A Wigan husband-and-wife team who have been through the horrors of addiction are now running a group being there for others during their darkest times.
Lee and Karen Griffiths, from Hawkley Hall, set up Celebrate Recovery Wigan at St Mark’s Church in Newtown at the start of the end to help residents going through any major crisis.
The free course they run is based in personal experience as Karen herself endured a devastating battle with alcohol addiction.
When Lee became ill himself trying to support her and the rest of the family they lost their house and things only got better when Karen went for residential rehab in Cumbria following a suicide attempt.
After that the couple learned about the Celebrate Recovery programme and have now brought it to Wigan.
The move has the complete support of the church, with Lee and Karen’s family now attending services at St Mark’s.
The programme already has around 20 people on it and Lee is confident they can transform the lives of other struggling Wiganers as well.
Lee, 50, said: “We’re dealing with anything you can think of that can cause mental problems: gambling and addiction right through to domestic and childhood abuse.
“It’s about dealing with all the hurts and habits we pick up through life that then cause us problems.
“When Karen was at rehab in Barrow we only came together for a few hours each week. We both came to realise that the level of support for individuals and families dealing with addiction and poor mental health was sadly lacking and we felt a calling to do something about it.
“When I was dealing with Karen’s addiction and she was trying to get help I was left isolated with nowhere to turn. For me it was a great outlet to talk openly to people who knew what was going on and were going through the same thing.
“It was a way of getting things off my chest and defusing my stress,
“Nationally mental health statistics are bad and Wigan’s are bad if not worse. Male suicide is significantly on the increase, addiction levels are on the increase and poverty levels are significantly higher in Wigan than in other parts of the country.
“There are a lot of things that are favourable in Wigan for this being needed.”
Lee described how Celebrate Recovery Wigan found an ideal home in Newtown after Karen, 43, began going to church. He said: “When Karen did the AA course they talk about a higher power and she really struggled with this. A friend suggested an Alpha course and she started going to St Mark’s.
“Now we go there as a family. The issues we’ve faced I wouldn’t wish on anybody but the congregation were so understanding and compassionate. We were made extremely welcome.”
Despite the link to the church, Lee is keen to stress Celebrate Recovery Wigan is open to anybody regardless of if they have a faith or not.
The 13-week course is based on the 12-step approach to beating addiction but Lee and Karen have introduced a few changes.
Lee said: “Celebrate Recovery uses the same process but applies it to any condition. It’s about first accepting the condition and then going back to the beginning to understand what has happened.
“We go into the past, doing a life diary of all the things that have happened, that have caused umbrage or problems, and then try to look at them differently.
“For example, someone raised by an alcoholic is more likely to become an alcoholic because they are in that environment. They’ve no control over where they’re brought up and they need to be able to see the other side.
“It’s about taking away the power of those things and looking at how situations have made them anxious or angry. We then talk about changing behaviour.”
Lee says one of the long-term goals for Celebrate Recovery Wigan is to offer sessions for whole families so children are less vulnerable to crisis in the future.
For more information, search for Celebrate Recovery - Wigan on Facebook.