Video: former Leamington drug addict tells how art has helped to rescue him

Taking up art may sound like a simple enough hobby - but for a group of recovering addicts in Leamington, it has been life-changing.

Now members of an art group based at the headquarters of Old Town charity ESH Works, which provides support for addicts in their recovery, are staging their first public exhibition.

Former addict Mike Smith with Lorraine Warren of the Recovery Partnership, who set up the art group at ESH Works.

Former addict Mike Smith with Lorraine Warren of the Recovery Partnership, who set up the art group at ESH Works.

Set up six months ago by Lorraine Warren of neighbouring organisation the Recovery Partnership, the group receives funding from the Warwickshire Drugs and Alcohol Action Team’s Recovery Fund and gives recovering addicts the chance to spend one afternoon a week working on their own artworks.

Some of those who attend had no experience of art - but former addict Mick Smith, who obtained an art qualification while working through his recovery, provides guidance with techniques at each session.

Mick told his story to the Courier.

“Throughout my life I have played with pretty much everything - legal and illegal.

“When I left school, I was into cannabis, mushrooms and LSD and it just progressed from there.

“Unless you have money to burn, you end up in trouble.”

Mick eventually decided to ask for help. He said: “You get to a stage where you are needing to find something every day even before you can function. You have to make a decision to either go right into it or say, it’s time to stop.”

The Recovery Partnership gave Mick a prescription for medication to help him give up street drugs and helped to find him a flat, as he had been homeless.

But giving up drugs was hard for Mick and so, one day, he decided to escape to Cornwall to get away from the people he knew on the drugs scene in Leamington. He said: “I bumped into a friend who was a tutor at an art college who suggested I enroll, so I did a contemporary craft course.

“Then it was about trying to make a living out if it.”

And when asked if art has been a form of therapy for him, Mick said: “Absolutely. Just coming here and doing this is such a release. You don’t think about your other worries. You are just concentrating on doing your picture.

“This group is the highlight of my week. It’s a really positive alternative. Hopefully this exhibition will get more people interested.”

Staff and volunteers at ESH (Experience, Strength, Hope), which is based in Althorpe Street, have all had experience of addiction and offer support to people with problems relating to drugs and alcohol.

The art group’s exhibition takes place at ESH on Tuesday August 5, 5pm to 8pm.

See the Courier’s website for our full interview with Mick.

To find out more about ESH, visit