When I met Steve Spiegel at Pinewood Studios last week it was like being in the presence of a famous rock star with the charisma of a guru. One thing for sure, I knew there was something special about this man, now in his prime, and as he related his experiences, I felt it important to share his inspiring story with the rest of the World.
With the acceptance of mental health issues taking many forms, from anxiety and depression to lack of self-esteem and dysmorphia or bad body image, Steve had experienced them all.
To combat the internal turmoil Steve turned to drink and then drugs, and so when he eventually freed himself of the habit, he felt he had ‘served his apprenticeship’ and opened The Provy, a revolutionary rehab centre in Bournemouth in the mid-nineties.
He had fierce opposition both locally and from many authorities, but soldiered on and it is now a successful and respected concern, and although ‘retired’, he continues to work there as a counsellor three days a week.
Steve also has no intention of slowing down, and is again developing and implementing private counselling sessions and workshops with people with dysmorphia and body image issues.
Born in November 1948 to two hard working Londoners, Steve’s childhood was one of sadness. His Dad was disabled so was unable take him to football or do the normal things that dads could do with their sons.
‘He was unsteady on his feet’ says Steve ‘it was traumatic as a kid when he fell over or fell down the stairs but he was a good man though and really wise.
At home we all did chores together such as cooking and cleaning and I was pretty self-sufficient from an early age.
I also hated the way I looked. People said I was good looking but that’s not how I felt. I was aware of my bony shoulders, skinny arms and legs and knobbly knees. I wouldn’t let people see any of these and tried to keep myself covered and often wore a couple of jumpers to make myself look bigger and hide my shoulders.
I thought I was a nice kid, but people who knew me back then said I was angry and not someone to cross. I got involved in lots of fights, but that was usually me fighting other people’s battles and running from my own. I was a very good scrapper but I hated it. The problem I had was, I never backed down as it would have just added to my shame of feeling inferior.
By the way, I’m not trying to make excuses, as the above certainly affected my self-esteem, but I don’t believe that it made me an addict or alcoholic. I did however want to change my reality, which I succeeded in doing with my addictive behaviour pattern.
My happy memories were of music and football. I could mime in front of the mirror and be whoever I wanted to be, especially by jumping about to various tracks on our radiogram.
Then rock n roll came along and my sister had a few records and I’d play them alone in her bedroom. I have now discovered so much about that time and how certain events affected the little self-esteem I had left. The shame I felt about being ‘less than’ was paralyzing.
It was then I discovered alcohol. I was about 11 or 12 when I stole some money from my dad and bought a bottle of very cheap sherry, I then went to the bedroom and drank it. My bony shoulders seemed to disappear as did my skinny arms and legs. I’d found a solution.
Drugs and alcohol seemed to give me confidence. They took away my inhibitions and I embarked on a life of sex, drugs and rock and roll.
Over the years it became more serious and I couldn’t stop. Getting into dangerous situations was a pretty regular occurrence and I became involved with dangerous people and was well out of my depth.’
Then after years of drug and alcohol addiction, a visit from an old friend helped Steve to understand how deeply in trouble he was and he agreed to attend a meeting of Narcotics Anonymous.
After the death of his beloved Father, Steve continued in his recovery, relapsing several times.
Then after a terrible experience with his drug dealer, in spite of not being at all religious Steve went home and sank on his knees and said
‘God, please help me as I can’t go on.’
Shortly after that Steve booked himself into to a West Country treatment centre.
‘I hated it there but it saved my life. I was completely broken, physically, spiritually, mentally and financially. I asked them to stop my detox on the night of November 26th as the next day was my birthday and I wanted to be clean for it. I’ve not used since. I have now been 27 years clean and sober.
I went back into music and managed a couple of people and then went to this music conference in Manchester where I’d been asked to speak. After really embarrassing myself I realised this was no longer for me. I fled the place and got home safely.
I started work as a volunteer in a street drug agency in south London and enrolled at Birkbeck College for a counselling course which I passed with distinction.
