Changes UK is unapologetic in its staunch approach to tearing down the barriers of stigma that surround addiction in the UK today. We understand that those that are stuck in the cycle of addiction are fighting not just one but two battles – one against their addiction, and the second against the stigma that goes with it.
The stigma of addiction rages rampant in the UK, our culture is still entrenched in the belief that those who are suffering with addiction are either weak, lazy or have a moral failing, a belief that people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
Changes UK advocates change by celebrating the real lives of those who have found long-term recovery from addiction, overcoming the shame and prejudice that live alongside stigma so that many more people are able to reach out for help.
The barriers to recovery are rooted in every area of our communities, in both the private and public sectors, even in our own health system, education, housing, and employment. There’s a deep lack of understanding that exists in policymakers and public officials who all carry a huge responsibility to enable our communities to recover. In a bid to break the cycle of misconception locally, Changes UK invited Solihull MP Julian Knight to witness recovery first hand on Friday 24 November 2017.
Following a visit to Small Changes at Lyndon Road, a popular community retail outlet selling preloved children’s clothes and toys to provide critical funding streams for Changes UK support services, Julian went on to speak with a number of Solihull residents who have managed to break free and find long term recovery.
Julian Knight MP said: “It was fantastic to have the opportunity to visit Changes UK and see the very important work they do, not to mention meeting some of the many people helped by their services. Steve and his team have done a great job of building a service which helps to break down the stigma attached to addiction and encourage more people to take that vital first step: asking for help.”
Steve Dixon, Founder and Chief Executive of Changes UK who lives in Solihull himself articulates the importance of connection, empathy and understanding in our fragmented and fractured communities: “Addiction is alive and well in our communities, everyone knows someone who has or is struggling with addiction. Mental health and addiction spans all walks of life, it is an equal opportunities destroyer.”
Steve who set up Clarity House, a residential detox and part of the wider SIAS partnership that has been delivering award winning services to Solihull residents for over a decade goes on to say: “How will anyone know that recovery is available and possible if everyone is too scared to talk about it? We have to talk about recovery, make it visible and bust the myth wide open that it’s shameful to ask for help. We have to educate our communities that society is set up for addictive behaviours, and we will not stop confronting the status quo until we are successful in changing that narrative. There is an urgency to create an environment where people can ask for help because the reality is, stigma kills and it serves no useful purpose in any of our lives.”
We take recovery seriously at Changes UK and we know wholeheartedly that recovery is worth celebrating. Behind every recovery story is a family that has lived with the stigma of addiction too. We strive to challenge stigma by sharing our recovery stories publicly – demonstrating that people in recovery are from all walks of life. We repeatedly put a face and a voice on recovery, and encourage our graduates to share their story with pride, dignity, honesty and authenticity and we will continue to do so with passion and determination in order to be a voice for the voiceless. It’s simple really. Reduce the stigma, save lives.
Deaths related to drug misuse are at their highest level to date, a 2016 analysis found the highest mass loads of benzoylecgonine – (the main metabolite of cocaine) in the UK, Belgium and Spain, and the UK accounts for almost two thirds of those entering treatment across Europe reporting crack cocaine use.
Addiction exists in our communities, our families and our workplace and is rising strong in our schools. 1 in 5 16 -24 year olds had taken an illicit drug in the last year. This equates to around 1.1 million young people in the UK NHS National Statistics on drug misuse 2017-11-21A 2016
At Changes UK
We celebrate recovery
We tell our story
We make recovery visible
So that stigma no longer holds the ball
My name is Steve
I am a human being
I am a husband
I am a Father
I am a valuable member of my community.
I have a history of depression, suicidal ideation and I am a recovering addict
I have a story of recovery
I have a story of survival
In my own recovery journey, I have felt branded, ashamed, reviled, judged and marginalised
I am a survivor of an ongoing national epidemic of neglect and fierce social and cultural stigma towards those suffering from addiction
To tell my story, always
Because I found recovery
And I want you to know
That you can too.
Founder & Chief Executive
If you are someone who is suffering with addiction, or you are a family member of someone suffering with addiction there is support available through SIAS, call us in confidence on 0121 301 4141 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographs: Steve Dixon Founder and Chief Executive Changes UK, Jenny Cunnington Small Changes and Julian Knight MP Solihull, James Coote Changes Gardening and Julian Knight MP Solihull