Drug and alcohol addict speaks out about how Stevenage rehab charity helped save his life

Staff and volunteers at The Living Room in Stevenage are delighted with the funding boost. Picture c

Staff and volunteers at The Living Room in Stevenage are delighted with the funding boost. Picture courtesy of The Living Room. - Credit: Archant

A man who felt suicidal due to his crippling addiction to drugs and alcohol has spoken of how a rehabilitation charity - which has been given a funding boost to expand its work - has helped save his life.

The Living Room was founded by Janis Feely MBE at The Glebe on Chells Way in Stevenage in May 2000, after she successfully overcame her own addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.

The charity, which also has a centre in St Albans, supports people with addictions to anything from alcohol and drugs to gambling and sex through free group counselling, peer support and workshop therapies.

The Living Room’s success rate for alcohol addiction is 55 per cent, compared to a national average of 33 per cent, and 60 per cent of people with an eating disorder recover, compared to a national average of 45 per cent.

The charity champions abstinence-based treatment delivered by counsellors with experience of overcoming addictions themselves.

One addict, who did not want to be identified, said his life started spiralling out of control when social drinking escalated to a harmful addition to alcohol and cocaine.

He knew he had to stop if he wanted to reclaim his life and future, but each attempt to quit ended within a few short weeks. He said: “After every relapse I fell further than the last time in a spiral of depression and suicidal ideation, causing suffering to all those dear to me.”

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He was introduced to The Living Room by a former client and started attending sessions daily.

He said: “I find the Feelings Groups followed by the afternoon workshops cathartic, with practical ideas and thought-provoking discussions on how to better understand the emotions and thoughts underlying my addictions.

“They are also helping me to connect with my fellow clients and attend local AA meetings, and I appreciate I am not alone in my suffering.”

When asked how The Living Room’s approach differs from other therapies he had previously attempted, he said: “There is more exploration of the feelings and emotions that underlie the addictive impulses than at other services.

“There is also more of a sense of genuine understanding, warmth and empathy.”

He is continuing his treatment at The Living Room and is now looking forward to a brighter, healthier future.

He said: “I am hopeful that on leaving The Living Room I will have in excess of several months’ clean time.

“I hope to have a support network of people in recovery and the ability to recognise and control the thoughts and behaviour that have previously led to relapse.

“I am unspeakably grateful for the existence of The Living Room - an amazing antidote to the baffling and personally destructive affliction of addictions.

“The service provides many lost, broken people with the opportunity to rediscover their identities and enable us to become productive members of society.”

Grant-giving charity the Hertfordshire Community Foundation has awarded The Living Room £4,998.50 to put towards setting up a specialist drugs and alcohol group at the Stevenage centre.

The charity’s operations manager, Rita Cooper, said: “Our work saves and transforms lives. We are setting up these groups following feedback from our service users who have said it is easier to talk and discuss issues in smaller sessions that are specific to their addiction.

“This grant is vital in enabling us to fund these sessions, which will allow people to make lifelong changes through recovery and abstinence from their addictions.”

The director of the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, Helen Gray, said: “As identified in our needs analysis research Hertfordshire Matters, drug and alcohol addictions are an issue within the county.

“The Living Room is taking active steps to help those in need and their families. We are pleased we are able to support this valuable and worthwhile initiative.”

The Living Room offers a free, Ofsted-registered crèche to enable parents with young children to attend treatment.

For more about the charity, visit livingroomherts.org

For information on how to apply to the Hertfordshire Community Foundation for a grant, visit www.hertscf.org.uk or call the charity on 01707 251 351.