`I then joined The Priory to work in their new rehab centre in Jersey. I was there for three months and in that time had been formulating an idea for a new type of treatment centre. I had meetings with various places and although they were interested, I didn’t feel they were what I was really looking for.
Through a strange set of circumstances, I met a Bournemouth GP, Dr Peter Turnbull. I’d put a plan together on what was then a revolutionary type of abstinent based treatment on the back of a customary envelope and had presented it to him.
Peter was of the same mindset as me when it came to the type of treatment delivery I had envisaged and was keen to get started. Peter and I hit it off and he said I could have a room in his surgery in which to deliver the therapeutic programme I’d devised and I could share an office. He agreed to prescribe the detox and other medication and I did the rest.
I asked Peter to suggest a name? He responded with ‘The Providence Projects’ which I loved. I went home and looked up the word ‘Providence’ in the dictionary and Providence it became. We registered with the help of a friend as a ‘Non-Profit Making’ organisation.
After using drugs and alcohol for over a quarter of a century I was 3 years 10 months clean and sober and ready to take on my new mantel of trying to rescue those suffering from a variety of addictive disorders. Whilst using I was prepared to go to any lengths to get my drugs and now, I was just as determined to continue to maintain my recovery and help others. It turned out to be my calling I guess and it fitted like a glove.
We opened The Providence Projects on the 12th September 1996.
In the beginning there was a lot of hostility towards us but we soldiered on. I heard people say that I was too early in recovery to run such a place.
The papers ran a big spread on ‘Ex-Junkie Runs Treatment Centre’ and The Sunday Telegraph ran a magnificent piece in their magazine entitled ‘Heroin by the Sea’ which didn’t go down too well with the local dignitaries. It was also different to all the other treatment centres being GP (and ex-junkie!) led and we initially called it Quasi-Residential Treatment.
The patients or clients would live in the accommodation we had rented and come in to our centre for treatment every day. The philosophy being that fully residential treatment centres were good, but what happens when they complete treatment after being sheltered from the real world for a period of time.
Room at Providence Projects
We wanted people to experience the ‘real world’ on a daily basis and as we felt there was safety in numbers, and each house had to keep together. We also encouraged laughter and took the clients out weekly for fun activities. We felt it was important for people to see that life could be fun without alcohol and other drugs.
An initiative called Safer Cities gave us a grant of £5,000 and the local Bail Hostel in Boscombe gave us a contract to treat three or four clients of theirs at a time.
The first two clients were Johnny Handsome and Jamie O’. I’d met them in treatment when I relapsed and they’d really helped me stay put. Now here they were as our first two clients. Our third client, Suzie was someone I’d spoken to in London previously and she wanted help. Suzie is still clean; Johnny has moved away but we occasionally communicate and he is enjoying life. Jamie unfortunately eventually lost his battle with drugs and died.
Around this time my partner (now wife) Carole closed her Company and moved down to Bournemouth. After a few months and after a few financial mishaps Carole joined me at ‘The Provy’ becoming the administrative engine behind it all and I have to say that Carole, Peter and myself made a formidable team and a power for good.
After a year we moved to what was then a ramshackle building just by The Crescent. This is where the street dealing had previously gone on. The dealing moved to another location when we opened. From day one we were full and it was my belief that we should never have an empty bed and I’d drag people in off the streets for treatment.
We started to get contracts from various social service departments and then one from Transport for London. Various charities also started to use us and we grew from strength to strength. The most important thing to me was seeing people get well. We always had a few free spaces as we were in a position to do so in those days as we also had funding from the surgery and a contract with the local police.
The past few years has seen a dreadful cut in funding for treatment and so many centres have had to close as a result.
We then won a tender for the delivery of treatment to those on DTTO’s (Drug Treatment Testing Orders). Although we were an abstinent based 12 Step centre and we didn’t comply with some of the terms of the tender, we were still awarded it for the whole of Dorset. For three years running we had the best outcomes in the country by a country mile. Then the goal posts were moved and we were told our treatment was too intensive.
