This week Bridge Support Team Member Sam Hawksley interviewed one of our male residents to find out how their life had changed since coming to The Bridge…
Age first used drugs: 14
Favourite football team: Liverpool FC
Favourite food: Chicken
What’s going on in your life at the moment?
Drug Free! Been drug free for a year on 23rd March. I’m healthy, more responsible and more confident in myself. Working the 12 Steps at the moment and finding it very useful.
Do you think it’s important to like yourself and why?
Yes very. I didn’t like myself and turned to drugs. Felt really down and had no confidence in myself and hated the person I was and who I was, not being a good father and not caring about others. Turned into not having any contact with my family as I didn’t care about myself I wasn’t able to care about others. Since being at The Bridge I now like myself a lot more. Discovering I get a real buzz out of helping people, it makes me happy and if I’m happy I must like myself! Also people like me more.
What about now?
I’m in regular contact with family now which makes me happy and makes them happy. Building relationships and trust back up which takes a long time. My children see a big difference in me through being drug free and having some emotions. When I make promises now I stick to it which makes me and them happy. Much more meaningful thing to have with your children, trust being built.
“Since being at The Bridge I now like myself a lot more”
You recently repaid a debt didn’t you? How did it feel?
I am really proud of myself actually, very proud! It is the first time I have ever repaid a debt in my life. I had to make changes in my expenses for living which was a bit difficult at first but found it easier as it went on. It’s like a relief. In my past life this would never have happened. It really feels like I’ve brought back normality back to my life as there were consequences and these were more real this time.
What about the future? What’s next?
The future’s bright, the future’s orange! Haha only joking. I’m looking forward to the future because now there is a meaning to my life. This is being happy within myself, being a good parent, watching my children grow up. It could have been a totally different story a year ago, I could have been dead. Work wise… I’m looking forward to the future, I’m ready for work and actually have an interview this afternoon for a painting and decorating voluntary placement to build up my skills.
On Thursday 21st February 2013 The Bridge enjoyed a very special visit from Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak, Steve McCabe.
Mr McCabe was met by Service Manager Jon Smith at The Bridge’s main office at Edgbaston Cricket Ground and was shown around the space, meeting current residents from The Bridge’s men’s and women’s houses.
Following an engaging discussion with Jon and Fundraiser Ben Kyte on the wider context of The Bridge’s work with people with addictions Mr McCabe met Oasis Church leader Adrian Hurst to hear how volunteer engagement was having a positive impact on the local community.
“This is the sort of thing we need to make sure carries on”
Residents from The Bridge gathered on sofas at the far end of the office and, as Mr McCabe sat with them, two current residents spoke movingly about their journeys from hopeless crack cocaine addiction and an alcoholism-provoked suicide attempt respectively, to the care and hope they had both experienced since arriving at The Bridge.
More residents chipped in as Mr McCabe engaged their views on the accessibility of drugs and alcohol and the related effects of long-term unemployment. There was a jovial atmosphere and all concerned thoroughly enjoyed the meeting.
Steve McCabe is a self-confessed ‘straight-talking’ and experienced MP with a broad background in social care. He is passionate about police, security and community safety and is a member of the Home Affairs Committee.
On his experience visiting The Bridge, Mr McCabe commented he was, “Really impressed”. “This is the sort of thing we need to make sure carries on.” Service Manager Jon Smith observed that the staff really just ‘love Birmingham and serving the community’, to which Mr McCabe replied, “Well that’s what it’s all about!”
The Bridge is blessed by a fantastically talented support team and so it is no surprise when individual support workers find themselves taking on new challenges in new pastures. Two of our outstanding support workers are moving forward after dedicating hours, days and years to changing residents’ lives for the better.
It was with a mixture of sadness for us and… well, joy for her that we said goodbye to the first of our star support workers this week – Joy Cairns! We asked Joy to give us her thoughts and reflections on her time working at The Bridge…
Name: Joy Cairns
Role: Addiction support worker
How long have your worked at The Bridge? In total I have been involved at The Bridge for 3 years. I worked as a volunteer for 11months and then got offered a paid job back in November 2010
What have you enjoyed the most about being part of The Bridge? So many things!
I have loved helping people change their lives around, seeing residents bravely grappling with mistakes they have made and trying to put them right, seeing residents grow in self esteem and confidence, working with an incredibly diverse and gifted bunch of staff.
What aren’t you going to miss about working at The Bridge? Doing urine tests on people!
What is the most valuable lesson you have learnt? Learnt and still learning how to love incredibly broken people no matter the cost.
What are you going on to do when you leave? I am hoping in time to increase my days at the charity Crisis where I work as the Volunteer Coordinator. However in the short term I am going to enjoy seeing what new opportunities come my way!
Any other comments? The Bridge truly is a life changing project for so many people and we are so appreciative of people’s support in keeping it going. It is not often that we as staff get to say a massive thank you but be assured that we do appreciate your support for what we do. I look forward to seeing where The Bridge goes from here!
So, I tend to send my wife crazy with this.
If ever I’m slightly ill with anything I will do everything in my power to avoid the very thing I know will make me better. Whatever it is. Medicine, plasters – you name it, I’ll avoid it. You know the sort of thing:
‘Yes I am coughing more this morning. No I don’t need to take any cough medicine.’
‘I know the sight of my ankle at a right-angle from my leg appears alarming darling but I assure you it’s perfectly fine.’
That is of course until I get to the point where I’m so ill I can’t do anything. By which point all the benefit of taking the medicine in the first place has been lost.
‘Yes I know you told me to take the flu jab. You’re not helping.’
I’m assured this is a particularly male trait. Still, I think we all relate to avoidance to some extent, whether it’s avoiding the washing up or avoiding going to the gym.
Why do we do it? What makes us hold back from doing the thing we know is going to benefit us most in the long-run?
One of our residents went missing this week. Thankfully they got back in touch with us and are now back at the project (on a final warning). It’s easy to categorise people recovering from addictions as being the victims of their own choices and only having themselves to blame. But I find myself relating to them more than I’d like to admit.
Every day our residents are learning to confront their avoidance and change the way they live. Two of our current residents have just begun a positive move-on process, having gained all they can at this stage in their recovery.
Good decision-making is a hard thing to cultivate. But with a bit of encouragement we can all change.
All respect due to BBC 3. Last night I watched their fascinating and provoking documentary, Crazy for Party Drugs, which follows the lives of three young people immersed in the ‘party drug’ scene in Leeds.
The clip above shows a young woman called Holly and the effect taking party drug MCAT has had on her life and that of her family. To watch the whole programme please click this link here: Crazy for Party Drugs (runs out on 3rd February 2013).
If this isn’t your usual TV-viewing cup of tea (and I realise there is plenty of highbrow cultural fare on iPlayer at the moment, including Miranda and The Great Comic Relief Bake-Off) I’d urge you to suspend your reservations and invest 57 minutes of your life watching it.
The quote that really got to me was from Holly. At one point in the programme (you’ll have to watch to find out where) she reflects:
When you get pulled back in, that’s another month of your life just gone – just by falling off the bandwagon. And if it keeps happening that’s like a year of your life gone.
It’s been like… I just feel like if it doesn’t get sorted soon I’ll soon be like 30 or 40 and I’m going to be in exactly the same boat as I am now. And I had so many dreams before I started taking it – it’s all just disappearing.
We meet so many Holly’s at The Bridge. Men and women in their 30s and 40s who had hopes and dreams and aspirations when they were young, but for whom a drug they fell into taking (because of curiosity, because of abuse) took hold of their mind and took over their life.
We have to help these people.
Watching this documentary stirs a deep conviction in me that what we do is not only necessary but crucial for the future wellbeing of individuals and families in our country. Fact – rehabilitation projects like The Bridge will not continue without financial support from people like you.
So, if you hadn’t noticed, it’s pretty cold.
I’m currently sitting in The Bridge Support Office, walking boots attached to feet, heater turned up, hoodie resolutely staying on. Snow’s a funny thing. It seems to throw all sense of normality into disarray. Office workers across the country will spend the day half-thinking through their exit strategy. Snow puts the everyday into perspective.
This week we had a former resident return to the project after bravely admitting he wasn’t quite there in his recovery and needed a bit more support. It was great to welcome him back. Addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs, is a tricky business – the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse states it typically takes a heroin addict, ‘six attempts over six years to get clean’.
