From Gleadless Valley to United Nations

As a child written off by the school system, I could never have foreseen that my path would lead me from drug-induced psychosis to centre stage at the United Nations.

Throughout my career, I’ve delivered countless presentations locally and nationally. But being at the UN was a whole new level. To have a voice in a forum where global representatives converge to tackle international challenges—It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, one which stands up there as one of my greatest achievements.

Some people joked before leaving, ‘Lucky you, off on a jolly.’ But let me tell you, it’s been far more than that; I’m utterly exhausted. The wealth of information I’ve absorbed and the incredible people I’ve met—I’ll need a week to recover (lmao).

My journey began when Mulka Nisic, a Project Manager at the University of Derby, extended an invitation. Mulka’s impressive track record in the drug policy and recovery field spans decades. You can check her out here .

Our paths first crossed last year after I agreed to share my experience of being a woman in recovery for her PhD research project. Following the interview, I offered to help try and rally some other women from the Sheffield Recovery Community, who, in collaboration with other women across Europe, and who ended up producing an amazing exhibition exploring recovery through the eyes of a woman. You can get a sneak peek at the exhibition here

The Sheffield women then went on to showcase the images as part of International Women’s day in Sheffield, which was a huge success. The event also attracted some new women who had discovered recovery under the radar of traditional treatment services. Proof that there are so many more women to reach and meet.

My role at the UN was to talk about Sheffield women’s involvement in the PhD study and to highlight how Mulka’s unique approach had inspired women to not just become members of the World Federation Against Drugs (WFAD) International Women’s Research network, but also to create their own Sheffield women in Recovery Network.

L-R me, Rita, Alison, H, Auntie Ruth and Mulka

As well as being a project manager, Mulka is also one of the founders of the Global Gender Committee. Her mission is to ensure women’s voices are heard in a space that white middle-class males dominate.

There aren’t many organisations on the global level that specifically address the situation of women facing addiction, but these incredible women (below) who formed the WFAD Gender Committee do and in addition to their day jobs which include,

Monica Barzanti San Patrignano, from Italy who runs San Patrignano, which offers free help to girls and boys with addiction problems. Regina Mattsson, who is the Secretary-General, WFAD & Board Member UN Women Sweden. Amy Ronshausen, who is Executive Director at Drug-Free America Foundation and World Federation Against Drugs

And finally, Asia who runs a women’s support group in Pakistan, recorded a video message for the women back in Sheffield who took part in the project and who hopes to visit the UK soon to learn and share some best practices.

Over the years, the Global Gender Committee has successfully promoted the inclusion of gender-sensitive approaches in the activities of WFAD, including webinars, side-events of CND, and regional and international forums.

You can learn more about some of their amazing achievements  here

L-R Mulka Nisc, Amy Ronshausen, me, Regina Mattsson

Whilst at the UN I was also invited to give a presentation on mental health and addiction based on my own lived experience at the Civil Society Forum event (As you already know if you read my blogs). Being sectioned was the best thing that ever happened to me. But unfortunately, I was released back into the community without any form of aftercare.

Fortunately, months later, after seeking support from my GP, I was referred to receive support from a Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN). I firmly believe that without that intervention and support, I wouldn’t be sitting here today in Vienna writing this. In my presentation, I talked about post-traumatic growth (PTG), which is a positive psychological change that some individuals experience after a life crisis or traumatic event.

I shared how I believe that the traumatic events that I experienced primed me for PTG and how the adversity unintentionally helped me better understand myself to become a better version of the person I used to be.


Shame I didn’t get the chance to read out my Poem about ‘Post Traumatic Growth’ which got featured in this months editions of Recovery Performing Arts magazine.

I ended the presentation by asking for

  • The transfer of support services into community settings.
  • A fresh approach from professionals. –There is a misconception among some practitioners that ‘they” are the experts in diagnosing and prescribing what’s best for the client. I would challenge that notion as I believe the expert is the person they are trying to support.
  • Staff to adopt more strength-based approaches and include trauma-informed ways of working.
  • Communities need to do more to address the stigma associated with Addiction and Mental Health to ensure that our communities are as inclusive as possible.

I even managed to squeeze in a podcast (without swearing) talking about post-traumatic growth with David Closson from the US, who is an ex-veteran in recovery and is now a coach and author.

I just wanted to end this blog by saying that this fantastic opportunity didn’t fall into my lap by chance and that my journey hasn’t been paved with luck or fortune. What you don’t see in the pictures and behind the smiles is a woman who still doubts herself, a woman who had to work on her sense of worth every single day.

Over the years, I have put myself out there. I have left myself feeling exposed and vulnerable and found myself stuck at the end of many dead ends. But I have also found myself on paths I could never have imagined possible.

All the opportunities I have been given over the years result from multiple chance encounters after seeking out like-minded individuals on the same page as me. People who aren’t motivated by ego or status but who have a simple but huge desire to make this insane world a better place for their communities and the people who live in them.

It still frustrates me that so many people are out there suffering unnecessarily in silence, who have yet to discover their true potential and, more importantly, their voice.

My advice to anyone is ALWAYS to stay true to yourself, NEVER compromise yourself for the sake of anyone who isn’t worthy of your time and find and surround yourself with positive people who are on the same page as you.

Reyt, I’m gonna leave it here because whilst the UN was a great experience, it was also a distraction from one of my other missions, which is to get back to writing and to finish this bleeding memoir.

Love Fordy




Remember – I don’t write for financial reward or gain. I want to help share my lived experience with others, hoping it helps. I just love to write, so if you fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM) with the most up-to-date blogs from yours truly, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of the main page.





4 thoughts on “From Gleadless Valley to United Nations

  1. Great Post Tracey and so well deserved, I know how far you’ve come on your journey as I’ve spent of a large part of the last 26 years walking alongside you : 0 )

    I don’t know anyone who is a greater testament to how high you can climb whilst having two feet planted into the ground and below all the way through

    Keep on following The Recovery Brick road

    Mick x

  2. No words…I am reading this with tears rolling down my face..

    You are amazing and such an inspiration. To us all women ❤️.you are and will always be my inspiration x

    1. Thank you, lovely and DITTO; I think you underestimate how much of an aspiration you are, too I just feel honoured to call you not just a colleague but also a friend x

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