Image source, Khadijah Hasan/BBC

Image caption, Ben English said Recovery Rods offered help without judgement

  • Author, Khadijah Hasan
  • Role, BBC News, in Houghton Conquest

A man who has been sober for 10 years after dealing with addiction and alcoholism said “fishing has always been my escape”.

Ben English, 39, from Thurleigh, Bedfordshire, started Recovery Rods six months ago to help others in his position and for anyone suffering from mental health issues.

With his fiancee Nikki, 36, he hopes to turn the self-funded group into a registered charity.

He said his “lived experience” had allowed him to connect with those struggling “on a deeper level”.

Image source, Khadijah Hasan/BBC

Image caption, The couple rely on donations from members of the public to keep Recovery Rods going

Mr English was introduced to the sport as a child and has always fished.

“Having numerous mental health breakdowns over the years and, through addiction, fishing has always been my escape,” he said.

“Addiction took all that away.”

He realised when he fished it improved his mental health.

“It’s about what happens when you fish – you’re in nature, you’re relaxing and you’re socialising,” he said.

Every Monday the group meets at How End Fisheries, in Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire, as well as offering check-ins with group members.

“I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t come because they haven’t got money or tackle – this is for everyone,” he said.

“It’s worked for me so it will work for other people.”

Image source, Recovery Rods

Image caption, Mr English said the group was all about respecting each other

Nikki has been in a relationship with Mr English for 13 years and said she had supported him through his journey.

She said the group was a “safe, confidential space” for everyone who has been impacted by addiction, including families and friends.

“We realised there were gaps in a lot of services. We are relatable and people find it easier to open up to us,” she said.

“We want to go as far as we possibly can with this as we know how much we can achieve.”

Image source, Khadijah Hasan/BBC

Image caption, Terry Roberts has had her own struggles with addiction

“Coming here is life-changing. Fishing is peaceful, you just switch off, and it’s been healing,” she said.

She said there was a “stigma” around addiction and more people “need to have open conversations”.

Image source, Khadijah Hasan/BBC

Image caption, Louise Rugman has been happy to attend sessions run by the group

Louise Rugman, 58, from Bedford, has been clean for 18 months and applauded the help Recovery Rods provided.

“It’s a lot more than fishing,” she said. “They see the potential in you and the human being you can become.”

John, 39, from Wixams, has been with the group for more than three years and is due to finish treatment for his addiction in two weeks’ time, when he hopes to become a volunteer.

He said: “Fishing is powerful because everyone is together. If I wasn’t here, I’d be at home struggling.”

The group hopes to expand its help across Bedfordshire.

Image source, Recovery Rods

Image caption, Mr English said he loved to fish with his children when he got the chance

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