The 1st Step Recovery Cafe in Linlithgow has been offering addicts across West Lothian a safe space for over a year and recently celebrated its first anniversary.
Last April the cafe was launched and since then, every Tuesday and even on Christmas day the doors at the Longcroft Hall were open between 12.30pm and 3pm offering a variety of hot food and drink, as well as giving recovering addicts a place to meet and talk without fear or judgement.
Kimberley Byron (43) now runs the cafe and works hard to ensure there is always food, drinks and someone to talk to during opening hours.
She understands better than most what turmoil, pain and isolation addicts go through, being one herself.
Kimberley said: “I had my first drink at 14-years-old, went out clubbing a lot and enjoyed myself.
“It progressed from there and soon drugs became involved.”
Kimberley admits she was a functioning addict and explained how she would replace one drug for another depending on the situation. She said: “If I needed something to calm me down I knew what I needed. If I needed something else I would get it.”
After years of addiction Kimberley attended LEAP; a 12 step treatment programme in Edinburgh in July 2014. The live-in centre taught Kimberley a lot about her own behaviour and actions.
She said: “I went in to the programme an alcoholic and came out an alcoholic and a drug abuser.
“It taught me all about myself and the staff constantly challenged me and I really am grateful for all the work they do.”
Kimberley is so appreciative of the work at LEAP that she goes back every year with a cake as a thank you.
Making progress in her recovery, Kimberley was part of the steering group that set up the 1st Step Recovery Cafe and since its humble beginnings she has been a part of the team that helps others in recovery.
She understands how addicts feel and ensures anyone who comes to the cafe is looked after. She said: “Addicts isolate themselves but anyone who uses the cafe knows we are here to help. Some walk in and walk straight back out however others come and keep coming back.”
Kimberley completed a food hygiene course and her SMART facilitator training and now runs the cafe which has grown in size over the past 12 months.
She said: “The community support has been fantastic. At first people may have been unwilling to admit Linlithgow has a group for drug addicts but now we are getting people talking about it and have users from across West Lothian coming to the cafe.
“We are focusing more on the recovery rather than the addiction and I am more than happy to continue to help people who need it.”
Kimberley has got her life back on track and the eager learner is at college completing an SVQ3 in community development. Most importantly she has rekindled her relationship with her daughter and for the past eight months the pair have been seeing a lot more of each other.
She said: “My daughter tells me how proud she is of me and it is the best thing to hear.
“People ask me do I feel I wasted years of my life while I was an addict and I say no as it got me to where I am now.”