Recovering alcoholic from Chorley close to giving up sets up recovery group for others
A recovering alcoholic from Chorley who would have "died if he kept on drinking" is now helping others at a recovery centre for addiction.
Steve Downie, 54, who has been sober for almost two years, is using his experience of reaching rock bottom to help other addicts at a Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery Group, held every two weeks at watchUSgrow community hub on Gillibrand Street.
Wanting to give something back to the people of Chorley who helped him find his feet again, Steve qualified to facilitate the recovery groups by hiring a room to run his sessions, with the help of former drug addict Andrea Horrocks who set up the charitable organisation four years ago.
The first group was held in April and this week reached its 100 member milestone, on the SMART Recovery Chorley Facebook group.
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Steve said: "I always knew that I had the capability to run groups and so trained with SMART. I would like to raise awareness of the help available to people who are in recovery from addictions like myself and to let them know that there is support out there.
"It's a fantastic way of showing people that recovery is achievable."
How did Steve become dependant on alcohol?
Explaining his journey to sobriety which has taken him through three rehabilitation centres, Steve said: "I had my first drink at the age of 16 and both of my parents were heavy drinkers and so it became a learned behaviour as a result.
"I then moved to Liverpool and got a YTS bench hand joinery apprenticeship which led me to then work away from home. In working away, shopfitting, there was a heavy drinking culture.
"I would work all day and then head to the pub for tea and then repeat this for six weeks at a time. I did this for two years. It was normal back then.
"I then settled and led a normal life, just drinking at the weekend."
Steve went on to work in site management and this is when he "spiralled out of control".
He added: "I would have a drink nearly every night as I found it a release from the pressures of site management.
"I was a functioning alcoholic. I used to hide alcohol in my car, at home, in Lucozade bottles as they were wrapped in a full label so you couldn't see it. I'd eat mints and chew gum all day."
Despite the hold alcohol had over him, Steve continued being successful at work, rising up the ranks to senior construction manager.
However, being promoted had the opposite affect, thus creating more stress and anxiety.
To then ease the pressure he drank more and more until one day he was asked to attend a meeting with a senior manager.
How did he get sober?
"His first words to me were 'You are an alcoholic', to which I replied how do you know? and he responded with 'because my wife is one and I recognise the behaviour'.
"He told me to go seek help which I did and six weeks later I came out and thought that I was okay and I went back to work but I was micromanaged and was paid off to leave."
Feeling the strain, Steve started to drink again.
"My drink of choice was always two to three bottles of wine.
"My friend Mark visited me one day and we put an action plan together and I started to rebuild my life.
"I volunteered at my local drugs and alcohol service and decided that my future was within addiction services.
"I wanted to run groups and got in touch with SMART Recovery about theirs.
"I really liked what I saw and heard and became a SMART Recovery Facilitator.
"We hired a room at WatchUsgrow in Chorley and have been running them since May.
"Being able to facilitate these, with my volunteer colleague, Emma Haworth is amazing.
"It is so inspiring to be able to share my addiction life story with others and more so, my recovery story.
"To be that shining light, we're people can look at me and think, if he can do it so can I.
"SMART views addiction as a behavioural problem that can be corrected, not a condition that defines a person's identity."
Even though the demon drink is never far from his mind, Monday, August 8, will mark Steve's two year anniversary of being alcohol free.
"I have always wanted to share my life stories with others, in the hope, that I can provide them with inspiration to stay on the right path.
"It is my time now to help others recover from their addictions."
If you are struggling with addiction and need someone to talk you can drop into the centre without an appointment.