The fact that we were one of the least expensive in the country didn’t come into it nor did the fact that during this three-year period only one of the clients was arrested and over 65% successfully completed our programme clean and sober. I’d better get off my soap box as I can really go on about this one.
At the time we were delivering treatment in Bournemouth and Weymouth. We eventually closed Weymouth and purchased two buildings in Bournemouth.
Every year we hold a reunion, usually at the Royal Bath Hotel where we put on a banquet and entertainment for ex and current clients. Ex peers would be invited to share their experience of treatment and say how their lives are today.
I could write so much about the Provy, so many stories but maybe I can sum it up by saying, we’ve had thousands of people come through our doors but when you think that addiction not only affects the addict and alcoholic, the eating disordered and the gamblers it also affects their loved ones, family members and the community as a whole. So, when one addict/alcoholic recovers the knock-on effect is enormous. So many people’s lives improve.
With regard to the people who worked with us. The majority were originally clients who went on to study and then came back to work at The Provy and most of them have been there for many years.
Carole, Peter and I retired about 7 years ago. Carole’s son Paul now owns The Provy but I was missing working with clients so much I currently sneak back three mornings a week to take group therapy and deliver workshops and just generally speak to the clients.
My future Plans:
I’m currently planning to put in place another revolutionary idea regarding treatment for addicts and alcoholics together with family members and/or loved ones so they can all recover together. It’s a really important element that is missing in order for loved ones to understand exactly what drives the addict and what they go through and also for the addicted person to understand how their addiction has impacted upon the family or loved ones. It may also be about fresh beginnings. I’ve only just decided to do this so I’ve just drafted a temporary webpage that doesn’t say much as yet but does detail some of the services I offer.
I also plan to reopen my Body Image workshops and groups which have been extremely successful over the years in helping those suffering from Dysmorphia and Eating Disorders.
So much for retirement!!
Should anyone require details about accessing The Providence Projects or other treatment facilities, interventions, family therapy or other services offered, or to find out about Steve’s future plans you can contact him on
Passions run High at the County Register by Tracey Cater
If you have any reservations about dating, Tracey will put you mind to rest as she talks about her confidential and proven approach as a dating Dating Adviser for The County Register, an exclusive introductions agency.
‘In my role as a Membership Adviser, I make sure that there is total transparency and honesty throughout the process, for new clients joining The County Register. Our clients are professional men and women who expect, and deserve, an elite service.’
Tracey speaks with conviction as she describes her unique approach:
‘Previously, I have carried out roles as both a Matchmaker and Matchmaking Manager. Just like the rest of my fellow employees at The County Register, I am absolutely passionate about the personal introductions we provide for our clients. Those who join us are all looking for a long lasting, loving relationship. Many have been through heartbreak and loss of some sort, so our approach to all of our members is one of sensitivity, compassion and professionalism.
Online dating is usually discussed during an initial consultation, as many people have suffered bad experiences. I make it clear that the service we offer is 100% confidential and also that our clients are all ID checked, using a verification system provided by Lexus Nexus.
My attitude towards my role is to guide a client through the joining process, managing their expectations and making sure they have chosen the membership that best suits their needs. I am one of a very hardworking and honest team of people. We all operate with integrity and emotional involvement. I absolutely love my job and I’m incredibly proud to work for The County Register, alongside an amazing group of individuals. With our wide experience of personal matchmaking, we understand the uncertainties you may feel. It may be some years since you were dating; other issues, such as a career or family may have taken priority, or you may have reached the stage where you are ready to share your life with someone – you just haven’t met that person yet. An important part of our service is to advise, counsel and listen to your concerns.
I’d love to speak with if you’d like to find out more about dating with The County Register. Please do call me, for an informal chat on 0800 644 4110 or email: email@example.com’
We met Jemimah Fleet, family lawyer from progressive Buckinghamshire Law Firm BP Collins, on her visit to Pinewood Studios recently. Jemimah spoke openly about Surrogacy, the niche area of family law she has grown to love, and the positive impact it has on so many lives.
