Drink and Drugs News DDN October 2018 | Page 16


The space to grow

Far away from the usual distractions , Kenward ’ s residents are given the chance of a new start . DDN reports

Turning away from the traffic of Maidstone , you take the narrowest and windiest of lanes and the longest and stoniest of drives until a vast Georgian mansion appears before you . This is the sight that confronted Wayne Smythe as he arrived at Kenward – just 30-odd miles but a whole other world away from his home in Plumstead , south London .

Fresh out of detox in November 2017 , he was given three options by the drug and alcohol team who sorted out his funding – the first on the list was Kenward . ‘ I said , I ’ m going there . It ’ s right in the middle of nowhere – you ’ ve got a long walk to the shops . You ’ ve got a long time to think what you ’ re doing ,’ he says . Wayne ’ s struggle was with alcohol , and he had ‘ died from it twice ’. A year earlier , in the run-up to Christmas , ‘ they gave me five days to live ,’ he says . ‘ It was my last chance . Basically , I can ’ t pick up another drink , and if I do I ’ m six foot under .’
After ’ 32 years of the drink ’ ( he ’ s nearly 42 now ), he had to learn to walk again , to speak properly , and to write . ‘ I was writing like a four-year-old ,’ he says , ‘ so I ’ ve had to rebuild myself .’
Still wobbly – he had been walking with a zimmer frame until three weeks before – he arrived at Kenward , finally realising he needed help . ‘ I tried to do it my way and couldn ’ t ,’ he says . ‘ When I arrived , I wanted to get back out drinking again , but I forced myself to stay there – and I ’ m glad I did .’
The first week was all about survival – ‘ I was just taking five minutes at a time .’ After a week , he felt like he had stabilised a little bit , ‘ I was still falling asleep in every group – I just couldn ’ t stay awake . I was still listening , but I was drifting off . They were very tolerant and helped me through that .’
He was grateful that Kenward ‘ took me at my own pace ’. ‘ Sometimes I wanted to be on my own , but it was nice to interact with other people on the same sort of level ,’ he says . ‘ It was very difficult at first , because I didn ’ t know what to do or what normal life was like .’
One-to-one sessions were mixed with therapy in a group with people at different stages of their recovery . In the early stages , he needed help with every move , ‘ because I was incapable of making my own decisions ’. But as he settled into his three-month programme , he began to explore his surroundings and his options for activities .
Kenward ’ s residents have the opportunity to work in a social enterprise three days a week , maintaining the beautiful gardens , tending the animals – including a very friendly group of alpacas – making arts and crafts in the workshop , restoring furniture or working in the onsite Sage and Time Café .
‘ I knew skills – I was a builder – and when I started to come round and get my brain into action , I was helping out with the enterprise ,’ says Wayne . The talking and the recovery continued alongside his work . ‘ They were inspiring me to open up a bit more than I was used to ,’ he says . ‘ They were encouraging me to do that .’ His knowledge and skills were perfect for contributing to the vast Georgian house ’ s refurbishment , and gave him much-needed confidence . ‘ You start to rebuild your life ,’ he says .
Since February Wayne has been living in a ‘ dry house ’ – a part of Kenward ’ s move-on accommodation – where he is doing the garden and some paintwork , while preparing for stage three . When the year ’ s up next February , he will move across the road and be supported for another two years in his transition back to the wider community . In the move-on house , ‘ you ’ re mainly left to your own devices ’ but have the support of other residents and can attend regular groups . There ’ s also professional support on hand ‘ if ever you need it ’.
Looking back , Wayne cannot believe how far he has come and is filled with gratitude to those who helped him . ‘ What I was like last year , to what I am now , is complete change ,’ he says . ‘ When I look back at pictures of me in hospital … I hope my story helps someone else out .’
16 | drinkanddrugsnews | October 2018 www . drinkanddrugsnews . com