'If my partner hadn't died, I'd still be a heroin addict': Life-saving #WatchUsGrow hub changing and saving lives in Chorley
It was three years ago that Andrea Horrocks' life changed completely. Caught in the 'hamster wheel' of heroin addiction for 30 years, the sudden death of Andrea's partner in a motorcycle accident led her to reform her life and get clean.
It also led her to create #WatchUsGrow, a non-profit community hub open to those who are in recovery from addiction or who are grappling with mental health issues or isolation.
Serving to empower people to take control of their health and well-being in order to transform their lives, the service is ably staffed by a small army of selfless volunteers, the vast majority of whom are former addicts, lending #WatchUsGrow's support a unique degree of empathy and understanding.
Having started life as a meal service run out of St. Laurence's Church, #WatchUsGrow has since opened their own branch on Gillibrand Street in Chorley which is open five days a week. What's more, having taken on responsibility to meet local need for things like food parcels during the first lockdown, the charity is showing no signs of slowing in their growth.
"The new space has been brilliant, it's just what Chorley needs," says Andrea, 54. "We're here to help people move forward and make connections instead of being sat at home scratching their heads about what to do next. It's been manic since we opened, but it's always been my dream to have this place to help people and we've made it happen. Our door's always open.
"Our volunteers can offer empathy because they know what they're talking about and they understand what you're going through," she adds. "The road to recovery is hard graft, but it's better than being on that hamster wheel of drugs and, if you want recovery, we're here. We just want to help."
A crucial touchstone for many, #WatchUsGrow now has a registered mental health nurse and a drug and alcohol counsellor as well as providing a full timetable of support groups, including cocaine, narcotics, and alcoholics anonymous meetings. Through their food bank, the branch also provides free lunches courtesy of donations from local chippies, Morrisons, and Asda.
No referral is needed to attend - everyone is welcome to turn up to access support in their recovery or to alleviate the impacts of mental health issues or isolation, with the branch even hosting coffee mornings and mindful painting sessions. A core tenet shines through with #WatchUsGrow: if people are ready to accept help, the hub is there to offer it.
"I was sent to rehabs and detoxes by my family, but I never went because I wanted to, hence why it never worked: you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink," says Andrea, from Chorley. "If my partner hadn't died, I'd still be in that cycle myself because it's hard to get out, but you've got to want it.
"When I got clean, it was all boring - I thought 'is this what recovery's about?'" she adds, with the hub supported by Chorley Eats, Livesey's Funeral Directors, Daniel Adams Recruitment Centre, Chorley Decks Ltd, and Nature Trail Nursery. "But the further into recovery you go, the more doors open. I'd never go back to that life now because it's not a life, it's an existence.
"It breaks my heart when I see people still in that addiction and, while we get people from all different walks of life in here, we always offer the same compassion and empathy."
When Andrea's partner tragically died, she moved in with her mother, asking her to lock her in her room so she could detox and get things back on track. She ended up staying three years, but Andrea now realises that that's just what she needed and is on a mission to offer the same support for others in the same predicament.
"At the time, going back to where me and my partner lived just brought back memories of us smoking drugs," says Andrea. "Now, I'm where I want to be now and it's brilliant."
#WatchUsGrow is holding a fundraising disco at 2pm on Saturday August 28th at St. Peter's Church Hall for which local businesses have donated raffle prizes, while there will also be a buffet, a DJ, party games, face-painting, and a bouncy castle. Entry is free for adults and £2 for kids.