Explorations from a Mentoring Day - July

July's Mentoring Day took us to the Dart valley for a swim.

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Despite the attempts to get directions from locals to our destination - 'Courgette Island' - (What? It's not on the OS map?!") there were no courgettes to be found when we got there.  Fortunately, it remains a secret spot and there were some explorations with the other than human realm around the theme of Home - in ourselves and through our connection to them. 

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Here is a list of distilled qualities that came from the exercise:

Connection
Wonder
Juicy
Inquisitive
Beautiful
Life giving
Adaptability
Consciousness
Focus
Acceptance
Peaceful

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We very much look forward to seeing some of you there at future mentoring days.

Rebecca Card

Boundaries are key to a healthy recovery and a happy life.

Caspar writes about the importance of personal boundaries in our work at Write to Freedom and in our wider lives.

The magic with W2F is in our ability to connect and hang out together, to be in our village, work together and at the same time be able to support our individual recovery and growth. The ease I feel and see others experiencing in our work is the result of many years of gentle, loving work, building the foundation stones of what we do and who we are. Key to this is creating a safe space or ‘container’. We don’t offer therapy as such but what we offer is therapeutic in many ways. So even in the hanging out by the river, duding around, swimming, talking, laughing, walking, there is always an awareness of the work we are offering, how we can help maintain a strong container and how people can feel safe and supported while still relaxing, learning and growing together. This is one of the key areas of skill and expertise our facilitators need to keep the good vibes flowing and the recovery growing as beautifully as it does.

We help heal many levels of trauma. This is a complex, steady process and is at the heart of our vision. We have ‘in house’ psychotherapists both on our residentials and in our ongoing support programme. Much of the trauma we work with connects to the crossing of boundaries at some point in our lives and the need to heal these wounds. Maintaining healthy, respectful boundaries is essential to keeping the balance between a tangible sense of safety and an ease in being and growing together. When W2F began we were a male only programme. In a lot of ways this simplified our focus, particularly as we were working with young men between 16 and 18 years of age. I had for some years been wanting to create a programme for addicts in recovery. Creating a village of different backgrounds, ages and gender. Having run several pilot residentials, we made the official transition to addiction recovery in 2016, a bold, exciting leap. This quickly led to an amazing flowering of our work in many positive, life changing ways for us all.

With the programme now mixed gender, 18 years plus, and individual trauma healing in the forefront of our minds and hearts, another key area for us all to take real care with is around the potential for intimate, sexual relationships to develop between those involved in our work. It’s not that we are looking to stop this happening, that’s outside our remit! It’s more about bringing awareness to the need for those of us in early recovery to be mindful of the impact of our attentions, intentions and behaviours on others in myriad ways. It’s also very much about how to develop an intimate relationship with ourselves before we reach out to connect romantically to another. Like the suggestion says, begin with taking care of a plant in the first year of recovery, then possibly a pet in year two and if we’re lucky maybe a special, intimate relationship in year three!

We ask everyone involved, staff and participants, to be aware of attaching too closely to any one person, or people. To stretch out of our comfort zones and see if we can find common ground with everyone we meet in W2F. To learn to track our old behaviours as we forge new ones. It’s all about developing a watchful, loving, inner parent in all we do. Exploring old patterns and feeling into whether the connections we have or are seeking with others is appropriate, safe, respectful and all importantly, reciprocated.

Having had a long history of not really understanding healthy boundaries (as a result of bad role modelling from those around me), it’s taken many years of gentle, loving focus to learn to contain myself in a healthy, loving way. To know when to express my thoughts and feelings and knowing when an attraction is mutual. W2F offers an opportunity to explore these new ways of being and seeing ourselves in a professional, safe and gentle way. It isn’t so much as doing it right or wrong but in finding support and feedback along the way to help us each (staff and participants alike) find out who we truly are, what we want from life and what we can bring to the world. Healthy boundaries are essential to help nurture self-esteem, self-love and above all a freedom to be who we are, who we were born to be. Its all about our individual and collective, right to freedom.

