None of us went into 2020 expecting a global pandemic and the many ways in which it changed our lives. Maddie Kitchen, founder of Sobriety Films UK, takes a look back at the year and how she adapted her work to support those in recovery during lockdown.
2020 will be remembered as the year where both nothing and everything seemed to happen at once. All our lives have been altered by the pandemic in some shape or form; from cancelled holidays to bereavement, job loss to new ways of working. It’s been a year of great change.
It gives me strength to acknowledge that I haven’t had to turn to alcohol throughout the pandemic and shows just how far I’ve come on my own journey. I got sober in the summer of 2006 after the World Cup brought me to my knees and I had to admit that I hadn’t seen any of it because I was too drunk. Recovery is a massive leap of faith, a complete reworking of our behaviour and it is the most transformative and life affirming decision anyone could make.
During my 14 years in recovery from alcohol dependence, I have learnt many tools to maintain and develop my sobriety. One thing is for sure, I would never have been able to do it alone. As I have come to know, change and growth is painful, and at times can feel like a trial by fire.
If you remained sober this year, I want you to take a moment to celebrate the fact that you have made it through the most difficult year of our lifetimes without alcohol. If you relapsed or began to drink heavily this year, I want you to take a moment to recognise the strength you have in continuing to seek help and remember that your journey is not over yet.
In 2020, while running Zoom filmmaking workshops with Sobriety Films UK (SFUK) with people in recovery from alcohol dependence, the themes of resilience, acceptance and hope kept surfacing. I saw people relapsing, heard of people dying or over dosing, having no money, losing loved ones, becoming homeless, experiencing domestic violence and relationship break downs. It felt very strangely familiar to me, and to a lot of people in recovery, who had been through these experiences before the pandemic. It felt like the rest of the country now knew what it was like to face these challenges and find a way to cope.
Through my Zoom portal on the world, I worked with people affected by addiction in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, who engaged with SFUK to discover their inherent creativity using film. Learning the skills to shoot their own story on a smartphone provided an outlet and an enjoyable distraction from the world around them and any thoughts of relapse.
I will never forget the team of volunteers who joined me, all aged under 25, who helped us engage with people who had just arrived in rehab during lockdown, those isolated behind their front doors and those toughing it out on the streets.
The workshops also helped me to stay sober. It’s been the most incredible lesson in humanity and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. In fact, it would make a great film. Watch this space.
Over my own 14 years in recovery, I’ve seen hundreds of broken people regain their self-esteem and confidence, get their jobs back, their families, their friends and become fully functioning members of society. There is so much support out there now and the stigma is much reduced as the world has been shown, we are all susceptible to addiction and mental ill health.
I can’t tell you to give up alcohol, the decision has to be yours. All I can say is this is what I have now: to be able to wake up in the morning with a clear head and contemplate the day ahead with excitement and to have the ability to form deep and meaningful relationships with family, friends and community.
Most New Year’s Resolutions end up being dropped quickly, but with campaigns like Dry January and an abundance of online Zoom and physical services and support meetings to help people stop drinking, I believe that a large number of people will choose to move away from their nightly bottle of wine or six pack in 2021. There’s never been a better time to give up drinking and start living. Life is short, seize the day and make this year your best yet.
SFUK will be having a busy 2021. Our entry to the World Health Organization’s ‘Health For All Film Festival’ goes in at the end of January. We will also start preproduction for our feature length documentary about addiction and young people. We’ll continue to roll out the therapeutic recovery filmmaking workshops that were so successful in lockdown to disengaged and isolated participants, especially women and young people. Finally, we plan to produce the first ever UK Recovery Film Festival 2021, screening exciting and exploratory films about recovery from addiction, mental ill health and trauma.
Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year.
Written by Maddie Kitchen
Sobriety Films UK is a non-profit community interest company run by people with lived experience of alcohol dependancy. You can find out more on their website or follow them on Instagram: Sobriety_Films and Twitter: @UkSobriety
If you are worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, there is help available to you. Speak with your GP about what support might be available to you or someone you are concerned about. This is a great first step in finding help.
Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. Calls are free and confidential. Call 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9.00am to 8.00pm, weekends 11.00am to 4.00pm).
More information about organisations which offer help and support can be found on the Alcohol Change UK website.
This blog was published with the permission of the author. The views expressed are solely the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Alcohol Health Alliance or its members.