Support from ARC, Project 6 - 11/03/2021
‘I can honestly say that without support over lockdown I would have gone back to drinking, no question. I was recently sober when the pandemic hit, only about six months in and was just finding my feet and getting involved with groups and volunteering. I live alone, so there was no accountability at home. Nothing to stop me drinking really. The support I’ve been able to access has been life changing. It’s given me a purpose and a focus, and I’ve made friends for life’, how Project 6 ARC volunteer Ruth described her experiences of being in recovery during lockdown.
The Alcohol Recovery Community (ARC) on Abbeydale Road in Sheffield, provides hope, choice and opportunities for adults in or aiming for recovery, and runs a timetable of groups seven days a week with the help of volunteers who have lived experience and are in recovery of dependency.
Team Leader, Manja, explained how the project had to switch rapidly from face to face support to digital when the pandemic hit in March 2020. By April they were 100% online, providing a safe space for people to access support, seven days a week. The project volunteers are instrumental in supporting others. ‘They carried a lot as we were switching to online provision, and nurtured lots of people during that time. Community is a fundamental part of what we do here’, said Manja.
People can self refer or be referred to ARC, and are able to access several SMART meetings during the week. SMART stands for Self Management and Recovery Training, and is CBT based therapy. Delivery is via a peer support group with people at different stages of recovery, so there is an emphasis on mutual support, with the group creating their own agenda each meeting.
Rather than addressing clinical aspects of support, the team at ARC looks more widely at life changes that encompass self worth, confidence, meaningful, healthy relationships and wellbeing. Groups include yoga, mindfulness, mental health and opportunities to get outside into the Peak District for exercise, with a women only group established and a men only one being set up this year. As people make progress, they may begin to look at volunteering and training, and employment and education opportunities.
Many of the wellbeing activities and other groups are ideas that have come directly from the community. For example, the team set up a women only assertiveness group via Zoom because the women SMART group asked for this and it proved a very worthwhile, meaningful group over 3 months. With all of the support offered, the focus is on being flexible, looking to enable and trying new ideas.
ARC have recently started running an 11 session Structured Recovery Programme for people in early Recovery, have a volunteer development programme with various training and subsequent roles to support others, and volunteering and employment support with a new Progression Coaching Pathway called "New Horizons".
Manja explained the impact of lockdown on the project, saying, ‘our referrals tripled during the first lockdown, from 25-30 a month, up to 85-90. And interestingly, now we are seeing lockdown begin to ease, our referrals are going up again. People are beginning to address their drinking and how they will start to function again in the real world. It’s a scary time for lots of people’.
Ruth added, ‘all we hear at the moment is about people drinking, and how life is so stressful that we are all turning to drink. That’s not a helpful narrative, it’s not what we need to see on the adverts and all over the internet. There are lots of people who need support, and someone to listen to them, and that’s what we do.’
You can find out more about ARC, and how to refer here: https://project6.org.uk/arc/
Alison Wise for Help us Help, March 2021