Building a life full of purpose

Lucy graduated from the NEXT Project in 2015 and now manages Your Voice, the Confident Recovery campaigns programme at Phoenix Futures. She shares her reflections on finding purpose in recovery and running towards her future.

What did doing the NEXT Project teach you about yourself?

NEXT taught me that I have an existence outside of myself, if that makes sense. I am quite an introverted person, and spend a lot of the time “inside my own head”. I realised that this has an impact on other people and how I come across to them.

How did you continue your development after completing the course?

After NEXT I trained and volunteered as a mentor for VoiceAbility, a charity that supports people who face disadvantage or discrimination to stand up for their rights.

How did you start gaining experience in the substance misuse field?

Although I started NEXT wanting to become a drugs worker, I realised as the course went on that this wasn’t the only option available to me, and actually wasn’t where my skills lie. Looking honestly at my strengths and weaknesses, I discovered that I am not that patient – a necessary skill for a drugs worker! Although I can work on those areas, I realised that a support worker role might not be enjoyable and rewarding, whereas something in communications or marketing – where I had a strong skills set – would allow me to build on qualities I already have.

On a practical level, there was very little funding available to pursue a further Level 3 qualification in Health & Social Care, so all the more reason to look at applying and developing my existing skills and experience in the field more broadly, as opposed to starting in a new role from the bottom somewhere…

So how did you go about finding a job that was right for you?

Towards the end of NEXT a woman from Blenheim came to talk to our group about volunteering opportunities and I told her I was interested in communications. She took my details and offered to put me in touch with the Comms department to see about getting some volunteering experience there, which I did. It wasn’t long before a position opened up and I was encouraged to apply having identified that this was an area I was good at and enjoyed.

The other thing is that I suppose I was – and still am – mindful of is a desire to focus on my own recovery as opposed to getting drawn into trying to save or rescue others. It’s challenging enough, working in the sector, to be reminded daily of painful past experiences, and I wouldn’t want to work “frontline” for that reason. Campaigning has the potential to change lives by challenging stigma, raising voices, involving people, making a massive difference to policies and services affecting people who face disadvantage and discrimination, so I am passionate about my work.

Were there any other obstacles you’ve had to overcome in building a purposeful and rewarding life?

Overcoming the stigma I hold towards myself has been the main challenge. I was worried how I would explain my absence, or my abstinence, to people I worked with. I have scars on my arms from when I used to self-harm and that’s been a huge personal barrier to overcome. Running has completely changed my relationship with my body and with myself. It’s given me confidence in my body; it’s taught me it has worth and value. Just knowing that my body can run a marathon is amazing! It’s also given me a sense of accomplishment outside of “recovery”. It’s transformed my life and I love it. It’s so easy and accessible – all you need is a pair of trainers!

If you were giving advice to someone moving on in their recovery or trying to start a career, what would you suggest?

Experiment! Try as many different experiences you can with as many different people. You can always go back to what you comfortable with, but you don’t know how many doors can open up for you until you seek them out. It might be yoga, art, pottery, reading, teaching…Don’t be afraid to give things a go and spend time doing what you love and enjoy.

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