“It was 1998 when I first went the kaleidoscope project. It was started in 1968 – allegedly the first place in England to provide methadone to users, as a way to wean them off heroin. It’d been going already for decades when I walked in off the street and asked for help. When I began it was open from 6 30 in the morning till 10 at night. All day except from 5 till 6 30pm. It was great for people like me who worked (illegally of course) cos we could get our juice first thing and then I could get on site for 7 30. As well as a dispensary, they provided a hub. An all-day café with cheap hot food and coffee. And a place for the Kingston homeless to get in the warm off the streets for a bit. You could get counselling and referred for a detox that they provided upstairs in a separate part of the service. Signposted for help with housing. Lotsa needs were met. I myself just came in – grabbed me juice, in and out. All the staff were amazing. I was there from 1998 till 2012. I saw a lot of changes. They started reducing the opening hours. Opening later, closing earlier. Wider gaps in the middle of the day. They moved from the underground café to a new building above. Reducing the frontline staff, some who’d been there a very long time. They felt disheartened and let down.
The writing was on the wall… what happened in the end was everyone got pushed out to their local healthcare centres and GPs for scripts. Nearby chemists dispensed. Kaleidoscope closed in 2013.
I went to a different borough. I got my 2-week script from the DAAT team at Wilson hospital in Mitcham, and entered a day programme at the Macs Project, in Merton, the guys here were amazing. They got me funding for an in-house treatment.
Both Wilson and the Macs both stopped doing their substance use programmes in 2018.
My first detox was in Mill View hospital, in Brighton, early 2013. I’d been offered Mitcham park, but felt that it was too close to home. That I’d be able to maybe jump the wall when things got bad, and score within 10 minutes. Mill View had a fairly secure ward, right above a psychiatric unit, that was solely designated for substance detoxification. We’d watch out the windows these people behaving strangely, and moan they were trusted and had more freedom than we did. Tough as it was, I suppose I didn’t know how easy we had it then. These were the days of 2-week alcohol and one-month opiate detoxes. Someone I knew ended staying for nearly 7 weeks. Again, the staff were great. Everyone from the doctors and nurses, the support staff. Night workers. The volunteers. All with their own story’s. Reasons for why they choose this work. There’s no way of not bonding with these people.
Mill View hospital closed its detox in 2016. Mitcham Park, 2014
I went straight from Brighton to Oaklodge rehab in Wandsworth, London. Oaklodge was well established. I actually met clients in detox who said I was lucky I was going there (one of which was going to Trelawne house, which was sistered with Oaklodge) Oak lodge was run by a man named Dave Hoy, who had an amazing reputation in substance use. He was also a co-founder of Janus Day Programme (Janus Solutions). I had funding for 3 months. I found it so challenging, and tough. the programme severe. A taste of a different kind of treatment. I would freak out in group. I’d get long keyworks with Dave, where he’d stare at me, sad eyed but smirking while I would rant about terrorism , or aliens. Rather than talk about the reason that brought me there. Some people don’t want help despite what they say. I made excuses within days, walked after 2 weeks. Lapsed immediately.
Oaklodge closed its doors, I think! 2017. After years of rehabilitating users. Trelawne also.
I did my second, my last …. My final detox, at City Road in Angel, Islington. Four converted 4 story houses joined together in a row. It had been helping users for decades. We were all there for the soul shared purpose of getting dry, though onsite fellowship meetings happened daily and were encouraged. The staff there were terrific and helped me through a now standard 2 week methadone detox I was booked for. It was horrific enough – they kept me for 21 days. Giving me my last dose of juice the day before I left for Plymouth. Where I (oh boy) detoxed for real.
I de-habed at Closereach mens rehab, Plymouth in May- June 2017. An old converted 1600s schoolhouse. It had been going for years. Not apart from the surroundings the place was tremendous. Again, keyed in with fellowships, the amount of charity and input from the local addiction organisations were immense. And their support, time, commitment and dedication has helped so many people into recovery and on with their lives. Obviously not me cos I’m a complacent, thankless dickhead. I walked out after 2 months and used within hours. This speaks more to the kind of person I am than anything else.
City Road celebrated its 40th anniversary last year………… and closed its doors this month.
As did Closereach male house and Longreach, its female counterpart. They’re gone too.
I heard other day, that one borough is pulling funding for residential treatments, and only users who are so catastrophically in a bad way that they need hospital will be detoxed there and then, straight on a hospital ward. The rest will be community detoxes. Community rehabbed. That in-house treatments be a very limited option, available to a tiny select few. And frankly, looking at all these institutions that I went to that have disappeared in the last decade, the opportunities are limited anyway. I wonder about all the dozens of staff and workers that I met, and the vocational nature of working in the drugs field. Where did they all end up?
In a country where the billions made in the black-market drug industry is incalculable…. Where the billions generated by the legal alcohol trade generates vast amounts of wealth. And the pharmaceutical companies are growing and the medical model of treatment for substance misuse and mental health, still well in effect. As a society, our relationship with chemicals are getting more pervasive and complex. There’s a lack of awareness outside of the field, about what’s happening inside beleaguered, burdened, yet starved drug services. And the effects on the option user these institutions were set up for. Those that needs focused help. Others with more knowledge could write 10 blogs and not cover the depth of the issues.
I absolutely own (and feel) a lot of the responsibility too, and people like me, who’ve wasted a lot of taxpayer money, and now bemoan the death of services that I took advantage of. There are still places out there. They’re not All gone. Thankfully. “MOTs” are no longer a thing. Thankfully.
There is a chance I may have oversimplified the reasons for these closures. I’m just relating my experience. What I’m seeing , and hearing.
Still I’m left with questions. Are the funders right detoxing us detoxers from detoxes? Rehabbing us rehabbers from rehabs? What are the alternatives?
Will this trend of diminishing services continue? And what’s the end result if it does?”