Chris Warburton: A really smart recovery
by Paul Hines
When you’re considering things to admire about Chris Warburton, you’re spoilt for choice. Even the briefest glance at what he’s achieved since completing rehab and moving in to Brecknock Road in October 2008 reveals a dynamic recovery: website editor for What’s Up? and contributor to the Hackney Today newspaper; being de facto Communications Manager, publicist, CD sleeve designer and all round go-to-guy for Camden Calling, a project for fundraising and arts projects to help homeless and vulnerable people; and, most recently, being asked to train rookie wordsmiths at his journalistic alma mater, Poached Creative. The fact that he is severely visually impaired and registered as blind places his achievements in their proper context.
No less impressive are the traits and attitudes Chris has martialled to maximise his recovery. ‘When it comes to showing 100 per cent commitment to myself, I haven’t taken one day off. What propels me forward are the drive and determination to make something of my life. Every day I consciously focus on the positive rather than the negative.
‘Two years ago I had nothing to lose; when I went into rehab at Rugby House (now Foundation66), I had no other options. I chose to make a positive out of that by seeing it as a liberating force that gave me the courage to take risks. Now, if I’m torn 50-50 about whether I should go for something, I go for it. An important early decision I made was to be open minded and to welcome advice and support from other people. That decision came from logic far more than it did from humility: I reasoned that by going into rehab, I’d proved that I couldn’t make it on my own. I was terrified at the prospect of a life without alcohol, but one thing I knew was that this was a real opportunity.
Even at my lowest point, I somehow knew that I had it in me to do something good. ‘If I’ve had an actual turning point it was on day one, when the Manager there told me that I didn’t have to do any groups as it was my first day. To my amazement, I heard myself respond “No, I’ll do a group. What time’s the next one?”. That was the start of the six hardest but most worthwhile months of my life.’
When asked about his thoughts on how addiction forms, Chris is keen to point out that there are probably as many ways into addiction as there are addicts. ‘For me, though, it’s something to do with my personality. I had a great upbringing that was pretty much trauma free. Yet I lacked confidence and never quite felt that I was “enough”; drinking made me feel that I fitted in with other people and allowed me to escape from a mind that was always active, always over-thinking and always telling me I was inferior’.
Chris’s progress demonstrates that he is anything but inferior. While the quality of a recovery is something only the individual can really assess, from the outside, it looks like Chris is doing an amazing job. He’s still working at it, and still investing effort in himself. ‘My primary ambition is to maintain my recovery, because, obviously, without that there is no future. A great way of doing that is by keeping in contact with like-minded people – I’ve met some incredible people in recovery.
‘Every month now, I try to do something I’ve never done before, which means that I’ll have another achievement that I’ve pulled off while being sober. My career ambition is to be a full-time journalist, and, in the pursuit of that, I’m constantly taking little steps that will get me nearer to my goal. ‘I just want to be in a place where I can interact with other people and alcohol just not be part of the agenda. I just want to fit in normally... and the irony that that’s precisely one of the things that got me into alcohol in the first place certainly isn’t lost on me! That fitting in will be a by-product of my spiritual goal, which is simply to be happy with myself as I am.’
As dynamic as Chris is, he realises that he know needs to stop himself from taking on too much, and recognises the danger of becoming a victim of his own success. ‘People who aren’t in recovery have no idea what a delicate process it is. Once you become known as somebody who’s pretty useful and has a lot to offer, people tend to find you things to do. They can see you out there and doing it, but what they can’t see of course is the emotional and spiritual condition you’re in. It takes constant vigilance on the part of the recoverer not to overdo things and to have the strength to say no. I sense that it’s time for me to slow down a bit now.’ Even if the Warburton slippers do hit the pouffe for a while, you can bet his mind will be at its default setting – preparing for success.