Estranged former soldier from Glasgow reunites with family at Christmas following 20 year battle with drug addiction

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Matthew Murie reunited with his family thanks to his work with the Glasgow Recovering Voices programme

A Glaswegian veteran who battled drug and alcohol addiction for 20 years was reunited with his estranged family as he took part in a Glasgow-based drama therapy recovery programme.

Matthew Murie, 44, had not seen his big sister Pamela Gilfillan or young niece for five years due to the stress of his addiction, which had driven them apart. His relationship with his mum, Nancy Murie, had also broken down and he feared that in his addiction, he had pushed all of his loved ones away. But Matthew, who currently lives in Clydebank, told of his joy after his sister, niece, and mum turned up to support him at a performance by the Recovering Voices group at Oran Mor in Glasgow last year.

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Recovering Voices, devised by film writer and director Mark MacNicol and the charity Creative Change Collective – formerly Street Cones – is a “drama therapy” programme for people in the recovery community who have no prior interest in drama or therapy. The weekly sessions are designed to keep people in recovery and allows them to work towards project performances at the end of a six-month programme.

Recovering Voices has been funded for three years in Glasgow by the Scottish Government through the Corra Foundation and is now available to people in Dumbarton, Saltcoats, and Erskine. Matthew, who took part in the Glasgow project last year and is returning to offer peer support when a new programme begins in the city on Friday, said Recovering Voices had helped take him out of his comfort zone and built up his confidence and self-esteem.

Matthew, a former soldier, had struggled on and off with an addiction to heroin, cocaine, and alcohol for two decades. Matthew sought help from specialist recovery service Safe as Houses in January last year where he was put on a 12-step programme and was later introduced to Recovering Voices.

Matthew Murie said: “At Christmas in 2021 I was really broken and I didn’t think there was any way out. I had nothing, no friends or family left because I’d pushed everyone away, and I had nothing in my flat apart from a tiny radio. I’d been in the Army and became a lorry driver when I came out, but by that point I had lost my licence.

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“My mum had been dragged through my addiction with me and it was breaking her. Me and my sister had broken ties about five years before so I lost that relationship with her. I was dragging people down and I didn’t see any way out.

“I went to Safe as Houses almost a year ago and got myself a sponsor. I put in the hard work and then the opportunity to came up to join Recovering Voices. I’d never done anything like it before. They built me up and I got my confidence back working with the group.

“It gave me something to do every week, and it was all leading up to the performance at Oran Mor. I was really nervous but I had a lot of people there supporting me that night – friends, family and people I’d met throughout my recovery. I could see my mum, sister and niece all sitting at the front, it was quite emotional.

“To see how proud they were – it’s one of the best moments I’ve ever had. They hadn’t been able to be proud of me, and we hadn’t had any special moments like that, for over 20 years.”

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Matthew Murie battled addiction for 20 years - and is now supported in his recovery by Recovering VoicesMatthew Murie battled addiction for 20 years - and is now supported in his recovery by Recovering Voices
Matthew Murie battled addiction for 20 years - and is now supported in his recovery by Recovering Voices | Contributed

Last Christmas Matthew was able to spend Christmas with his mum, sister, niece and brother-in-law for the first time in five years. People in Glasgow’s recovery community are being encouraged to self-refer to the Recovering Voices programme, which begins again on Friday and runs weekly from 2pm-4pm. Anyone interested, or who would like to find out more, should contact [email protected].

Project director Mark MacNicol, who lost his own brother Jason to drug addiction, said: “Everyone at Recovering Voices is immensely proud of Matthew and the achievements he and all our past participants have made.

“We hope his story will inspire others in the recovery community to sign up to join our weekly sessions, which begin again in Glasgow this Friday. Recovering Voices is not a traditional drama group – most of our participants have no interest in acting or writing.

“Our sessions are designed to support people in their recovery through drama therapy type activities. We have been working in the justice space since 2014, and more recently with the recovery community for about 12 months, and we’ve seen some incredible results.”

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