DDN May 2023 DDN May_2023 | Page 18



The Writing for our lives project shows the power of creative expression in recovery , says Claire Jakeman

Jody Lee struggled with drink and drugs for 20- plus years . During that time , and through his subsequent recovery , the one thing that has remained constant in Jody Lee ’ s life was his love of poetry , which he now uses to help others .

Lee ’ s raw , honest and inspiring poems are part of a series of poems and illustrations from people with experience of mental health or drug and alcohol problems that have been collected in a book titled , Writing for our lives . The book , which aims to a shine a spotlight on the role that expressive arts can play in the road to recovery , was
launched at the Victoria Library in London in March .
Lee , who is known as The Skinny Poet , appeared on the World at One on BBC Radio 4 to promote the book and explained how writing kept him ‘ connected ’ to part of himself during his 20- year struggle with cocaine and heroin addiction .
‘ Poetry helps me to be able to express myself with some of the things that I struggled with , some of the dark parts of my addiction , my anger , my fear , my selfdestructive tendencies ,’ he says . ‘ To be able to express these in a creative and healthy way helped me deal with the sadness and grief I felt over the time I ’ ve lost
through my addiction . By sharing this work with other people who ’ ve been through that process as well , they really seem to connect to it , which is what pushed me to share it with others .’
Lee grew up in a house were drugs were ‘ readily available ’, as his father was a drug dealer . He started drinking and smoking cannabis at 13 . It then progressed to speed , cocaine and eventually heroin , and any other drugs he could get his hands on . ‘ It was just completely normal to me ,’ says Lee . ‘ Drinking and drug taking was just a way of life . I watched my dad and all of his friends do it . Most people I knew did it .’
The Road to Hope
By Jody Lee
I put my first foot on the road , Do I dare to hope ? This road is long and curved and slow , It ’ s nothing like the road I know . The road I know has cracks and holes And traps that swallow people whole , It ’ s overgrown and dark and cold , Devoid of any hope . This new road before me shines , No cracks or traps or tangled vines , Just signs that glow with warmth and light Saying : this way to find hope . My hope lay broke in chaos ’ course , I ’ d paused my dreams and closed all doors . I ’ d crawled from love and curled in corners , Bound up in a rope . Now the road looks clean and clear ; Though hunger lurks and shadows leer , The shame they creep on , Pain they feast on ,
Fear and suffering they leech from , All this dwindles as I keep on Down this road of hope . Now every step reveals more light , Makes hopelessness seem less to fight , With tests of courage , tests of pride , I carry on in hope .
Now here I stand with open hands , Where hope once slipped my palms like sand , I cemented a sure-footed land To build on with real hope . Each junction walked ’ s connection formed , Each corner turned ; a turning point . Each new step takes my journey forward Furthermore to hope . I put my next foot on the road , It may be long and curved and slow , But step by step my strength will grow And now I dare to hope .