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Upper Sixth Lecture Series – Jim Smith’s Story

We were delighted to welcome Jim Smith to our latest Upper Sixth Lecture Series. Jim Smith shared his story of alcohol addiction and how it affected his life. His lecture was very informative and warned pupils of issues surrounding addiction and alcoholism. Jim highlighted that addiction impacts the individual struggling with the disease as well as those around them.

Jim’s story started in South London in the 1950s, where a couple adopted him. He shared that he never felt comfortable in his own skin until he discovered music as a form of escapism. Jim was a talented guitarist and felt at ease when playing. However, this outlet wasn’t enough. Jim had his first drink while on a trip to Germany, and while he did not like the taste, he did enjoy the effect alcohol had on him. Jim was also prescribed medication for his anxiety. He found alcohol and his medication very addictive, and his life began to spiral downward. Jim would often get into trouble with the police, steal items from his home, and arrive at music auditions drunk. He would also drink in public areas such as public toilets, parks, and telephone boxes, and then head to a pub to drink more.

After years of drinking, Jim’s mother became terminally ill with cancer. Before she passed away, she asked him to promise her that he would stop drinking, he said yes, but at the time he had no intention of stopping. Over the next few years, Jim’s drinking became so bad that he spent lots of time in a hospital, prison, and psychiatric hospital.

Until one day he woke up in the hospital, and at that moment he realised he had to change his life. This moment was very pivotal for him; he went to rehab, therapy, group therapy, and Alcoholics Anonymous. He then moved into a halfway house and rebuilt his life. Now, 46 years later, he has not had a drink.

Jim was invited to sing at a friend’s rehab programme and found himself telling stories as well as playing songs. Music presented itself as a guiding light, a dynamic force that gave purpose and meaning to people whose lives were tragic and self-destructive. Since that evening, he has continued to use stories and music as a way to reach people. Jim is also an accomplished voice artist and has his own radio show entitled ‘Recovery Today’ on UK/Health radio.

In 1995, Jim qualified as a social worker and has worked in the addiction/recovery field for over 25 years now. He was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2011, which took him to the USA to look at different programmes for the rehabilitation of addicts. A father of three daughters and a grandfather to five, he also recently reconnected with his birth family thanks to a DNA testing service.

He concluded by stating that relaxation, meditation, and going to the gym help him cope and deal with issues in his life. Jim’s story was emotional and heart breaking at times; however, his strength and ability to turn his life around are inspiring.