BY SUSIE PATERSON
Scotland’s addiction problem is not getting better. In fact NHS statistics show 934 drug related deaths were reported in Scotland in 2017, and the signs are it’s getting worse. In July this year the Guardian online reported that Scottish records show we have the highest level of drug deaths in Europe. Ministers are being urged to allocate more funding for addicts as figures reveal a rise in overdoses, but support for families and friends of addicts is also needed.
Two weeks ago at a holistic health fare in Kilmarnock I met Julie Biggley who sat at a table with a colleague drinking bottled water. She approached me as I stood looking at the cut glass ornaments conveying positive messages of hope, friendship and positivity.
She told me she is the founding member of a charity called Someone Else’s Addiction (SEA) and they support families across Ayrshire who are dealing with the consequencies of someone else’s battle with addiction. Drugs, alcholol and gambling are all problems that leave families and friends very worried and uncertain of how to help a loved one.
She said that by bringing them together and letting them know they have someone to turn to, they offer a real link to normality at times when life is often chaotic. Living with an addict is not easy and just having a group of like minded people to talk to can help with the basics, such as negotiating the maze of additional services that are available.
The group formed in 2016 when Julie Biggley was studying for an HNC in Social Care. Knowing only too well the painful experience of addiction in families, she and Karen McLeod shared an understanding of the feelings of stigma and isolation with a community. Together they started SEA because Julie says that family members often feel ‘helpless’ with nowhere to go for comfort or to help with an addict’s recovery.
Julie says: ‘The problem indirectly affects us all and must be talked about more openly to make a difference.’
SEA enables communities to work together, access support and address the dangers and temptations facing our youth. Three times a week these support workers offer help at a drop-in centre at 12 High Glencairn Street, Kilmarnock.
With the help of experienced volunteers, Julie holds these weekly meeting on Monday, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 12 – 2pm. She tells me the conversation typically moves from ‘tears to laughter and back again, with everyone leaving a little lighter and more hopeful, feeling that they matter too.’ And if joining a group seems too much for you to handle, private chats can be organised sensitively.
With only ongoing support from Scottish Families, Someone Else’s Addiction is self funded but is working hard to gain access to important funding to keep it afloat. Against the odds it will keep going to break down difficult social barriers for families who desperately need their help and support.
Julie says the building they are using just now at High Glencairn Street, in Kilmarnock is provided by a kind benefactor, but it is only available for another nine months. With proper funding they would be able to rent a stable foundation which would allow them to grow, and help with the day to day running costs and cover the expenses of the volunteers who do so much.
Someone Else’s Addiction can be contacted on Tel: 07 397 688 464 or drop-in at their address on the days and times above.
More places to find help: