Aone-time Dromore pub has been transformed into a musical ‘Recovery Cafe’ where people can beat addictions and turn their lives around.
The concept came to songwriter and composer Pastor Sheila Smyth when she was providing music therapy at a rehabilitation centre for alcoholics in Newry two years ago.
As chief executive of the Right Key social enterprise, she has also begun a pilot using music for healing within the criminal justice system.
Well-known locally since launching the Fresh Oil Ministries and Music Centre inDromore, Sheila had also been the driving force behind the Voice of the Bann choir that evolved from a local singing circle to launch its own CDs.
Some 100 people attended the former pub last week to hear members of Sheila’s new Voice of Recovery choir sing rock, folk and traditional hymns.
Some members read poetry.
One woman told how the love of her life had betrayed her and she found a friend and courage in alcohol.
A man describing himself as “the Karaoke King” reported using alcohol as a mask and losing everything he held dear, but thanks to the cafe, he said, his friends now saw he had “become the person he was meant to be.
“The idea for the project,” Sheila said, “is to bridge the gap between people coming out of a rehab centre where they have been in control for three months, but then coming home to an empty flat with maybe three months of bills waiting for them.
“The first thing you want to do is drink.
“There is a gap and the recovery cafe is where everyone can find support.”
Last week’s event was attended by representatives of the Arts Council, Addiction NI, Invest NI, clergy and academics.
Before finishing their final song, many choir members , their voices breaking, accepted an invitation form Sheila to shout out the names of friends who had died due to addiction.
“The project is not just for alcoholics,” said Sheila.
“Everyone has suffered brokenness and needs emotional, physical and spiritual healing.
“ We are unashamedly people of prayer.”
Health Minister Jim Wells commended theproject.
“The Recovery Café shows the impact that the arts can have in supporting recovery, and gives people an opportunity to rediscover their voice and themselves.
“It highlights that people can, and indeed do, recover from substance misuse.”
The Recovery Cafe has clothes and food banks and a games room.
It hopes to begin making guitars soon if it can secure funding, as some members are gifted craftsmen.
Sheila Smyth can be contacted at email@example.com or 079 4941 8408.