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Continuing in the spirit of mixing things up and trying something new, we present this week’s Recovery Round-Up in the form of a poetry takeover – with a piece of verse from our resident recovery poet and Red Rose volunteer Fred Mansfield. Fred has been writing poetry for much of his adult life and has regularly impressed – and frequently moved – us with performances of his work at Lancashire User Forum events, most recently at last month’s LUF North. “I’ve always been good with words, finding the right ones for the right purpose,” he explains.

Describing his creative process, Fred says: “I try not to think about it too deeply – once I start writing it just takes shape by itself.” Writing poetry, he added, “gets stuff out of my head and onto the page, and I do find that helpful.” But mostly he writes to help others: “If people can understand where my head’s at through poetry, maybe they will feel less isolated and alone with their experiences, and can hopefully identify with my words.”

He hopes others might follow his lead and share their creativity at recovery events like LUF. “It’s always really supportive – I’ve only ever had positive comments; people have even been in tears because my poems can be quite emotional. There might be amazing writers out there already who have no idea how good they are because they’re worried about sharing their work with others. I’d say just get it out there – you have nothing to lose!”

Fred’s advice for any budding bards who would like to try creative writing, perhaps as part of their recovery process, is to simply put pen to paper and allow the feelings to flow through it. “Don’t overthink it, and don’t worry too much about the outcome” he suggests. “It doesn’t have to rhyme perfectly – it’s more about the emotions, and being real. Feel it, and it will come out right.”

Meeting the Real You

by Fred Mansfield

Just putting pen to paper

So a new poem I can start.

And every word I write

Will be written from my heart.

An addict is what most of us are

A sad, yet honest, true fact –

I like to look at people’s faces

To see how differently people react.

So now all please be seated

Try to feel comfortable inside

And please be prepared

For an emotional ride.

I believe I am one of the lucky ones

You could say I’ve been saved, I suppose.

But only with the help of good people

From organisations – especially Red Rose.

I usually have a big smile –

It is rare for me to feel sadness.

As I know I could easily end up

Right back in the madness.

We all know it is not easy

Like using a feather to squash a grape.

Yet now, with the help that is out there

Addicts can finally escape.

Go visit any town or city

Take a good look around.

You can easily spot the addicts –

They will have their heads down to the ground.

It doesn’t matter what you were using:

Prescription drugs, illegal ones, even beer.

To break free we have to be brave;

Have the courage to take on our fear.

Maybe you used heroin or cocaine,

Usually called smack and crack.

As once they get a grip on you

It is hard to find your way back.

That is how addiction likes to keep us

Stuck in some crazy little zone.

At times it may let other addicts visit

But mostly, it likes to keep you alone.

Even when we would see good people

We wouldn’t ask for help at all

While deep down a voice would be screaming

“Please – help me break down this wall.”

Even when they were leaving

We just watched them walking away.

Hating ourselves for not speaking

Saying we will do it on another day.

Yet knowing that will not be –

No chance that would ever occur.

As the addict inside our head

Does not want us to ever go there.

I used to look in the mirror

At my reflection staring right back.

Now I ask myself the question

Why did I take that crack and smack?

I’ve even heard people laughing

Like the life I lived is funny.

Yet the smiles soon left their faces

Once they were told how it eats your money.

I look back at my addiction

Some of the places that it took me.

And am glad certain people were not there

As some things they should never see.

I would love to be able to time travel

Go back to that first fateful day.

And whisper to myself in my ear:

“Say no, mate – just walk away.”

If only that was possible

But it is not, as we all know.

But once we find recovery

It’s our chance to give life another go.

Think of all the lives ruined

By the horrors called smack and crack.

That’s why I love to be a volunteer –

My chance to give something back.

As when I am helping others

I sort of get a thrill.

And then, for the rest of the day

Inside, I feel quite brill.

Once an addict always an addict

That’s how the saying goes.

But the buzz you get in recovery

You feel in your fingers and toes.

And once you do make your escape

The feeling you get being free.

Away from the chaos and madness

Is a life lived in harmony.

You will know once you have got it

You could easily run a mile.

And every time you see your reflection

On your face will be a big smile.

Others around you will notice

Some may even say it, too.

But what I believe is the best part

Is they get to meet the real you.