WY-FI Project

West Yorkshire – Finding Independence | Supporting people with multiple needs

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And so my recovery journey began…

Back in 1991 I was once again heading down to the dark place that those who are traumatised and addicted know only too well. Sweating and shaking, delusional, and on day one of the delirium tremors, a special horror of demon faces rushing at you from the kitchen wall, insects crawling over your skin, fever and pain.  The mind begins to collapse after such anguish and I’d been through it a hundred times before.  3 days later I had 3 choices, go see some expert addiction councillor my father had found, continue trying to block the madness using any substance I could lay my hands on or hang myself.  Bizarrely I chose none of them and phoned a mutual aid group instead.  Some guy called Maurice appeared at my door and took me to my first mutual aid meeting. I hated it but recognised that these people sat in a dusty church hall had been where I’d been and knew about something that I’d never heard of before, recovery.

And so my recovery journey began.  I stopped drinking and taking drugs and soaked myself in meetings and I spent hours in people’s houses drinking copious amounts of tea and learnt about the recovery community. I suddenly had friends. A man who lived just round the corner from me started coming round to mine sharing his story, he scared me at first, proper Wythenshawe lad, and his experience was both different to mine and the same. Where I’d spent years locked up in psychiatric hospitals he’d spent years in prison; I’m god father to his daughter who is now grown up, he is my brother and one of the best friends I have ever had.  I met so many people from all walks of life and they bent over backwards to help me. They explained why I behaved in the way I did and I saw that every time I spent time with others like me I felt a relief,  a lessening of the horror that has plagued my head for years and years.  Connection with my friends in the community had a healing effect.  I have found this to be true in the many different types of mutual aid meetings, connection with other addicts is fundamental.  I also learnt that the substance is really of very little importance, if it was simply a matter of stopping drinking/using then once you’d done that everything would be fine, but as all addicts know it’s not fine. Recovery has to be a way of life, a lifestyle that never takes a break, connection with others has to be maintained.  I have found that you also need to be connected closely to a small group of friends, just 2 or 3 that truly know you. I’m lucky to have such people in my life, my little sister who I share everything with, a woman I would never have met had I been normal, keeps me sane, she is my soul friend and we are connected, this is what the recovery community really is. I also learnt that unfortunately I had other conditions that needed addressing, mental health and significant trauma. A life spent in addiction utterly traumatises a person and of course those childhood traumas that most addicts have lurking in their cupboards ready to jump out and re traumatise them at any stressful moment. A catalogue of failed relationships and damage to self and to the many others that were damaged in the addictive journey, regrets and shame pile up till you can barely look at yourself in the mirror anymore.

And this gets me to the point of all this.  If you want to help people recover from addiction or trauma or mental health then it’s quite simple really, you create a space that’s safe and kind where people who suffer can connect. Secondly in that safe place give people a chance to explore their condition, knowledge really is power, and lastly you help connect people with the recovery community.  My own recovery has nothing to do with the professionals I met and all to do with the people I connected to.  I was at a big conference event and a professional, a service provider, was talking about mutual aid and unfortunately he was completely wrong. I don’t mean this in a nasty way it was simply that as with most professionals their understanding of mutual aid and recovery is still rooted in the old school war on drugs harm and crime reduction and outcomes and a focus on the substance in the case of addiction. This mentality has dominated services for decades.   There are very few professionals who get what recovery actually is though there are workers who really try to help and some that don’t.  Mutual aid is anarchistic, there are no managers or leaders, no policies and procedures, just a few guide lines, each group runs itself, there’s no safeguarding or risk assessment and somehow it bumbles along and has worked for decades unseen by the professional world. And more than this is the recovery community that comes out of this connection; it’s huge and worldwide.  I connected with the recovery community in Barbados, Greece, France, Spain and spent times in stranger’s houses who then became friends. The governor of Philadelphia looking at the poor outcomes of services in his state asked the question is there any one recovering in America, he found there were, 20 million. So he then asked the question, what are these people doing and how can we do something similar. A good man. The doctor I was seeing when first in recovery was astounded that the wreck of a man she had been treating for years suddenly and inexplicably began to recover. She became interested in what I was doing and attended open meetings and guided others towards the recovery community.

