Express Yourself

5 November 2019 | North West England

Mike Goodwin and Mel Bowen from the Spider Project

Mel’s plan to help people bounce back and move on from addiction

The Spider Project is an arts and wellbeing community project on the Wirral offering a wide range of courses including holistic therapies and exercise sessions for people in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.

Every week there are more than 40 different workshops attended by more than 200 people. Courses on offer range from yoga to swimming, art, IT and a running club.
Founded in 2007, the rehabilitation centre offered a different path for people to help people. Chief executive, Mel Bowen believes too much emphasis is placed on discussing the past so instead, he likes to promote moving forwards, positive action and creativity.

“Our motto is to always look forwards, and never look backwards,” says Mel. “Society is about conforming, but that is stifling. We believe being creative is important for recovery. When people come out of addiction, we want to open up that tap and offer a bridge for them to express themselves. We want them to feel good about themselves again.”

He adds: “We’ve built an actual community here, through trust, honesty and respect. There is nowhere else in the UK treating people and their addictions in the same way.”

Mike Goodwin, 41, is one of their success stories. His path to the Spider Project was far from smooth. He started using alcohol and cannabis while still at school.

“I couldn’t cope with life, and drink and drugs blocked everything out,” says Mike. “I started drinking more frequently and it was difficult to do my job as a landscaper.”

Over the next decade his life spiralled out of control. “Relationships ended, and everyone had had enough of me,” he admits. Five attempts at rehab failed and at one point, he was bed-ridden and in agony. The turning point came when a support worker took him to the Spider Project.

“It was amazing and so different to anywhere I had been before. Here, I could leave my addictions at the door. If I was struggling or had an issue, I could speak about that, but I didn’t have to.”

Mike joined various courses including photography. “It was something I had always been interested in. Something just clicked, and a light went off inside my head. And when my work was displayed, I felt a real sense of pride. I could feel my self-esteem creeping back. Just being there kept me, and my mind busy. It was my safe space.”

Mike started attending regularly. Within a couple of months he started to help out. By the end of the year he was working as a volunteer. “I wanted to give back. It made sense to me.”

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