Hello, my name is Mandy, I am the team leader at our recovery refuge and for our family refuge, and I have worked for Next Chapter for 17 years.

On April 1st 2019 Next Chapter opened their recovery refuge, which is a refuge for single women that have experienced domestic abuse and have substance misuse.  Although I have worked there for many years, it was a very big learning curve for us all.

There is no such thing as a typical day at the Recovery Refuge but there are a host of regular tasks such as supervising medication, monitoring for abstinence and keeping the place safe, answering the phone/door, a resident needing to speak to someone etc. and as much as you may plan your day, it will often move in a different direction to your plan.  If you don’t pay enough attention to these, you can be as creative as you like but you will be working in chaos.  The work in between these regular tasks though, is reacting to what is most important to the clients on the day, and what helps the residents in their recovery.  It can be an apparently casual chat with someone in the hallway/garden that can be a point of change when they choose to address something fundamental.  Opportunities like that may not present in more formal meetings.  The Recovery Refuge works to the extent it is a functioning community and maintaining that, relies on the hard work of both staff and residents.

Before COVID 19, having a lie in was not part of the Recovery Refuge routine, residents are expected to be up and dressed to have breakfast in the lounge,  the refuge workers also attend breakfast and we discuss the residents appointments/activities for that day so that appointments are not missed.  Part of the recovery process centres on developing new, healthy habits and routines, and working with our specialist drug and alcohol worker from Open Road who is based at the refuge.  Residents need to come into recovery refuge with an open mind and be willing to work with professionals, to aid their recovery.  Recovery can be a lonely place for them and staff have to remind them that they are there for themselves and nobody else.

Drugs and alcohol are just a coping strategy.  Nobody sets out with the intention of being an addict.  It’s because of trauma that you have experienced, or because you don’t like yourself, it’s never just one thing.

Many people who we work with have low expectations of agencies that help in general and it can be a challenge to your creativity to disrupt these preconceptions.  Working one to one with people in crisis is a journey of discovery about yourself as well as the client.  You are often with someone who has run out of options, run out of bridges to burn, so you are meeting them in a fairly raw state.  There does need to be a practical aspect to recovery – you can’t just talk your way out of an addiction.

I find it rewarding when a client begins to take off on a journey to change their circumstances, when they decide to take the first practical step forward, however small.

  

Once our residents have settled in and stabilized their addictions we can work with them to deal with the issues around domestic abuse.  Although doing a safety plan is really important from day one, these particular residents don't always see the risks around the domestic abuse as their lives are so entrenched around their addictions.

Other things we do in our roles as Domestic Abuse Practitioners is to assist with housing, benefits, budgeting, attending appointments, key-work support sessions, and referrals to other agencies, but the biggest thing by far is to listen and give guidance and have some compassion as most of them have been dismissed by other professionals in the past because of their addictions.

The one thing I can say is the job is very varied, every day is different, the team I work with is amazing and we are all really supportive of each other, which is why I enjoy the job I do.