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Former addict from Sittingbourne hopes Recovery Week can remove stigma of alcohol and drug addiction

Most people try their first drop of alcohol as a teenager, either under their parent's supervision or with friends.

Jamie Chaney, 48, from Sittingbourne, discovered whisky at the age of eight.

Mr Chaney first got a taste for alcohol at the age of 8
Mr Chaney first got a taste for alcohol at the age of 8

"I tasted it and it was disgusting," he said, "but what it did to me was euphoric, you know?

"I drank to blackout at the age of eight, on whisky. I never did it continuously up until the age of 13-14,then was drinking daily from then up to the age of about 30."

Mr Chaney found himself addicted to alcohol and drugs, spiralling out of control and ending up in prison for brief stints through his 20s.

Then, at 32-years-old, he suffered a stroke, which went undetected for seven weeks, caused by heavy alcohol and cocaine use.

He said: "I was brought home from a public house having collapsed and lay there for three days.

Mr Chaney talks about his experiences with addiction on The KM Community Podcast

"Fortunately enough my cousin came around and found me having seizures and fits on the floor, called the ambulance and I ended up in Medway (hospital)."

Mr Chaney battled with suicidal thoughts before finding himself on the path to recovery.

He said: "The suicide tape was playing quite a lot towards the end. I didn't seem to have a way out.

"No one had the right answers. I wanted to be fixed instantly, like the alcohol and drugs had done in the past."

The Recovery Lodge is based in Sittingbourne
The Recovery Lodge is based in Sittingbourne

Mr Chaney eventually realised he needed to try to get clean so he could turn his life around.

Once in recovery, he decided to use his traumatic experiences to help others overcome the throes of addiction.

He said: "This is where my passion is, because it saved my life and and we're doing the same for others on a daily basis and seeing the light come on.

"And they're having that light bulb moment and the realisation that they are the problem, not their mum or dad, or anyone else."

Mr Chaney opened the Recovery Lodge in Sittingbourne in 2016, a private rehabilitation unit dedicated to getting addicts back on the path to health.

The centre offers different paths to getting clean, from 10-day detox plans to full four-week courses.

The lodge is a place for addicts to meet one another and look to get clean
The lodge is a place for addicts to meet one another and look to get clean

Some people have stayed as long as three months, taking advantage of the counsellors and being around people also struggling with addiction.

Now open for almost four years, Mr Chaney has organised a Recovery Week across social media to break down the stigma of addiction, and remind people of how hard it is to live with the illness.

He said: "It's about trying to become united and make people aware, it's a unity of people.

"Everyone in their family must have someone who suffers from some form of addiction so it's trying to make everyone aware, the families, the mums and dads, the brothers and sisters."

The Centre for Social Justice published a report earlier this year, concluding one third of drug overdose deaths happen in the UK.

It also said just 2% of more than 400,000 gamblers across the country are being treated.

Julian Gilmore is one of the counsellors at the Recovery Lodge
Julian Gilmore is one of the counsellors at the Recovery Lodge

Julian Gilmore, 67, became an addiction counsellor after recovering from the illness himself.

He said: "In the end my drinking damaged every aspect of my life - my romantic life, my emotional life, my intellectual life.

"It cut into every area and became the most important thing. That's what happens in addiction, it becomes the most important thing."

Mr Gilmore believes residential treatment is the only effective way to overcome addiction, and wants to see the government put more effort into funding this kind of support rather than drop-in centres.

He said: "In my experience, those things are almost entirely ineffective.

"I've heard that it costs £150,000 a year to keep somebody in prison.
"Now if you don't offer treatment for people who suffer from addiction, which by our reckoning is 10 to 15% of the population, then inevitably what people will do is they will re-offend and they will end up in jail."

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