‘Serenity’ Aims To Confront The Harmful Stereotypes Of Addicts And Rehabilitation
Addiction is not a choice. Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. Over an estimated half a million people in the UK have alcohol dependency, and are in need of specialist treatment. Less than one-fifth receive help.
Words by – Jonathan Tomlinson Photography by – Laura Foster

After witnessing the brutality of a close family member dealing with alcohol addiction, Laura Foster talks about how her experience was enlightening and how she felt the need to document this through photography. ‘Serenity’ aims to confront the harmful stereotypes of addicts and rehabilitation. This important series aims to depict the representation of what society believes an addict to be. “Society assumes that it is their fault, their choice, and do not see it as the all-consuming mental illness it truly is. This is why I felt it was so necessary to use my work and the voice it gives me to carry on the fight to not only help addicts, but show a wider audience the truth about addiction.”

The series follows all-male Christian-run rehabilitation centre Yeldall Manor, and the day to day lives of its residents. “before the visit I was completely terrified as I had these perceptions of what a rehabilitation centre would be like, as do many, picturing it almost like a psychiatric hospital. Upon my arrival I was greeted with the opposite. The converted manor house I walked into immediately felt safe, it felt like a community and a family. The staff who work with people in their worst and most vulnerable states were some of the kindest people I have ever met.” Explains Foster.

Spending roughly 4 months visiting Yeldall multiple times a week, it was an experience that Laura describes as changing her view not only as a photographer, but as a person. Over the time spent with the people within the home, she spent hours upon hours having conversations with them and listening to their stories and experiences. “One of the vital aspects that was incredibly important to me in this project was focussing on the issue of male mental health, and how so few men will ask for help. I spent weeks seeing how the centre worked, the routines and different programmes implemented all contributing to each man’s recovery. The connections I made with the residents very quickly made me realise this work was no longer about me and my voice, it was about theirs. I was finally able to give them a chance to tell their stories, and show the real people behind the illness. The unseen, misunderstood and ongoing battle of addiction.”