How a unique partnership between Turning Point residential drug treatment services and Community Rail Cumbria is transforming the lives of service users…
On a cold February day a few years ago, a group of residents from Turning Point’s Stanfield House residential drug treatment service were painting an old and neglected fence at Harrington railway station in West Cumbria. A neighbour came out of her house with a tray of tea and biscuits. She asked what the group were up to and two of the residents shared that they were undergoing rehab. Painting a fence made them feel better – it gave them a sense of achievement and was their way of giving back. This was the beginning of the Railway Journey to Recovery, a partnership between Turning Point and Community Rail Cumbria.
One part of the Railway Journey to Recovery programme is the Green Road project. Running since 2017, it involves weekly visits to Green Road railway station where residents tend to the hedgerows and flowerbeds, feed the birds and maintain the station buildings. Involvement in the project has seen a profound change in the confidence and self-esteem of residents.
Alcohol and substance misuse can so often lead to isolation. As an addiction grows, people are increasingly likely to develop a lack of self-worth, retreat from society and lose ties with their families, their friends and their communities. Turning Point’s detox and rehab services recognise that a major part of recovery is breaking down the stigma of substance misuse and helping people feel good about being in the community again. Many have forged such a connection with the local landscape and community as part of their recovery that they have relocated to Cumbria after completing their treatment programme.
Weekly visits to Green Road were pivotal to Harriet’s recovery while at Stanfield House: ‘When I first entered rehab I was in a very dark and isolated place. I was very scared, and I really struggled. I was in a very controlling relationship for ten years and through my drug addiction I lost my home, I lost my job and I lost the custody of my daughter. I’d given up. I eventually asked for help through Turning Point and I’m so grateful. The actual journey to Green Road gives you time to reflect on how far you’ve come. And arriving at Green Road and seeing the work that’s put in and the dedication from everyone else is amazing. My heart belongs to Stanfield House. It always will. The journey has changed my life.’
As much as the railway connects people to the landscapes, the views, and nature, it also connects them to the community and each other. Buying a ticket, learning to understand a rail timetable, a chat with the guard or a wave from the driver, walks from one station to the next, appreciating the environment and local wildlife, alleviating anxiety in crowded places, learning new skills and reviving old ones – these all play a fundamental role in the rehabilitation process at Turning Point residential drug treatment service Stanfield House.
Residents past and present have used the train window not simply to view the passing landscapes but also as a metaphor – to frame the problems of the past, put into perspective the challenges and reality of the present, or to visualise and make real their hopes for a future free from alcohol or drugs.
At 52, Margaret entered rehab following a long history of severe domestic violence. At Stanfield House, she discovered new skills and developed a deep love of gardening, transforming an unkempt area in the gardens into a productive flower and vegetable patch, and introducing her home grown produce into weekly picnics at Green Road. Margaret is now back in her home town, alcohol free and thriving in recovery.