Caspar Walsh

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May Mentoring Day - a photo blog

Gathering for one of our monthly Mentoring Days on a gorgeous sunny May weekend in the magical beauty of the Dart Valley, mutual support and shared friendship.

My Residential

I am a recovering alcoholic and addict. I have been sober for two years and four months. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I lost my husband exactly two years ago, when he took his own life. I found the fellowship, then I was introduced to Write to Freedom by a very special lady, Ali.  Write to Freedom isn’t about the 12-step program but the spiritual awareness or awakening in nature, to love and appreciate the beautiful things around. Things I had hated before. I too was in a very dark place. I was intrigued about what would happen on the residential, I asked questions, but it was all very mysterious, which obviously intrigued me more… It was far beyond my wildest dreams. To have gone on a spiritual journey, an awakening inside my heart.

It was a time to let go and breathe again. To find peace and gratitude in a magical experience up on the moors. At dusk, there I was looking up at the sky and saying the words I needed to find release and there was the moon above me! Incredible, magical and beautiful (I instantly thought of my husband Lyle). The power of a spiritual moment shared with friends I had met two days earlier and friends I had known only for a year… they were spiritual beings guiding me to my release of pain and suffering. I thank you all for your warmth, encouragement, love and support. You let me trust in you and have faith in you and I am truly happy that it was a safe place to let go and cry… just a little… more is yet to come.

I am stronger now than ever before and it’s OK to be where I am because there’s no rules to this. I think it’s my time to do this.

I left with gratitude and fulfilment, knowing of a beautiful place that I can come back to for future experiences and for learning and growth. The amazing tribe of Write to Freedom have guided me on another step into my journey that has given me purpose and hope again.

I am grateful that you had the time and compassion to share your skills and knowledge to a stranger like me and to have left as a friend and tribal warrior.

I gave you my insecurities and uncertainty and left being a part of a tribe, a tribe of love and compassion. In the fellowship I had to surrender my will and my life to the care of God and have found peace and spiritual awareness. I surrendered my walls and nervousness and found another journey of self-discovery and spiritual connection through nature and it’s been the most awakening journey I could have ever taken.

- Emma
Recovery Tribes Residential, March 2018

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Mentoring Days - a photo blog

Photos from our February and March Mentoring Days on a wintery and snowy Dartmoor.

New Administrator

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Hello! I'm Jo, the new administrator for Write to Freedom - I joined the team in December.

I work behind the scenes helping the organisation run smoothly and I'm likely to be the one that answers your emails if you get in touch with us, and other tasks like keeping the website fresh and up to date, writing occasional tweets, managing systems and basic accounts.

I come to this role with a lot of previous experience in supporting the running of small organisations working for positive change. I have a deep love for the outdoors and wild places, and believe in the significance of connection to nature for everyone. It is one of the aspects of Write to Freedom that drew me to join the team, and something that I'm really glad to be supporting.

I have a long love of and heart connection to Dartmoor, having previously lived in south Devon for 15 years – always somewhere close to the river Dart and the last few years on the edges of the open moor. Dartmoor, and especially the wild Dart Valley remains one of my favourite places in the world - I find such a magical energy there, and the continual flow of the river so connecting.

I left Devon 3 years ago to seek some further afield adventures, beginning with a nomadic year and a half that led me to various stunning places around the world, and eventually to Greece, where I now spend a lot of my time. The main work in my life at the moment is as a long term volunteer, working with the refugee community. This part time role with Write to Freedom supports me practically to be able to continue this.

I came here just over 2 years ago, at a time when the arrivals of mainly Syrian refugees by boat from Turkey was at its height. I went to the island of Lesvos to help run a kitchen tent in an unofficial camp there, where we served up to 6000 meals a day as people passed through on their journey into mainland Europe. I expected to stay in Greece for a couple of months, but connecting to the situation very personally, and the massive ongoing need I experienced, I decided to move to Athens to be part of starting a longer term and more sustainable grassroots project. A collective of us set up the Khora Community Centre, offering vital services and solidarity to some of the thousands of people stuck here.