Jemimah talked about the current legal obstacles within the climate on surrogacy law in the UK (described as ‘unwelcoming’ by Sir James Munby, the former President of the Family Division) and how it is very difficult to find a surrogate, or indeed for surrogates to come forward, due to the various restrictions concerning payments and even offering/advertising to be a surrogate. In contrast, in the USA, there is a more progressive attitude towards surrogacy which has meant that many people from the UK are drawn to go overseas.
But she is hopeful that with the proposed reforms that are presently in motion with the law commission, around the complex issues of surrogacy law, that there may well be light at the end of the tunnel.
Overall Jemimah remains positive and passionate:
‘It is a real privilege to work in this area of law’ say Jemimah ‘and I enjoy navigating the legal obstacles for clients, setting out a clear plan of action and supporting them on their surrogacy journeys.
In relation to the law commission’s current consultation and proposals to reform UK surrogacy law:
‘I absolutely welcome the proposals for regulation and reform and see it as hugely positive. I have seen an increase in the number of clients who are seeking advice on surrogacy, especially internationally, in recent years. The lack of uptake of the surrogacy process in the UK is undoubtedly due to the obstacles and uncertain legal framework that intended parents (and surrogates) currently encounter. One important issue is that the surrogate (as the birth mother) is always considered the legal mother and intended parents can only apply to court for a parental order, to be recognised as their child’s legal parents, once the child is born. This inevitably places the child in a legal limbo and vulnerable position until legal matters are resolved, which can take months.
The Law Commission’s consultation will help to reform the law which is outdated and doesn’t meet the interests and needs of those involved in surrogacy journeys. Importantly, the reform aims to ensure that the child’s welfare remains the key focus, but provides a clearer legal framework and reassurance to all those involved.’
As she touched upon aspects of her work that she was permitted to share, she told us that she has encountered some wonderful surrogates and that they usually have one or more children already, and are committed to the surrogacy journey and rarely stray from their decision to help a couple who cannot conceive. So the obstacles faced were in the law itself.
Jemimah works with single parents, same sex couples, older parents and parents who are unable to conceive naturally for medical reasons, and she feels that in spite of the current legal challenges, it is a privilege to work in a profession that brings joy to so many people.
We are constantly being told not to look back and to have no regrets, but during a recent life coaching session, I was urged to write a letter to the Universe outlining everything I am grateful for and has enhanced my life so far, and that as a result magical things would happen.
I was reminded of Oprah Winfrey who reportedly suffers from depression and anxiety – but her first call every morning is to give thanks for each and every part of her life and surroundings, including the simple things, and not just the yields of her wealth and fame.
So as I set about putting pen to paper, so many aspects of the past emerged, some I had buried deep in my unconscious but had popped up as a result of a random thought or memory ignited by another – the strongest being the love I had received from family and friends. I couldn’t see the sense at the time, but trusted my mentor and as I did felt a surge of energy through my body which was quite indescribable.
Gratitude is apparently famous for evoking a high spiritual frequency as is love, and I now believe is a good place to begin, especially as we are about to start a new decade. It is also brilliant if you want to take the next step in your life, as it will give you a strong mental platform to take a leap of faith into the future.
So where is this all leading, I was urged to seek life coaching when I had reached a crossroads as to where to put my energies, and as I had a plethora of skills all crying out to be commissioned. But my revered coach quickly identified where I would create most value.
It was a surprise because I felt she would opt for the most practical of options and the ones that seemingly would make the most money, but instead she urged me to follow my heart and my passion, as then she insisted, I would be fulfilled and only then could I create value on all fronts. She was right in her analysis.
It was a treasured lesson, and one that I have been putting in place for the past few months. I have been lucky to meet someone with whom my life has resonated in terms of mentoring, and felt compelled to write about the experience to give you the opportunity to explore your own inner journey which will in turn change your life and perhaps put it back on course.
