Northumberland charity Full Circle Recovery helps alcoholics and drug addicts come back from rock bottom

Woody Sidhu used to be a street addict, before someone helped him back on his feet. Now, he is paying it forward.
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Alongside his wife Kam he has started Full Circle Recovery, a supported living charity operating in Newcastle and Blyth that aims to help addicts through the recovery process.

They provide supported housing, a structured 12-step recovery programme, and mental health support to those suffering from alcohol or drug addictions with no one else to turn to.

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Woody said: “I was a street addict myself. I was homeless and I had no socks because someone nicked my socks.

The team at Full Circle recovery (left to right): Woody Sidhu, Karl Baxter, Shane Jackson, and Kam Sidhu.The team at Full Circle recovery (left to right): Woody Sidhu, Karl Baxter, Shane Jackson, and Kam Sidhu.
The team at Full Circle recovery (left to right): Woody Sidhu, Karl Baxter, Shane Jackson, and Kam Sidhu.

“But somebody helped me out. They said to me, ‘pay it forward’. At the moment we have 20 residents that we look after, and this is all part of paying it forward.”

Full Circle is able to help people struggling, but Woody says that people have to be desperate before addiction treatment can work.

The 47-year-old explained: “There is help out there, but they have got to hit rock bottom.

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“It is not like the help is going to come to you. This will only work when you are desperate. It has to be the last call.

An assessment taking place at one of Full Circle's supported houses.An assessment taking place at one of Full Circle's supported houses.
An assessment taking place at one of Full Circle's supported houses.

“We know what it is like to be that fearful, be in that much despair, and we know how to get out of it. If they are willing to accept the help, we have a recipe that works.”

Addiction is an illness, but often it is not seen that way.

“No one that I have ever met in my life tortures themselves continuously. Nobody wants to be in that drunken state 24 hours a day,” Woody said.

“Nobody wants to be on heroin, looking for a vein in their groin. Nobody wants that. It is because it is an illness.”

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And it is an illness that the NHS is not equipped to tackle in the way Full Circle does.

Woody’s analysis is that waiting times are too long and medication such as methadone is not a long-term solution without further support.

He said: “They are not curing anything. They are just delaying it so you do not have to go out and rob.

“If I am honest with you, the NHS cannot help you. What can they do?

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“When people end up overdosing, or on liver wards for liver diseases and drug overdoses, they just treat them and let them back out, and then they go back and do the same thing.

“The problem inside is not medical, it is trauma.”

Recent data from the Department of Health and Social Care shows 62 deaths among people undergoing drug addiction treatment in Northumberland between April 2019 and March 2022, an increase from 42 recorded deaths from 2016 to 2019.

Full Circle has begun to focus its ir attention on Northumberland due to the lack of alternative provisions in the county. It says big cities are often early adopters of funding schemes to tackle addiction, leaving periphery areas underequipped.

Woody said: “Unfortunately, we are the only ones in Northumberland doing this.

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“I do not know why there are no other people doing it because the problem is huge. It is too big for us.”

Many people who use Full Circle do not match the typical impression of a street addict, often slipping into addiction while working as highly paid professionals, and are older than the young demographics targeted by other organisations.

“It is just unfortunate that they had a sequence of bad events happen in their life and there was no one around to just give them a little extra support,” Woody explained.

“Unfortunately there are loads of good people out there that are still suffering.”

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With the help of Full Circle, residents have recovered to become employed, often as counsellors, and sometimes by the charity itself. It claims the programme has a 62% success rate.

Despite recovering from their addiction, however, many cannot return to their field, and this is prohibiting many from seeking the help they need to combat addiction.

“It is affecting every profession, and if they declare it, if they ask for help, they are going to get sacked,” Woody said.

“It definitely needs to change because you are isolating the person.

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“If you want a good member of staff, you want them to be healthy, to work 100%, but they cannot even talk to you about their addiction.

“It needs to be open, to be spoken about in the house as a normal conversation.”

After a career in the NHS for Kam and a successful period in business for Woody, the couple have retired early to fund and operate Full Circle full time.

Woody’s story is a remarkable one, as is the story of anyone who has battled addiction and won, considering how difficult our society makes it for addicts to get back on their feet, even for those with support.

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Attitudes towards alcohol is also important, according to Woody. He said: “Alcohol is a drug which is sold in every street, you get a receipt for it, and the government takes its cut as well.

“The government is, unfortunately, losing the battle with alcoholism at the moment.”

“The future is education,” he believes. “It needs to be taught in schools what the impact of drugs is.

“If it could be taught at school that if you do get into trouble with drink and drugs there is help out there that is confidential, that it is okay to speak to somebody, I believe that will probably save a generation.

“Otherwise it is just firefighting.”

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Both Woody’s father and grandfather died as a result of addiction, so tackling the issue has become his passion.

“Addiction is a heartbreaking journey,” he said. “But when you see families come together again, when you see children speaking to their parents again, there is nothing like it in the world. The reward is supernatural.”

You can refer yourself to Full Circle at