It is one of the most amazing things I have ever been part of – I am constantly challenged, inspired, exhausted and heart-opened by what I experience here. I write occasionally on my blog about my experiences here and the wider context of Athens. Devon always pulls me back every few months for a spell of nature resourcing, and I'm looking forward to attending my first Write to Freedom residential this spring.

 

Behind the Scenes- How we decide who is offered a place on our residentials.

Write to Freedom are always refining the process of how we select who comes onto each residential. We want to work with those who are in Recovery in the widest sense. Recovery from drugs and alcohol, mental or physical ill health, work addiction, technology addiction, relationship addiction and so on. It’s a wide arena! The most important aspect of our selection process is around whether or not we feel you are ready for the journey you will take with us. We know the process intimately. We care deeply for your well-being and your recovery, wherever you’re at with it. We will ask ourselves if you are resilient enough to go on this journey with us. Are you ready?

The work you step into with us can be challenging, emotionally, mentally and physically. This means that we wouldn’t want you to be overwhelmed by the residential and for your recovery to be negatively affected. We feel there is a right time for everyone. We use our questions, phone calls and our instinct to tell us whether this is the right time for you. This is based on a combined Recovery total of over 100 years between staff and volunteers - past and present. That’s a lot of Recovery miles. We feel we’re in a good place to make a loving decision about what we offer and who to.

It will never be a ‘NO’ to your application. Only a ‘YES’ or a ‘NOT YET’

This not about judging you and your life but about our duty of care to you, and to us. 

If you identify yourself as an addict or alcoholic in abstinence based recovery we will look at how much clean time you have and where you currently are in your recovery. You may have had some time clean, relapsed, and are only recently clean again. We will take any clean time or sobriety you have had into account.

If you don’t identify yourself as an alcoholic or addict and have chosen controlled drinking or using, we will still consider a place for you. Your work with us will hopefully support you to get to the next step in your life.

While we fully support the benefits of abstinence based recovery and the 12 Step programme, we accept that not everyone will choose this path of recovery. Some of our facilitators and volunteers are in abstinence based/12 Step recovery.  We believe that the ultimate way forward with destructive dependency issues of any kind, is complete abstinence.

We view dependency as anything you feel unable to stop and is creating suffering in your life and/or the lives of others. You could be on your way to abstinence based recovery and we may be able to help with that.

We are personally and painfully familiar with the nature of denial in addiction. If we feel you are trying to hold it together, denying the impact of your addiction or simply white knuckling it, we may gently and respectfully challenge you and your approach to your recovery. Ultimately, we will support you to get to the next stage in your recovery journey. That’s at the heart of what we’re about.

We are aware of, and are actively working with Trauma. One or more of our staff will have experience of working with Trauma and will be available to support anyone who feels they need it during the residential (and after). It’s important for us to know in advance any issues you may have with anxiety, depression, mental and/or physical health issues including any trauma you may be aware of. These are serious issues in our society. We believe open communication about our inner struggles is a gateway into our healing process. We are not offering therapy, but the outcome of our residentials is often therapeutic.

We offer regular introductory days. These are to meet us, spend time out in nature and get a sense of whether you are ready to attend a residential. There is no requirement to be at any particular place in your recovery to attend. You will be welcome to come to more than one if we feel that this is the best way forward for your journey with us. They will always be different. They’re a great support for all who attend. Visit our upcoming events page here to find out the next introductory day.

Once you have completed the residential you will be able to attend our monthly mentoring days on Dartmoor. And beyond that, your involvement in Write to Freedom is up to you. You can staff the days or residentials as a volunteer and even train to become a facilitator.

It is truly an amazing journey.

Caspar Walsh and Ben Ford

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