Addiction relapse is one of the biggest fears of those in recovery. The thoughts of returning to their addictive behaviour is often enough to keep these individuals on the straight and narrow, but unfortunately, the memory of how bad addiction was can fade over time. This often results in some people convincing themselves that maybe it would be okay for them to have ‘just one’ drink or fix.
There are many triggers for addiction relapse, including loneliness, anger, frustration and boredom. Many recovering addicts become disillusioned with their recovery, and unless they learn how to fill their time, they may find that sobriety is unfulfilling. This often leads to reminiscing the times when they were ‘having fun’ drinking or taking drugs. Most of these individuals conveniently forget the reasons they wanted to get sober in the first place.
Preventing Addiction Relapse by Staying Busy
Those with experience of addiction or dealing with those who have struggled with addiction will know the importance of staying busy during recovery. Police sergeant Stephen Hodgkins knows all too well how boredom and lack of motivation can cause recovering addicts to suffer an addiction relapse.
It is for this reason he set up a programme to help recovering addicts and former criminals stay busy by learning a trade. His Jobs, Friends & Houses (JFH) programme gives men and women the chance to do something positive with their lives once they have been released from prison or completed a programme of rehabilitation.
Breaking the Cycle of Addiction
Hodgkins set up JFH to break the cycle of addiction and re-offending that he had witnessed time and again. He decided that something needed to be done, and his answer to the problem was to give former addicts and criminals jobs. The idea behind the programme is that those involved will renovate derelict homes in the town of Blackpool, where the project is based.
Not only have the lives of so many people been changed for the better but so too has the town. Blackpool is seeing the benefits of helping these individuals to avoid addiction relapse and a return to criminal ways. The town is now safer and cleaner, and the entire community is reaping the rewards.
Hodgkins said, “It frustrated me we were seeing the same people again and again in custody. As a country, we don’t believe in locking people up and throwing away the key. But in effect, that’s what we do because we don’t rehabilitate people.”
Stigma of Addiction and Prison
There is still an enormous amount of stigma attached to both addiction and prison, and those who are affected often find that they are discriminated against. With many others unwilling to give these individuals a second chance, former addicts and criminals usually find it difficult to get work. This can have a huge impact and can often lead them right back where they started – with no prospects and no chance of a new, improved life. It is no surprise that addiction relapse and re-offending occur on a regular basis.
Hodgkins believes that this stigma often leaves former criminals and addicts struggling to make new lives. He developed JFH in a bid to provide support and to reduce crime. Those involved in the programme learn lots of new skills, and many of them are given apprenticeships in various trades such as joinery, plumbing and plastering. Once a property has been renovated, those in recovery are given the option to rent it.
The programme has taken on 48 people so far, and it has been a huge success, with re-offending rates cut by 94.1 per cent. The scheme has also been evaluated in terms of the money the taxpayer has saved as a result, and it was found to be more than £800,000. The evaluation took into account things like the cost to the health service, police costs, and court costs.
Hodgkins said, “Addiction is a recurring disease. And if you’ve got that disease you are shunned in a lot of places. That only feeds your addiction.”
He believes that the only way to prevent addiction relapse and to break the downward spiral into addiction once more is to boost self-esteem. The programme does just that by giving people the opportunity to work and contribute to the renovation of a place that they might be able to call home.
A New Chance at Life
Sam Lowry is one of those helped by JFH. Just four years ago, he was told he would die if he did not stop drinking. He was homeless, and said about that time, “I’d written myself off at 25. I felt as if I’d failed at everything. It’s been the end of a recurring nightmare.”
Now at the age of 29, he has prospects and is happy working as a decorator.
Hodgkins believes that his scheme can make a change to the lives of so many people, adding, “This is an amazing town to work in because you can make a difference.”
He also pointed out that those working in the scheme have plenty to reflect on, saying, “This team have created a certain number of victims in their lifetimes. We remember and respect those victims. Part of respecting those victims is stopping the repeat cycle of offending, so that people in Blackpool have safer streets.”
Keeping busy during recovery is essential in terms of preventing addiction relapse. The JFH programme is doing a fantastic job of keeping both recovering addicts and former criminals on the straight and narrow.