Derbyshire forces veteran marks two years sobriety with celebration recovery walk featured image
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Derbyshire forces veteran marks two years sobriety with celebration recovery walk

A forces veteran has marked being two years’ sober by joining Growing Lives participants to celebrate the huge personal efforts involved in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Ex RAF diagnostic radiographer Ryan Williams, of Swadlincote, has been sober since September 2020. He sought help when years of alcohol addiction tore through his whole life, wrecking his marriage, losing him his job and his home, as well as damaging the nerves in his leg so badly he now walks with a stick.

He recently joined members of Derventio’s Growing Lives project, who celebrated National Recovery Month with a series of activities ending in a four-mile walk taking in the Bennerley Viaduct, which re-opened to the public early in 2022.

Ryan said:

In the early days of recovery, you ask yourself: ‘Is it worth it?’ Physically, it is painful. Then there are the mental aspects too. It took me a good four months from my last drink for things like my manual dexterity to return, for the shaking to stop.

If you’ve been a heavy drinker, once you make the decision to stop, you have to put as much effort into recovery as you did into your addiction. I have tried to quit drinking before 2020, but it was always to appease others. True recovery is only achieved when you do it for yourself.

I feel that National Recovery Month is a celebration for me to say: ‘Well done Ryan’.

Ryan joined members of Ilkeston-based Growing Lives – a project which aims to build confidence in people referred to its services to help their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction – through a Chesterfield-based charity: DAAS – STAND TO Derbyshire Veteran Community Services, which offers a range of services for ex-forces personnel, including alcohol support, recovery and tackling isolation.

AJ Wilcox, wellbeing project officer for STAND TO, who was at the recovery walk at Growing Lives, said:

Being ex-military, we always enjoy being outside in the fresh air. The exercise is good and it’s a helpful way to chat to people too, rather than having a conversation inside four walls. It’s been nice to come out and mix with the guys from Growing Lives.

Ryan added:

This is the third time I’ve been at Growing Lives. It’s great that it gives us opportunities to do different things, and the people are really friendly too. I made a garden trug here in the workshop once and gave it to my mum for Christmas. She was blown away to receive something I had made.

The series of activities to mark Recovery Month also included a trip to St George’s Park in Burton-on-Trent to play walking football and a Rockboxathon Recovery Fest.

At Derventio, people who go along to the Growing Lives sessions in Ilkeston also take part in weekly walks to enjoy exercise in the fresh air and chatting with one another in a relaxed setting. The organisation’s focus on outdoor exercise for its participants has recently seen it recently crowned runner-up in the project category at the Active Lives in Erewash Awards.

Jackie Carpenter, assistant director of strategy at Derventio Housing Trust, said:

Every day is a recovery day with us at Growing Lives, but there is something so positive for people who are turning their lives away from drugs and alcohol to take a moment to reflect on their achievements. Recovery Month enables them to do just that.

Recovery is tough. It’s painful, and there can be setbacks along the way. The team at Growing Lives go for a walk together once a week and I know that people who use our services find it a real highlight of their visits here. It’s a great way of forging friendships and relaxing, and of course getting some gentle exercise in the fresh air too. It helps people get a new perspective on things. So it was very appropriate that we finished off our Recovery Month activities with one of our favourite walks over the Bennerley Viaduct.