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Norfolk Christian charity offers next steps to recovery

A new recovery centre officially opens this week in Norwich. Run by The Matthew Project, the £1m centre provides people in recovery from addiction a vital community in which to thrive and move on with their lives. Helen Baldry reports.

A year of major renovation work has seen the former industrial unit on Oak Street transformed into a safe and welcoming space, divided off into rooms for specific functions, including group training, one-to-one therapy, a fitness studio, IT suite, a workshop, kitchen area and cafe.

The first of its kind in Norfolk, ‘Next Steps’ will officially open its doors this week, although it has been operating throughout 2019 amid the building work, supporting around 50 people per month.  

The team are excited that the renovations are now complete and they look forward to supporting more people. Members of the local community who have time and skills to offer the project are particularly invited to get in contact.

Chief Executive Andy Sexton said, “Our strong Christian ethos inspires us and motivates what we do. We are totally inclusive and reach out to everyone with our service.”  

Drug misuse is a big issue both locally and nationally, and affects thousands of people in Norfolk each year. The relapse rate for substance misuse is typically between 40% and 60%, but this can rise to 90% for alcohol.

The community aspect of the Next Steps centre is very important. Recovery hub manager Graham Parfitt said that around 40 people a month leave treatment for drug and alcohol addiction in Norwich and that the relapse rates are very high.

Graham said, “The greatest risk to a person’s recovery from addiction is isolation. People will be able to receive the vital ongoing support they need by belonging to the positive community here.”  

Referrals come from local agencies such as CGL, St Martins, Hope Into Action, City Reach and the NHS. More and more people are self-referring and find out about the centre by word of mouth.

People don’t have to have completely abstained from drugs and alcohol in order to come to Next Steps, but they need to be stable in their use of substances and working towards reducing their intake. The centre will also support children affected by parental substance misuse and there are plans to hold children and youth groups.

An element of the work of The Matthew Project is ‘Outside the Wire’, a service for army veterans. Recovery practitioner Justin Smith works on this project, often with veterans who suffer from PTSD. To cope with the trauma they have experienced, sometimes after medication has become ineffective, some of Justin’s clients self-medicate with alcohol.

Justin Smith with a client in one of the counselling rooms

The team provide one-to-one sessions and help people to develop coping mechanisms and strategies to move forward. All of the team are ex-service personnel, meaning they are best placed to relate to and empathise with their clients.

‘Future focused’ is a buzzword at Next Steps and developing people’s employability skills is an important part of the work. There are opportunities to learn skills in customer service, IT, catering and other areas.

Somebody who benefited from the future focused attitude at The Matthew Project is Kay, a former drug addict who attended a recovery course, and then went on to become a volunteer for the charity . Kay is currently working at the Next Steps centre as an intern where she facilitates groups and helps run the recovery course.

Kay said, “When I got out of rehab I didn’t know what to do. Straight away, I got on a course [at The Matthew Project] and it gave me a purpose; a reason to get up in the morning. It gave me structure.”

Kay’s own experience has equipped her to help others in the same position. She said, “I’ve been through exactly the same thing and I can show that there is hope. I see each person as they actually are – as a valued person and I know what they need is encouragement and praise.”

Lorie Lain-Rogers is a trustee of The Matthew Project and also a woodwork teacher. She volunteers in the well equipped workshop area to help people develop practical skills. It is hoped that furniture upcycling projects and bicycle maintenance will develop and also provide an income stream for the centre.

Main photo:  Lorie Lain-Rogers in the workshop with a client

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