The creative project working to de-stigmatise youth addiction
When we think about addiction, too often our minds jump to the unstable person on the street, the deadbeat, the reprobate. Crackheads who have chosen not to contribute to society. The other end of the spectrum sometimes sees us romanticise addiction and mental illnesses in an a la Netflix teen drama style. Where we envisage a sexy young adult indulging in the thrill of excessive drug taking, if only to fuel the voracious sex crazed rockstar party lifestyle that comes with substance abuse. Both idealisations lack empathy and are reductive to the true experiences of those in recovery. Maybe the reason society is so comfortable in reducing the lives of addicts to these myopic tropes, is because it's easier than having tough conversations about mental illness and systemic failures. Jacob Newton isn't afraid to have those conversations. He posted on Instagram asking other addicts in recovery who felt comfortable enough to share their stories to come forward for a new creative project called Chinwag Call. We got in touch with him to find out more.
So what made you start Chinwag Call?
The Chinwag Call is a conversation starter for part of a bigger project. I’ve struggled with addiction myself and, as of writing this, I’ve been clean and sober for 1 year and 5 months. Upon getting and staying clean I was left with the real underlying issues. I’ve suffered with mental illness from quite a young age. I had been around addiction and experienced trauma as a child. I’d found escapes throughout my childhood and then my teens which would eventually lead to my issues with substance abuse and since then it’s been a process of unpacking. I found life outside of active addiction quite isolating and, whilst I’m in my own stage of recovery, that feeling has never truly gone away. I’ve known I wanted to create something that engages and shares recovery from the point of view of young people; to ultimately make something positive that can both benefit young people in similar situations as well as give an insight to others.
Have you had a good number of responses since beginning it?
I’ve had a surprising number so far, I’m proper thankful that I’ve been able to have a natter with some amazing people in different stages of recovery that have been so willing to openly share and talk about their own feelings, thoughts and experiences.
I’m still very much actively looking for anyone that would be comfortable with reaching out to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences!
Has it been strange talking to strangers about something so personal over the phone?
It’s definitely been more interesting than strange. It’s been great to talk to those who’ve reached out so far, understanding how parts of our recovery, our own methods and experiences both mirror and differ has been incredibly interesting. I’m a big over-sharer myself. As part of my own recovery, being honest has been key and something I live by (even if it’s been occasionally met with raised eyebrows). Primarily it’s been important with this process to establish that no one has to share or talk about anything they aren’t comfortable with.
Have you learned anything from other recovering young people that surprised you?
I’ve learned a lot through the conversations so far, not only about other young people’s insights, thoughts and feelings but also about myself and my own recovery. It’s been massively insightful and quite eye opening, especially with those who’ve shared their experience with addictions that aren’t just substance based. The main consistency has been the resounding strength of people, however heartbreaking the story; they’re here, in recovery, fighting and amazingly reaching out to us. I feel a key part of recovery is not feeling alone with it all; being able to reach out, share and access help or a support network is incredibly important.
The initial post says that the chat is preliminary research for a creative project. Could you give us any more info on what that project is at present?
The project itself is a visual piece. My main background is in film so, without sharing too much, the Chinwag Call marks the start of this. Right now it’s very much about chatting to and finding young people in recovery that would be willing to take part in the conversation and, for some, as we move towards the next stage, to let us document that.
With the often isolating nature of recovery and being young in recovery, the primary aim is to create something that, when we feel alone in it and don’t have someone or a direct support system to turn to, can echo our feelings and make us feel well; less alone with it all. As prior mentioned we hope to also give an insight to others about addiction and recovery.
As mentioned before, we’re still very much looking for anyone who would be willing and comfortable to talk and share their experiences, so please don’t hesitate to reach out over social or via email.
If you want to get in touch with Jacob to participate in Chinwag Call you are able to do so via:
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Mental Health Awareness Week is an example of how far society has come in terms of de-stigmatising mental health issues. It is now time for government to be as proactive as the people they represent.