The Winehouse Legacy: The recovery house saving and transforming the lives of struggling young women overcoming addiction in Amy's memory
- Figures show over 88,000 women seek treatment for drug and alcohol abuse each year
- Set up in memory of Amy Winehouse, 'Amy's Place' is the only Recovery House in the UK dedicated to helping young women battle their addictions post-rehab
- 19-year-old resident Grace Gunn suffered near death experience after swallowing 57 antidepressants with two litres of vodka and other liqueur before seeking help
- Research shows women have a far greater chance of relapse without the kind of recovery support offered by the House
A Troubled Beginning
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.
The award-winning soul songstress Amy Winehouse was labelled 'The Voice of a Generation' by music critics
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 frequent 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 her rehab treatment 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
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
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.’