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Published on The Argus online 

Sunshine welcomed the thousands of people who turned out from across the country to march through Brighton and celebrate recovery.

Those who had recovered from addiction walked with their friends and families from Hove Lawns to Preston Park for the fourth UK Recovery Walk on Saturday, September 29.

A committee of former addicts who met through the recovery process spent a year organising the walk.

Organiser Pete Davies and Coun Geoffrey Bowden

Speaking before the walk project manager Pete Davies said: “By all of you bringing the message that recovery is real, and happens to real people, you will enable us to build a legacy of empowerment.

“On this day we demand our place, our right to belong without prejudice and to celebrate our uncommon achievements.”

Brighton and Hove City Council have supported the project from the beginning. Economic development and culture committee chair Coun Geoffrey Bowden, has worked closely with the organisers for several months.

Coun Geoffrey Bowden, said: “If this walk gives hope to a single person to know that there is a way out of this downward spiral, then I’d say that’s job done.”

People from as far as Wales and Durham walked through the streets of Brighton chanting “recovery is real” to the upbeat tunes of a steel drum band.

The procession was punctuated with banners representing the various recovery organisations.Many of those who have recovered had the help of recovery services in Brighton.

Volunteer John Brennan said: “I’m just over 34 months clean thanks to Brighton Housing Trust and I’m volunteering today to carry the message that there is a way out.”

The recovery process has even inspired some to volunteer in order to help others with addiction.

Natalie Mexter, from Brighton Oasis project said: “With the help of Oasis I’ve been clean from drugs for nine months now.

It’s absolutely amazing. “I volunteer there myself now and I want to become a recovery mentor to help other people.”

Some people have completely turned their lives around on their journeys to recovery.

Chris Panikkou, from East Sussex Recovery Alliance, said: “It’s been such a leap forwards. I have my family back and some friends back.

“I have a new support network of people in recovery that I can speak to anytime. I love life today.”

At Preston Park everyone enjoyed music and entertainment at a recovery festival showcasing the talents and achievements of people reclaiming their lives through creative endeavours.

People wrote their words of thanks and inspiration on two recovery trees in the centre of the field.

MP Caroline Lucas said: “I think that with every step that we’ve taken, we’ve sent out a message to say that recovery is possible, recovery is hopeful, and inspiration is here.”

Caroline Lucas, Geoffrey Bowden and Andy Winter

Stalls surrounded the park where people could learn more about the services available.

Andy Winter, chief executive of Brighton Housing Trust, runs the largest drug and alcohol treatment services in the city.

He said: “The recovery walk is an absolutely inspired idea for a city that is so awash with alcohol and drug problems.

“To get so many people together who are celebrating recovery is something to be welcomed, admired and respected.”