George Street Social in Newcastle is a bar that’s free of booze (Picture: Pictures By Bish)Although they’ve been around for many years, it’s safe to say the recovery café is still a fairly novel idea in the UK/
So, what is a recovery café and why do we need them?
For people in recovery from addiction, day-to-day life can be a fairly daunting prospect.
Your social life might have focused around the pub, for example, or your friends might still be using the drugs you’re trying to stay away from. This is why many people in recovery seek new opportunities and support networks.
You might have safely detoxed in hospital or a rehab centre, but maintaining your new-found sobriety can often be the most difficult part. It can take a long time to secure a place in rehab via the NHS – as drug and alcohol services have continually seen extensive funding cuts.
Those with disposable income might be able to get a place in a plush private treatment centre within days, but it’s not an option for most. Either way, even after a spell in rehab, life must go on. And having a safe and supportive place to go, that’s free of shame and stigma, is key.
This is where the recovery café comes into play.
George Street Social in Newcastle is a dry bar run by the Road to Recovery Trust. The building hosts a range of 12-step meetings for people in recovery from all kinds of addictions, as well as family support groups, financial advice for people in recovery and much more.
The key feature of the building is the recovery café and social space on the ground floor. Serving up great coffee and a delicious menu of home-cooked food Nathan (a chef who toured the world and is now based solely at George Street to support his recovery) has found solace, friendships, support and employment through George Street.
Nathan tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Cooking plays such an important role in my recovery. I’ve been a chef for 21 years and toured all round the world, but this place is so special to me. It’s the place I first found hope.’
(Picture: Pictures By Bish)George Street recently played host to Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, who said in his recent speech at the Alcohol Change Conference: ‘I was so impressed with the George Street social community café I visited in Newcastle ran by The Road to Recovery Trust offering support and, crucially, employment opportunities for those in recovery. Projects like these are, I believe, an essential part of local treatment systems and I want to see them given sustainable funding too.’
Another recovery café that has changed the lives of many is The Brink in Liverpool. Owned by the charity Action on Addiction, The Brink boasts HRH The Duchess of Cambridge as its patron.
Assistant Manager David Barnicle said: ‘The Brink was set up to respond to a need for people in recovery with nowhere for safe socialising outside of treatment hours.
‘Being a public space with modern décor and good quality food and drink it is not restricted to the recovery demographic, it is a space for pursuing a non-alcoholic lifestyle for the general public too.
‘Coffee, food and conversation is supplemented by many activities designed for personal growth and cultural indulgence – Thai boxing, yoga, qigong, open mic nights, young musicians, events on sustainability, awareness on addiction, health and wellbeing, monthly dances, parties and so much more takes place at The Brink.’
George Street Social also has a busy events calendar, recently selling out its first stand-up comedy night with Geordie comics Gavin Webster and Simon Donald.
The Road to Recovery Trust’s Chief Executive, Peter Mitchell, said: ‘The comedy night was a great success. Anyone who might think a sober audience is a quiet audience is in for a treat. The crowd really enjoyed joining in with the comedy, and it was great that the comedians didn’t shy away from the topic.
‘Because the recovery community is so at ease with one another people feel more comfortable, are able to be themselves and have fun. We’ll definitely be looking to do more comedy in the coming months.’
George Street is also hosting book events, yoga classes, walking and running groups and much more.
The whole idea is to provide a social space that doesn’t rely on booze – a rarity in the UK – and provides support to those who need it.
Events manager, Beth Collard tells us: ‘I was homeless and I couldn’t walk when I came into recovery over ten years ago. Now I’m running half marathons in support of the Trust and the sense of achievement is amazing.
‘Running is a significant part of my recovery, because of the social aspects, but also because it’s quite mindful, it gives me that space without anything else to think about, and I know that boosting my physical health also boosts my mental health.’
In addition to supporting the recovery community, recovery cafés welcome people from all walks of life – whether that be local college students, business people or residents who want to pop in to enjoy good food or an alcohol-free event. They also supplement their income by hiring out spaces for meetings.
Wherever there’s a recovery café, there’s a safe and supportive hub where people in recovery can re-build their lives, from peer support groups, to classes and social events and employment and voluntary opportunities. Recovery café culture is changing lives – it’s time for funders to recognise the work of such places to ensure their sustainability.
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