and, more negatively, for being the ‘drug death capital of the UK’ – a perfect place therefore, we felt, to use Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) approaches to deliver the walk, rather than have an ‘outside agency’ deliver it for us. We wanted to focus on Brighton’s strengths rather than its weaknesses, and one of its major strengths is its people in recovery.

‘In August 2011 I met with a small group of people who had come together to learn how SMART groups were facilitated. We met at the local MIND offices, which set the tone because after that we rarely set foot inside traditional substance misuse settings again. I talked about the previous UK walks and then we got right into it, doing a ‘hearts, hands and heads’ exercise to map out our individual passions, strengths and skills. We left the room aware that we had the ability to deliver this UK event and that together we could do this – either because we had the assets or we knew somebody else who had them within the community.

‘We went on to map associations within the community, starting to make the ‘abundance’ visible, and identified the institutional assets that could be accessed in the local area. This was our way of beginning to explore the ‘recovery capital’ that we had as individuals – both what we had as a group and what was out there in the community. 

This ABCD approach is a process that takes time. But the group got it and got it quickly. I’ve found that most people in recovery communities do – the lights go on! This isn’t always the case with agencies. They are often slower on the uptake. There’s a bit of suspicion, a little condescension perhaps. Systems creak. But we did it. 

‘The Recovery Walk took place last week – planned, organised and delivered by a core of people who are all in recovery, dreamed and lived. This group stuck together for over a year and made it happen. They showed the world a bit of the ‘abundance’ that’s out there in communities and did it by embracing asset-based approaches grounded in notions of ‘belonging’ within communities. Roll on 2013.’  

Alistair Sinclair and Brian Morgan are UK Recovery Foundation (UKRF) directors. www.ukrf.org.uk