The day I travel to my first destination coincides with our first Young People in Recovery forum at Bar Zero, Middlesbrough. I was fortunate enough to create a p
ost to focus purely on under 25s, we have an amazingly supportive board of trustees who are as passionate about recovery, as we are as a team. In truth I expected Abbie messaging to say she sat there waiting with no one showing up. I was wrong! two girls turned up, connected, chatted and left feeling less isolated than before they came. It had already started and I was completely elated.
I arrive in Durham, NC to be met by Mary, a wonderful woman who has a similar role in a recovery organisation and kindly offered to host me whilst here. Over the last 7 days we have compared our challenges, many of which are similar both sides of the Atlantic. Mary takes me to an adolescent unit and medically assisted recovery clinic. I think its important to understand the full treatment journey here that students involved in a collegiate recovery programme may have experienced.
The adolescent unit had the most amazing chairs so that the young people can wiggle and bounce during class, I definitely want one for the office..
Labour Day bags me an invite to RCNC Director of Training & Advocacy, Donald’s house, he invites Jesse who has been involved in a collegiate recovery programme that’s self mobilised and receives no core funding. He describes the pressure this brings – no identified accountability structure, no dedicated facilities, no continuity, all based on goodwill. Its crucial I understand the warts and all, I recognise we need to take things slowly back in Middlesbrough and move forward in partnership with the University.
I travel up to Richmond, Virginia to spend time with McShin a peer to peer organisation and attend Recovery Fest an annual celebration and qualification round in the State barbecue competition. Merging the two events is a masterstroke and offers a brilliant opportunity to share recovery messages and challenge stigma. Barbecue teams are serious business in the South, I am amazed at the kit and vehicles they have. I am not sure we could merge non recovery events as successfully in our culture yet but it needs to be a goal.
The McShin recovery family is probably the best culture of recovery I have ever experienced. Chatting to the peers I hear their addiction was very active during their university years, they tell me if there was a peer community on campus it could have made a big difference to them, the younger ones tell me a CRP is something they will need when they do go to Uni.
I visit the Virginia Commonwealth University CRP, Rams in Recovery and hear about the Recovery Roast, a blend of coffee beans put together by the students and the coffee bike. The bike travels around giving away free coffee in return for a conversation about recovery, what a brilliant idea. The Well is their dedicated space to hang out, drink coffee, study and do recovery meetings. The students all tell me the space is really important to them as are each other and the peer connection.
The southern states of America have the most friendly, warmest and helpful people I have ever met. I have used Uber, a local hairdresser, dined in, carried out, shopped and rode the Megabus and not met anyone that wasn’t polite, chatty and interested in what I was doing in their state. The southern culture is definitely contagious and makes it very difficult to be miserable even when I’m feeling at times very homesick.
Next stop San Francisco..