26th June is the United Nation`s International Day Against Drug Abuse & Illicit Trafficking (“World Drug Day”) and the Poet in Residence at Wolverhampton`s WCR FM wants everyone in the city to understand what that means.
“The day is an expression of the UN`s determination to strengthen action and co-operation to achieve the goal of a society free of drug abuse” said Ian Henery, Poet in Residence.
International days are occasions to share information on issues of concern, to mobilise political will and resources to address problems and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity.
“In Wolverhampton”, explained Ian Henery “are many community-minded people working extremely hard in the fight to battle the major problem that illicit drugs represents to society. Drugs problems are a complex issue that affects many people in our diverse community. People in the grip of an addiction face stigma and discrimination which can further harm their physical and mental health and prevent them accessing the help they need”.
World Drug Day is marked to strengthen action and co-operation in achieving communities free of drugs. The aim of this year`s campaign is to raise awareness about the importance of treating people who use drugs with respect and empathy, offering alternatives to punishment, prioritising prevention and leading with compassion. The campaign also aims to combat stigma and discrimination against people who use drugs by promoting language and attitudes that are respectful and non judgemental.
During the 2023 Wolverhampton Literature Festival, organised by Wolverhampton City Council, WCR FM hosted 3 days of free activities for all the family in the Mander Centre in the city. One of the community partners who supported WCR FM was SUIT – a Wolverhampton-based drug and alcohol service called Service User Involvement Team. SUIT is a multi-award winning service that is also part of the Wolverhampton Voluntary & Community Service.
“SUIT is very much part of the Wolverhampton community” said Ian Henery. “All of their staff and volunteers have personal and first hand lived experience of drug and alcohol issues and offer hope and empowerment to those that have been affected by addiction.”
During the Wolverhampton Literature Festival SUIT`s platform was called Voices of Recovery and was a volunteer and service user led project to provide a spoken word installation under the guidance of Christiane Jenkins who is now a PhD Researcher at the University of Wolverhampton. Using a model of creative arts-based mutual aid at the Recovery Hub participants found inspiration from music, lyrics, spoken word and poetry to produce creative writing that focused on their experiences of addiction and was designed to offer structured support to help people faced with the challenge of substance abuse.
“The therapeutic properties of creative writing have a significant relationship with health and wellbeing” said Christiane Jenkins “and when used alongside other pathways to recovery and rehabilitation are shown to regulate internal and emotional states. Service users and volunteers shared their experiences of creative writing as a tool for relapse prevention, mutual support, social connectedness and self confidence. An important aspect of this work was to leave a legacy of creative inspiration for service users and show how the arts can be a starting point for focus and achievement.”
Ian Henery has run poetry workshops with SUIT in Wolverhampton for people in recovery from their addictions. During the Wolverhampton Literature Festival he was invited to read one of the poems he based his workshops upon and here it is for World Drugs Day:
Voices of Recovery
No iambic pentameter,
No villanelle or roundelay,
Rhyming arrangements or closed forms
Just words about empowerment,
Words of joyous recovery;
Words about hope, love and healing:
Rebirth and an awakening:
Honest words about how you feel
These words of recovery
– Ian Henery