The Story (so far) of Choices.

There's that old saying, isn't there, about acorns and oaks. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Choices, the Spitalfields Crypt Trust recovery community, has become a mighty oak but since its began our invaluable service has grown exponentially in popularity and few would have guessed that from it humble origins.  

Two people playing chess on a Friday night in a quiet space at the New Hanbury Project had an idea. They felt Recovery should be more than just meetings, folding chairs and the price of biscuits, important to people as they are.

Blessed as we are with a location in one of the most vibrant and well connected areas in Central London volunteers soon created a program of activities, food, workshops and a convivial time in a safe space that welcomed anyone looking for a sober and clean night out. 

Blessed as we are with a location in one of the most vibrant and well connected areas in Central London volunteers soon created a program of activities, food, workshops and a convivial time in a safe space that welcomed anyone looking for a sober and clean night out. 

In 2014 we secured funding from Comic Relief 'Give it Up' fund which allowed us to extend our services with a two year pilot project by opening  a recovery café, producing a magazine and putting on a program of fun and cultural activities.

There's never a shortage of demand. Such has been its success that after the two year pilot that SCT has now incorporated Choices into its programme of serices.

The café, simply called Choices' is based at SCTs' own social enterprise, The a la mode Paper and Cup, in the heart of Shoreditch.  It's not so much a window on the world outside as very much the pulsating heart beat of Calvert Avenue's thriving community of small businesses and  charismatic locals. 

There's nothing institutional about the surroundings and to start with it must have seemed something of an anomaly compared to the usual church basements or community spaces. 

"It's like all the best parts of being in a family but without feeling you always have to conform. I always feel I can be myself and express my individuality" John.

We started slowly, as often happens, but when word got around and more and more people followed us on social media we soon found ourselves at the center of a small revolution in 'wraparound' services for people in recovery. 

There was obviously a demand for something that added to people's personal journeys but we also found that there was also a demand for being part of the peripheral community and, for many, that’s a great foundation for beginning that journey back to normal living in a world that.

Yes, can be tough but that can also be fun. 

"Choices is a great social network for people in recovery who do not always feel part of the big bad world. We can interact in a safe environment with the support of our peers without feeling like freaks. More importantly, we have fun. Remember that small word that puts a smile on your face?" Ali. 

Theatre, film, dance, rollercoasters, arts, crafts, a normal magazine with a normal animal and 'damn fine coffee' are just a few of things that we have going on.

But our recovery community also contributed to valuable research by John Moores University into 'recovery capital' and the positive impact projects such as this have had. 

One of those impacts is certainly an increased sense of agency in individuals.

In a very Shoreditch way Choices represents an empowering start up of a different kind. Fun, quirky, enterprising and forward thinking. 

Nigel is the Editor of Normal Magazine

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