The thing about snow is that it completely changes the landscape. On my walk into work today everything looked different. I couldn’t see the grime on the pavement. I couldn’t see the discarded litter on the side of the road. The streets were pure, bright white. It was a blank canvas.
And that’s the thing with second chances. It’s a new day. The landscape looks different and it’s up to us to shape what it’s going to look like. For our former resident we will do everything we can to ensure he gets to kick his drink dependency for good. The beauty of today is that he has the opportunity to draw a line in the (snow) and shape his life in a new way.
That’s the beauty of The Bridge – and we’ll continue to give opportunities to anyone who’s ready to give recovery another go.
I’m not sure New Year’s resolutions are in vogue this year.
I’ve heard very few people talking about them, just the odd advertisement offering you a hand with losing weight or getting your finances in order.
And if I’m right and New Year’s resolutions really aren’t getting much of a hearing in 2013 then it’s hardly surprising. New Year’s resolutions are HARD.
How many of us stick to our well-intentioned January plans? For the whole year?
My resolution this year is to see more of my mum, dad, brother and sister. Hardly up there on the scale of challenging New Year’s resolutions… But even something that simple takes some degree of determination. My family live in different places 120 miles away. It takes planning, it takes time, it costs money.
And what if your New Year’s resolution was to break a 30-year drinking binge or to kick a heroin habit you were practically born with? What then? How many of us could honestly say we could do it?
And if you’re someone who really has had the experience of resolving to change something and seeing it through that’s fantastic! You know exactly the level of sacrifice and commitment it takes to make that change. And, harder still, you know the level of sacrifice and commitment it takes to keep on living that change.
Change is difficult. We need a super-human level of determination. And most of us at least need more than that. We need tools and resources. We need the support of the people around us.
If you’re looking to make a change this year, however small, take some time to think about our residents at The Bridge. What they’re attempting is absolutely huge. How many of us could be that heroic?
The 2012 Olympics showed in spectacular fashion what can be accomplished through resolution and perseverance. Whatever you resolve to do this year have fun, keep believing and please keep thinking of the others who are attempting to make a change for life.
Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for being on the journey with us.
What an end to the year! The Bridge has been flooded with kind gestures of goodwill as we enter the Christmas season and look back on a year full of challenge, encouragement and hope. Three houses full of dreams, fears and aspirations for a better life. Houses full of people like you and me. There have been unprecedented highs and heartbreaking lows as we’ve battled alongside people for life; the life they want and need. As a project we’ve faced monumental financial challenges and had to take radical steps to ensure the future of the project. We will battle all the way for sustainability and, in the midst of everything that happens, we will continue to draw heart above all from you.
An unprecedented number of people have supported us this year. Taking part in sponsored events, choosing to donate a regular portion of what they earn, volunteering their free time to spend with the residents, making outrageously generous one-off gifts. Whatever you have done, thank you. Thank you so much. You have been the fuel that has kept us running, yours have been the prayers that have turned residents’ despair into fresh resolution for a better life. Thank you for making the difference.
The Bridge team has many qualities but closeness and communication is one of the most powerful. Whilst talking about films we (Justin and Sam) realised we had a mutual love for a scene in Evan Almighty. Have a look for yourself and then we’ll have a chat about it.
Feeling low and scared with what the future may bring? Life basked in uncertainty? Staff and residents at The Bridge are certainly going through these emotions as we face our financial predicament. Fear and anxiety can easily creep in and take control of our thoughts and become obstacles that we focus on. These obstacles are often not within our control to fix and too many times we realise this after we are at the end of our tether.
To us it seems like radical changes are happening to The Bridge and we forget so easily that what we were praying for is happening right in front of our eyes. It’s not the magic zap we wish for that makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but the opportunity to gain courage, faith and patience, the gifts we believe God has provided and continues to provide in these moments of fear and doubt.
We get so hung up on ‘the magic zap’- the moment that we pray for and believe that God will make everything alright – but we can so often miss the small moments where we are advancing in courage, faith and patience. Life is a journey and we want to enjoy it and fine tune our thinking with every step, so that we can see where we were, where we are and hopefully where we will be, with God’s help.
We hope this excites and encourages you to look for these opportunities when they arise. Enjoy the journey.