In the spotlight

A programme for drug and alcohol users, which
uses self-help and user involvement philosophies to help clients
overcome their addictions, has achieved notable success in
Hampshire. Graham Hopkins reports.

“Been there, done that” usually means that the
speaker has experienced the topic under discussion and has decided
it is not worthy of further exploration. Not usually the sort of
person you’d choose to meet. But for people choosing to recover
from alcohol or drug addiction, meeting someone who has indeed been
there and done that can be a life-saving experience.

In the
south-east Hampshire area of Fareham and Gosport in 1997 there was
little in the way of “community-based” services other than
prescribed drug treatments. “We needed something to fill the gap –
a place where drug and alcohol users could meet,” says Lawrence
Taylor, who helped set up Spotlight.

vision was to centre the service around user involvement and
self-help philosophies. “We wanted to empower clients,” Taylor
continues. “We wanted it to be an antidote to statutory

Spotlight began as a once-a-week
service for three or four people. It now runs three times a week
and has about 50 group members.

members it is the element of choice about how to deal with their
individual recovery programmes that proves attractive. Michael
Cunningham, 31, says: “Treatment centres have more stringent rules
– which they need – but here the onus is put with yourself. Which
really suits me because I’ve done a lot of prison and I don’t like
being told what to do.”

Spotlight recognises that while
many addictions are similar there are also individual differences.
“The day programme they run here is fantastic,” says Alistair
Brown, 58. “Everybody has a choice here. I have tried Alcoholics
Anonymous and for me it didn’t work. But I come here when I feel I
need to – and I’ve been dry for nearly two years.”

Equally for members it’s having a
strong say in the group’s running that gives a sense of belonging
and reflects the belief that people prefer to be active in their
recovery. People caught up in addiction can lose control over their
lives and Spotlight aims to give some of that control

I first joined Spotlight,” says worker Chris Heather, “their logo
was ‘Where the choice is yours’. The thing I tried to introduce –
or rather amplify – was ‘peer-led, peer-driven’. The people in the
group that have come through are all at different levels of
recovery. They’ve got that knowledge and information that somebody
new needs.”

was vital for Maria Regis, 42: “I was in detox and self-harming,
and in and out of psychiatric units. I was in a real bad way. But I
got really good support here – and to feel that you’re really part
of something and not on your own is priceless. They saved my

from encouraging members to behave with tolerance and
understanding, the only requirement for attending Spotlight is
being clean and dry for the day. Any alcohol or drug use is not
tolerated as it puts at risk those who are at different stages of
recovery. Members are free to take part in workshops and support
groups as they choose. There are also separate groups for men and
women, and computer tuition.

clearly the place works. Maurice Statham, 60, says, “When you get
to my age you think you know it all. But it certainly opens your
eyes. I came here and they started throwing these workshops at you
and it suddenly hit me. I thought ‘I don’t need to drink.’ I feel
safe here.” Steve Batson, 36, agrees: “When I left rehab about two
years ago, I still had a lot of mental health issues – paranoia,
massive depression, low self-esteem – I felt totally worthless. I
was put onto Spotlight and I’ve just got so much out of this place.
Without this place I don’t think I’d be alive.”

Spotlight believes – and group
members readily agree – it has given a voice to people who have
forgotten how to use their voice. And that in itself speaks volumes
for this impressive service.

– For
more information on Spotlight call Barbara Cooper on 01329

The names of all service users mentioned in
this article have been changed


Scheme: Spotlight – a drug and alcohol day

Location: Fareham and Gosport, Hampshire.

Staffing: Three part-time staff, totalling 63
hours a week.

Inspiration: Need for some real
community-based services that gave a choice for people in different
stages of recovery.

COST: £53,616

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