“Chris, mate – they’re called your ‘core issues’. Sounds like you’ve got one…”

Well, (surprisingly) it’s not raining and I’m busy working with one of our new trainees. We’ve been chatting easily together, working, swapping stories and then suddenly I am aware that I am the one getting counselling. Up until now I would have said my core issue was the rain!

Symbol, a sculpture at LandWorks

Symbol, a sculpture at LandWorks

Fred (the new trainee) wanted to know: “Why do you do all this?” A standard response in my head is: ‘Oh God, not this question again’.

Recently, I actually blurted this response out loud, when asked the same question during a staff meeting at Dartington Hall; a slightly awkward memory. The answer never comes easily – so perhaps it is an issue.

“Fred understandably wants to find out: am I genuine? Can he trust me?”

I think there are many reasons this question arises but I completely get why Fred needs an answer. He recently finished a 14-month course at the Recovery Community (RC) at HMP Channings Wood.

This really is a great resource for the prison to have. This therapeutic community provides a real opportunity for up to 64 men to come to terms with addiction, looking at themselves through group work, one-to-one counselling and peer support.

Fred understandably wants to find out: am I genuine? Can he trust me?

I have a lot of respect for both the unit itself and the men who commit to this level of 24/7 therapy; it’s not an easy option. Since 2008 I have worked with a number of men who have come through this unit and listening to their life stories, experiences and honesty, I really do hold this community in high regard.

Yes, yes, I know I am rather dodging the ‘core issue’ question. However, interestingly one of the many attributes an RC graduate has is that they have had to look really hard at themselves. You ain’t getting off the hook, you’re going to look at yourself, too.

To be honest, some of what I told Fred, I can’t yet face writing about. I have, in one way or another, worked for quite some time with people who have had a very difficult past. Many people found a way through it and some just didn’t, which for me can be a burden.

I didn’t have a difficult past and I suspect that this enables me to pass on skills and values that I have learnt over the years. ‘Chris that’s more a how, not a why.’ Ohh! I suppose so…

Okay: for me, it’s a balance. I don’t like people getting dumped on; I don’t think people should be alienated from our community; I believe we all have a responsibility to our community and I am lucky – I want to, I need to and I really can do something to redress that balance.

Thank you Fred and the RC.