The Winehouse Legacy: The recovery house saving and transforming the lives of struggling young women overcoming addiction in Amy's memory

  • 'Amy's Place' is only Recovery House in the UK supporting women post-rehab
  • Up to 88,000 women seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse each year
  • Resident Grace had suffered a near death experience involving pills and alcohol
  • Studies show women have greater chance of relapse without this extra support

Written by Samantha Lade for DonateToday

PUBLISHED: 13:11, 1st Sep 2017 | UPDATED: 15:23, 27th Oct 2017

A Troubled Beginning

The award-winning soul songstress Amy Winehouse was labelled 'The Voice of a Generation' by music critics

No child is able to control the conditions they are born into. It can be incredibly hard for vulnerable and disadvantaged children to find a way to deal with challenging or abusive upbringings. 

And unfortunately, for many, drugs and alcohol misuse may seem like the quickest and easiest escape route from daily life.

Grace Gunn was one vulnerable adolescent who latched onto the depressant of alcohol as a way of coping with her troubled childhood. 

‘It started out when I had my first drink at eight, and by 12 I was sneaking around and doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,’ said the now 19-year-old Grace, speaking to the BBC. Then, at the age of just 13, Grace was placed into care.

‘That’s where it took off and I could be more sneaky about it, because I didn’t have my parents around. It was a way of coping, I did it when I could.’ 

By the time she sought refuge in a homeless hostel just a few years later, her coping mechanism had ‘rocketed’ out of control and had become a habit. 

"I woke up frothing at the mouth and I was terrified. I didn’t know a way out."

- Grace Gunn

A Brush with Death

However, Grace didn’t realise the seriousness of her alcohol abuse until a near fatal brush with death shocked her into realising the damage being caused. 

‘It was in November 2015 when I took 57 antidepressants on a litre of vodka and a litre of liqueur, and nearly died,’ shared Grace. ‘I woke up frothing at the mouth and I was terrified. 'I didn’t know a way out.’

But even after Grace made the move to seek help for her crippling addiction, residing in the hostel next door to someone selling drugs made sobriety next to impossible. ‘I was living a life of recovery, in a using and drinking world,’ she explained. ‘You can never get well, in a sense.’

Grace needed a safe haven; a place to start afresh between leaving rehab and finding independent accommodation which she was not yet prepared for. 

In fact, research has shown it is this transition period in which women are far more likely to relapse without the support of services for addiction treatment. But luckily, Grace became one of the first occupants of ‘Amy’s Place’ – the UK’s only recovery house existing just for women. 

Of all clients in treatment for substance abuse between 2014 and 2015, 88,926 of these were women.

Public Health England | 2015

Amy's Legacy

Temporarily housing 16 residents between the ages of 18-30 who are taking their first steps towards a substance-free life, each woman lives in a self-contained apartment, and must agree to random drug and alcohol testing during their stay. 

The young women also learn skills, and are given the tools to rebuild their lives.

Run by the Amy Winehouse Foundation – a charity set up by Amy’s family after her tragic death aged just 27 as a result of alcohol poisoning – Amy’s legacy serves to remind us just how destructive and devastating a lifelong battle with deadly substances can be.

And whilst Amy’s celebrity profile brought mass attention to one case at hand – recent research from Public Health England suggests how over 88,000 British women are seeking treatment each year for their own drug and alcohol battles.

A Hopeful Future

However, one year on from its opening, the ‘Amy’s Place’ recovery house has been a success at addressing the specialist needs of its recovering female addicts and alcoholics – whose needs have been found to be far more complex than that of their male counterparts’.

At one year sober, Grace remains thankful for her place in the house.

Grace's drinking habit became a serious issue during her teenage years after she had her first drink aged eight

She has since found a hobby in restoring old furniture, whilst she plans for her future life as a forensic psychologist. ‘I’m not that long sober, but I’ve come so far. You forget when you’re sitting here today, that my life was sitting in a homeless hostel planning how to kill myself.’

It is clear this type of service can save lives, yet still it remains the only house in the UK of its kind, created only in the memory of the tragic loss of one of the voices of our generation.

‘I think it’s quite sad you have to lose somebody in order for them to realise we need this kind of help.’ suggests Grace. ‘We’re not the only ones in addiction that are young. There’s only 16 beds here, and I know so many young people who are in addiction, but can’t get help.’

Please note that names may have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved. Images are used for illustrative purposes only and, unless specified, persons included in images are posed models, not the persons mentioned in the article.