From pier to peer: how a staff member with lived experience hopes to unite the recovery community in South Tyneside - My CMS

A staff member in recovery from substance misuse has organised a 7-mile recovery walk from South Shields to Sunderland to raise awareness of the recovery community during National Recovery Month.

Tony Jefferson, who has previously used the addiction services provided by Changing Lives, and is now employed by us to help others like him, hopes the walk will create a sense of unity in South Tyneside surrounding the subject of recovery.

wear-recovery-logo-jpegHe said, ‘I have been here nearly 18 months, and I haven’t seen much promotion of recovery in South Tyneside or in Sunderland, which is where I successfully came through my own recovery’.

The walk will take in the coastal views between South Shields pier and Sunderland pier in a symbolic gesture to the peer-led support that Changing Lives and other recovery services in the region offer to people like Tony. The route was specifically chosen to be accessible to everyone no matter their fitness, and not too long to make it impossible for those in different stages of their recovery.

Tony was first introduced to the recovery community in Sunderland by a colleague from Changing Lives when he was training to be a peer mentor for the organisation. Tony said,

‘He was the first person other than myself who I had met in recovery, and to see him in a paid job was inspiring’. Prior to this, Tony ‘didn’t know anyone at all in recovery’.

The walk has been organised by a team of staff members in Changing Lives’ recovery services, including Tony and his colleague Graham Ord, who was Tony’s key worker when he was using the recovery services Changing Lives offers.

The pier-to-peer recovery walk Tony has helped organise isn’t the first event he’s orchestrated to support the recovery community in Tyne and Wear. Since gaining employment with Changing Lives, Tony has helped organised regular coffee mornings, put together a football team and choir, and also helped to run a large-scale celebration
of recovery at Sunderland Minster last August, which saw hundreds of people attending throughout the day, all with the help of Graham.

The walk coincides with the introduction of a new recovery service in Sunderland through Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, called Wear Recovery, of which Changing Lives is a part.

Following a quiet period in the recovery community and in recovery services, this walk is set to be a warm welcome back, ‘showing the people of Sunderland that the community is still here and burning brightly, and now with new services the recovery community is supported more than ever’.

Sunderland has nearly 1,700 people using drug and alcohol services currently. This figure does not take into account people in mental health services, people who are homeless, and people who have complex needs who are also struggling with substance misuse.

Events like this pier-to-peer walk, says Tony, are vital to raise awareness of this community and support them through their tough times.

Walkers are set to meet at Little Haven car park in South Shields at 10am on Friday 23rd September. Everyone is welcome to come along and show their support.

The walk takes place during National Recovery Month, which will see many celebrations and events like this both in the UK and America.

For more information, get in touch with the walk organisers: Tony Jefferson ( and Graham Ord (

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