“Addiction is the great leveller”

This interview with Jeremy Maddison was taken by a member of our recovery community, the fantastic Michele Kirsch, and is about Lifeline, one of our partners that refer people to the New Hanbury Project - our personal development and training centre for people in recovery from addictions.

"There are many routes into SCT and the New Hanbury Project, which helps people in various stages of recovery learn how to ‘do life’ without doing drugs, often in the very area they did the drugs in the first place.

Often our students and trainees get referred to us. That's where Lifeline comes in, a project which helps people start that journey into recovery and most crucially, to stay recovered. That's really the very hardest part, staying recovered.

"That's really the very hardest part, staying recovered."

The services are very joined up, and that is often a rare thing in council run things in general, not Hackney council specifically, despite the best of intentions. Hackney gets drug services very right, and it is a very good thing that they refer people to the Hanbury.

One of the main links between Lifeline and the New Hanbury Project is the softly spoken, humane and humble Jeremy Maddison.

Slightly too hip to be downright avuncular, but he's kind of like a down duvet on legs.

"I believe the burn out rate in helping recovering addicts can be quite high. We are a moody lot and we relapse. Jeremy, like many workers in this field, accepts that as part of the process."

He just has this way of making you feel that things will get better.

He has a gift, a great ear, and just the right mixture of empathy with boundaries. It's a gift. I believe the burn out rate in helping recovering addicts can be quite high. We are a moody lot and we relapse. Jeremy, like many workers in this field, accepts that as part of the process.

"It's disappointing, but it is the nature of it - if you don't accept that, you may be in the wrong field. Not everyone does relapse, but it's common. And it's unpredictable.

I was working with a couple who were doing very well, they had a child, then they split up, and the woman relapsed. It's hard to see people you've seen doing so well back on the street, but it's just part of it, it happens."

"It's disappointing, but it is the nature of it - if you don't accept that, you may be in the wrong field. Not everyone does relapse, but it's common. And it's unpredictable"

The thing about working in addiction circles is that you don't have to have had experienced it at close range to know being a drug and or alcohol addict is not all its cracked up to be, but it helps in terms of understanding the unpredictability of the animal of addiction.

In Jeremy's case, his son was a drug addict, and through this experience, he became interested in the process of getting well and staying well.

This led to a job with Addaction, which provided drug and alcohol users with help, advice and practical support before Lifeline took over.

"...he will continue to do is to lead people to the New Hanbury Project because as well as providing a great deal of support and a host of activities, it helps tackle what Jeremy feels are two of the biggest barriers to sustained recovery: the tendency to isolate (how do you make new friends if everyone you knew used) and complacency, thinking you are better and can have "just the one", and thinking all you have to do to stay recovered is not do drink or drugs."

He saw then the high rate of relapse in the illness, as well as the appalling physical states some of the clients would be in, with ulcerations, malnourishment, Hep C, you name it. If it's unsavoury and takes a strong stomach to look at, Jeremy has probably seen it.

When he moved on to Lifeline six years ago, at first he was running groups before aftercare became his main job. He is passionate about it being one of the most important aspects of sustained recovery.

He says, "People find it very difficult to get their lives back on track when they have lost so much, sometimes everything. And you see here that addiction is the great leveller, people or the media may have this perception of street people or low lifes or whatever it is, but it crosses all classes, all boundaries.

"...addiction is the great leveller, people or the media may have this perception of street people or low lifes or whatever it is, but it crosses all classes, all boundaries."

This doesn't make groups harder to run, because the focus is the same, staying off the substance, everyone wants the same thing. It's the common experience of addiction that makes it work, makes people work together and share experience, rather than focus on the different walks of life people come from."

For Jeremy, the greatest satisfaction from his job is seeing people move out of a life built entirely around recovery or 12 step programmes, which he is at pains to point out are a GOOD thing, but ALSO to engage more with life activities.

"I think 12 step- is the key to recovery for many but I am also interested in getting people to do things not strictly to do with recovery from addiction, and to engage with life activities while continuing to work on their paths to recovery, through 12 step or other methods."

"I think 12 step- is the key to recovery for many but I am also interested in getting people to do things not strictly to do with recovery from addiction, and to engage with life activities while continuing to work on their paths to recovery, through 12 step or other methods."

To this end, he has set up many activity links such as choir, reading groups and sports groups to keep those who come back into "the area" after rehab busy, productive, and perhaps discovering talent they did not know they had.

"I would like to see more time given to the process of recovery. If someone has been misusing drugs and or alcohol for 30 years or more, it's a bit much to expect them to clean up, get a job, get back into life very soon, never having known anything but this certain way of life. in reality it takes years, not months."

"I would like to see more time given to the process of recovery. If someone has been misusing drugs and or alcohol for 30 years or more, it's a bit much to expect them to clean up, get a job, get back into life very soon, never having known anything but this certain way of life. in reality it takes years, not months."

To be fair, there is always a disconnect - usually budget led - between the ideal and what is provided. As services are bound to change again, possibly with more budget cuts, it will be more of a challenge to provide all the things Jeremy hopes for.

One thing he will continue to do is to lead people to the New Hanbury Project because as well as providing a great deal of support and a host of activities, it helps tackle what Jeremy feels are two of the biggest barriers to sustained recovery: the tendency to isolate (how do you make new friends if everyone you knew used) and complacency, thinking you are better and can have "just the one", and thinking all you have to do to stay recovered is not do drink or drugs.

Jeremy gently encourages his clients to get back into the land of the living, which is a far nicer place to be."

Read more about what we do

Help us raise an extra £50,000 in this - our 50th birthday year

Share Article: