When Rose Higgins arrived to work at Kairos Linden Grove for the summer, she was stepping into the unknown. Here she looks back on what she’s learned, not only about addiction but about trust, hope and community
The road which led me to Linden Grove began in April when, through a mutual connection, Kairos Director, Mossie Lyons offered me the chance to work with his organisation for the summer. After a year in lockdown studying for my final college exams, the chance to get out of Ireland and live in London was one I simply could not refuse. When I arrived at the gate of 22 Linden Grove exactly 10 weeks ago I could not tell you what I was expecting. I had no background in addiction and, as I was shown around on that first Monday evening, I realised that I had absolutely no idea what I was getting into. Now that I am leaving, however, I can tell you what I have learned. Thinking about my experiences, three things in particular standout and as it happens each of them is reflected in the name of the organisation: Kairos Community Trust.
While ‘Trust’ most obviously refers to the legal personality of the organisation, in another much deeper sense, ‘trust’ is a huge part of Kairos’ mission. A phrase which I heard repeatedly over the past few weeks advocated for “trusting the process”. I have learned that recovery is a journey; it has ups and downs, and sometimes the path is not clear. Struggle is inevitable in life and even more so in recovery, but it is not insurmountable. Over the past few weeks I have witnessed people battle their inner demons and remake themselves. They were only able to do so however because they could trust that Kairos was there to support them. Trust and hope go hand in hand. By freely offering holistic, non-judgmental, compassionate support Kairos enables those without hope to find it again.
The importance of ‘community’ in recovery was explained to me thus: one addict alone will use, but two addicts together will not use; a community of addicts in recovery is a higher power to believe in and from which to draw strength and hope. Such a community exists within Linden Grove and within Kairos.
Of course Kairos is a community made up of individual people. One of the things which absolutely amazed me when I started working in Linden Grove was the fact that many of the staff and volunteers were themselves in recovery. Now, however, I understand why that’s the case and why it’s important. A quality shared by all of those I have worked with is a deep and profound gratitude. Many of them were once residents in Linden Grove themselves, returning to give back to the place where they started their own recovery. In this way, and alongside the fellowships, a network of recovery is established. The importance of ‘community’ in recovery was explained to me thus: one addict alone will use, but two addicts together will not use; a community of addicts in recovery is a higher power to believe in and from which to draw strength and hope. Such a community exists within Linden Grove and within Kairos. Their shared experience of addiction allows the staff to empathise with clients on a profound level, and that is precisely what they did. Everyone I worked with in Linden Grove committed themselves every day to supporting each client as the unique individuals they are.
Kairos is a Greek word which means ‘the right time for change’. For those in active addiction, the message is that it is time to change your life and start down the road to recovery. When I told my friends and family that I would be working with homeless addicts and alcoholics for the summer, a number of them expressed concern for my safety, warning me to be careful. My experience could not have been any more different to that which their fears had conjured. I remember distinctly on my first evening in Linden Grove how one resident in particular welcomed me and told me that if I needed anything all I had to do was ask. That interaction set the tone for my entire stay.
I think to truly understand addiction you need to see it up close and that is what I have got from my time with Kairos Community Trust… I have seen the damage it does but I have also seen how the rubble it leaves behind can be rebuilt.
My time in Linden Grove was characterised by warmth, honesty, kindness, laughter, resilience, cooperation, and gratitude. However, those are not things which we associate with addiction. Addiction is not a pretty cause to fight for. Its symptoms and side effects do not generate widespread public sympathy or support. It is time for that to change. It is time for us, as a society, to change how we think about addiction and how we treat those in need of help. I think to truly understand addiction you need to see it up close and that is what I have got from my time with Kairos Community Trust. I have seen addiction up close. I have seen the damage it does but I have also seen how the rubble it leaves behind can be rebuilt. I have seen its indiscriminate nature and its steel grip. I have seen how it interacts with trauma, with loss, with abuse, with depression, with homelessness. Addiction crawls into the places where support and love should be. However, I have also seen the Kairos community expel addiction from those crevices and replace it with compassion.
Now that I am leaving London behind I know that these are things that I will carry with me back across the Irish Sea. I will hold onto the memories of a group of people who willingly gave of themselves to help those who had nowhere to turn. I will remember the clients who, despite the challenges they were facing, never failed to show gratitude and appreciation for whatever small thing I did to help them. Though Kairos Community Trust is a charity made up of houses, it is the people inside that make them a home to recovery.