Choosing a life coach is a very personal experience, and one that only you can decide is right for you. I can help by making suggestions but it is ultimately your call, and one that I hope will be as life changing for you as it was for me.
A couple of suggestions I can make initially are Lynne Franks, who operates from her own holistic healing centre in Somerset The Hub at No 3, where I spent a blissful three days being mentored and nurtured by Lynne and her highly practised professionals in the art of holistic healing.
This I would heartily recommend to start the new year and the new decade. You can explore all of Lynne’s courses, and do not be afraid of group sessions as they are gentle and nurturing, but you could also book her for a one on one coaching which is transformational.
If you would like to venture further afield, you could try one of Jason Chan’s healing centres in Thailand. Jason is famous for releasing stubborn spiritual blockages, and I highly recommend him to change deeply embedded karmic energies. Jason also visits many countries where you can visit him including the UK.
Happy 2020 everybody, and huge thanks for being part of our spiritual journey and for all of the love you have shown us. Let’s make 2020 and beyond a decade to remember for the good in every way possible!
‘How much is that doggie in the Window, the one with the waggly tail’ goes the old song, which is rarely played these days. In fact you will never see a doggie in any shop window in the UK nowadays, as we have thankfully tightened up the rules where window shopping and impulse buying of such a precious animal is concerned.
If you are preparing to buy or rescue a dog for the family for Christmas, how prepared are you? Have you thought it through, as it is a bit like making the changes to your home and lifestyle of having a new baby.
Firstly, depending on the size and breed of the dog, it is advisable to buy loose covers or throws for all of the furniture as you will want to wash them frequently if you are allowing the animal to sleep on the settee or even the bed. If not, then invest in a dog basket or sheep skin for the pet to sleep on.
If you are at work all day then you should think through how often your new pet needs to be taken for a walk, and it is possible to train dogs to stay in a crate for several hours, but this is not advisable until they know you will be coming back. So arduous work with leaving them from ten minutes at a time over a week or so and then building up to the time you will be out of the house, which should not be more than two or three hours at a time. So it may be wise for you to employ a doggie walker who will come to your house a couple of times a day. This does not come cheap, anything from £7 to £10 a walk for an experienced person who you can trust.
There are also some excellent doggie day care centres now, and will almost certainly be one in your area where you can take your dog when out for long hours. Again these range between £10 and £20 per day, costing more for an overnight stay.
Owning a dog does not come cheap, with their vaccinations, food, day care, deworming and flea treatments it can add up to a hefty £3-£7k per year. Look around for the best health insurance and veterinary surgery. But take out full cover because vets are expensive and you will still need to pay to get your dog neutered and vaccinated.
It is still advisable to go into the animal’s background if you have kids to make sure he or she is safe to have in the home, but the good news is, they are the most therapeutic animals in the World, and have been known to be a healing companion to the elderly or a younger person with a disability.
You should decide the breed of dog you want or if you would like to acquire a dog from your local rescue home. Size is quite irrelevant in the grand scheme of things in terms of care, as all dogs need walking and attention and the same rules apply. Smaller dogs are just easier to carry around, but there are the same restrictions in most restaurants, supermarkets or retail outlets so check out your local dog friendly ones.
Going on holiday is another thing to consider, and you may decide to go to a log cabin in the country where they have fabulous walks or dog friendly hotels or even abroad – and then you will need a doggie passport.
If you are going further afield check out your best kennel, as some are better than others, and most will give you a guided tour, and you can decide for yourself. If you choose one where they receive one to one attention, they will also have a brilliant holiday and some love it so much they won’t want to come home at first. So don’t fret about leaving them in kennels for a couple of weeks if you go away.
If after all of this information you still have your heart set on a dog, then you are embarking on a wonderful adventure, and one that will change your life for the better. But take heed, as they have been known to steal the hardiest of hearts, and they are also famous for never returning it to the owner.