Unfortunately my first open minded doctor was an exception.  During my journey I have met many professionals who were fiercely opposed to mutual aid.  I’ve been told by mental health professionals and GP’s and substance misuse services that I should stop attending mutual aid, it’s a cult, and it causes more harm than good. Right through the 90’s and beyond, there has been a severe lack of understanding on the part of services and professionals about the recovery community.  It is only in the last few years that a small change has taken place but still the lack of knowledge is astounding.  A chasm exists between services and the recovery community, as an expert, part of the WY-FI Network, I really believe that we have a duty to try and explain what the recovery community is and how it works to services. There are many types of mutual aid and all are valuable.  It’s not just meetings it’s conversations in cafes, houses, social events, it’s connection. I live on my own but when I look out of the window I can see my friends like beacons of light across West Yorkshire. There’s M probably putting his daughter to bed, he’ll text me later. There’s A starting a new chapter of his novel.  There’s J checking the locks and counting things. And there’s D who will ring me later and talk at a hundred miles an hour and jump from one subject to another and bizarrely I’ll understand all of it.  These are my brothers and sisters who keep me safe and step in when I’m not well, we carry each other through the difficult recovery journey, we are a community and we did this ourselves, made this astonishing community, it is separate from services and should remain so but services would be enhanced by an understanding of the community and all it does.  One thing I have learnt is that I often don’t know, in fact I often don’t know quite a lot.  A service that is willing to say those words, I don’t know, but is willing to learn, has the potential to be a great service.  So go on, give it a go. Say those words, actually I don’t think I know.


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daniel-thumbnailDaniel’s story shows how crucial it is to take the time to build a solid and trusting relationship with a beneficiary and how getting to know their interests and hobbies can be one of the keys to success. Read more



“I was in a really dark place and terrified. The support I’ve received from Jamie and James has been phenomenal. The WY-FI Project has given me my life back.” Daniel


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What do you want WY-FI’s legacy to be in 2020?

A poem by Ad Verse

On 22 September 2016, we invited participants of the WY-FI Business Review to describe their vision of WY-FI’s legacy and the barriers to being able to leave that legacy in five words or less. One hour later, Adam – our Ad Verse poet for the day – had written this poem.

Asking for your visions brought ideas a plenty.

No one left outside services and reducing offending.

Barriers broken down and trusting relationship mending.

Creating joined up services with empathy and stability.

Funding, ignorance and inflexibility might hinder progress but we’ll see.

Politics, Brexit, bad service culture and lack of understanding

     could halt progress but positivity and motivation is what we’re demanding.

Co-produced, co-ordinated effective support with heart and soul

Peer led hope and opportunities providing everyone with a role.

Fear and loathing, complacency, reluctance and resistance to change

     can be combatted by never giving up and pride in embracing ‘the strange’.

Services talking to each other, together everyone achieves more.

When handling misinformation and knowledge gaps is training the cure?

Continuing to improve quality of life and expand the organisation.

Listening to beneficiaries and involving The Network in the conversation.

There may be pessimism, hierarchy and people not willing to relinquish power.

But optimism and authentic service user involvement can make the doubters cower.

Continuing achieving with better outcomes and shared care plans.

Overcoming risk aversion and lacking resources by challenging ‘the man’

The establishments established but with co-working change is possible

Allowing all to have their say on matters from the large to the small.

Partnership gaps bridged, trusting relationships enhanced & built

challenging stigma and attitudes allowing prejudice to wilt.

Growing seeds of positive change, watered with determination.

Helping self belief and worth grow by enhancing motivation.

Changing opinions and adapting from a solid evidence base.

There’s been much progress already but many barriers to face.

Will you be a centre of excellence that’s streamlined and accessible?

Will you continue to grow and improve services with empathy for all?

Does more achievement of system change sustain the WYFI vision?

Is an unprecedented wraparound care model your mission?

Do you need to change the ethos of organisations & eligibility criteria?

How will you overcome brainwashing and challenge stigmatizations hysteria?

What about agencies that won’t work together? Will they be left behind?

Do you believe the future is positive despite problems with solutions to find?

Will navigators work with organisations in future to enable everyone to fit?

Rather than people being problems for services isn’t it actually the opposite?

Funding cuts could get in the way and communication might break down

But working together for positive progress smiles can soften the frown.

There’s been much great work already, with success and things to address.

The future will be what you make it. Is it positive? Let’s aim for a yes.