‘There’s still stigma and fear’: how Manchester-based organisations are promoting recovery from addiction

The CEOs of two organisations spoke about the importance of the issue to coincide with International Recovery Day.

Two Manchester-based organisations have spoken about their attempts to raise awareness and promote recovery from addiction.

The CEOs of Recoverlution, a platform bringing people together to help them along their recovery journey, and the charity UK Smart Recovery spoke out about the issue on International Recovery Day.

They said there is still a widespread stigma against addiction and recovery that needs tackling, saying many people with serious problems wait years before seeking the help they need.

They also spoke about why Manchester is the right place for their organisations to be based and paid tribute to those working to understand and tackle addiction in the city.

Why are the Manchester organisations speaking out about recovery?

Dr Charlie Orton, the CEO of UK Smart Recovery, and Daniel Fincham who founded Recoverlution spoke to ManchesterWorld on International Recovery Day.

They explained why speaking about recovery from addiction is so important, with Daniel sharing some of his personal experiences which led him to begin Recoverlution.

Daniel said: “I lived most of my life in addiction knowing nothing about recovery. Had I known what a wonderful place recovery is to be I would not have hit rock bottom and lost as many things as I did.

“We want to show people that recovery is not only possible but your life doesn’t end there, in fact it starts there. It is life changing.

“There are such misconceptions around addiction and addicts are all around us, from all walks of life, suffering. Recovery is an amazing community of people selflessly helping each other, being open with our vulnerabilities. It’s everything that goes against what we see in society.

“It’s really powerful and we should shout about it.”

Dr Orton said: “It doesn’t matter what age you are or what job you do, nobody is immune to addiction. It can happen at any stage of life and it doesn’t have to be rooted in childhood trauma, it can be a single event; a difficult relationship or redundancy at work.

“We need to leverage the conversation about addiction, reduce stigma and address the myth around addiction.

“It is similar to topics like suicide, bipolar disorder, eating disorders and even HIV. They were all stigmatised but addiction hasn’t quite made it in society’s hearts and minds into that same kind of space.

“The other reason for a recovery day is that there’s an old saying that the opposite of addiction is connection. When people suffer from addiction it is really isolating, especially if it is in secret. It’s important to make it visible.”

How common is addiction and how hard is it to seek help?

Daniel said a poll carried out for Recoverlution found that 16.4% of 2,000 adults in the UK quizzed had some form of addiction, but only 6% were in recovery.

It is also thought that stigma can hold people back from getting help for around six years on average, something Daniel says definitely chimes with his own experience.

He said: “It took me six or seven years. It was stigma and fear. Fear about my employment, fear about what people would think about me, fear about losing the thing I felt was keeping me up.

“Addiction is never the problem, it’s the solution that stops working, but it’s only going to take you to your grave unless you get help.”

What do the two organisations do?

Recoverlution is a platform that Daniel put together while in the early stages of his own recovery after finding he had done a lot of Google searching for information and there hadn’t been anywhere bringing everything he wanted or needed together in one place.

The platform brings people together who are in the recovery community and connects them with things that others are doing as part of their journeys.

Based in Spinningfields, it can offer online support and community from people in the same position around the world.

UK Smart Recovery, on the other hand, started life in America with a group of psychologists and psychiatrists who found that people whose addictions were less common were struggling to make progress using existing methods for beating addiction such as the famous 12-step programme.

Recoverlution uses technology to create somewhere to connect people in recovery from addiction

They brought together aspects of different techniques to make a recovery programme, and it was initially brought to the UK by people working in the Scottish prison system.

It developed further before becoming a charity in 2015 and now is commissioned by bodies including the NHS and drug and alcohol services across the UK as well as training other people to become facilitators who can run recovery meetings.

Its programme has four main areas: building and maintaining motivation, tackling urges or cravings, managing thoughts, feelings and behaviours and living a balanced life.

It is currently based at an address on Chorlton Street in Manchester but is looking to move into the Spinningfields area.

Why is Manchester an important place for these recovery organisations?

Dr Orton said UK Smart Recovery took the decision to move to Manchester around three years ago and explained why the charity’s leadership decided to base it there.

She said: “Manchester is very much viewed as an up and coming and quite a funky place to be. It has also undergone a massive revolution over the last 10 years.

“It’s also a really accessible city, well connected with the transport and motorway network.

“There’s an openness about Manchester as well and it’s friendly and culturally diverse.”

Dr Orton said Manchester is also a Connected Health City, which means it has done work to make negotiating the health and social care ecosystem for patients smoother.

Daniel also praised Manchester’s tech community while Dr Orton said the city’s universities have a number of prominent academics working on addiction and related areas of research.

She said this was important as it helps to ensure UK Smart Recovery’s work has a strong scientific evidence base and is within clinical guidelines.