Fragile: How Shelter marked Recovery Month with a poem

Fragile: How Shelter marked Recovery Month with a poem

Alison Stanley, on how a creative activity helped mark Recovery Month 2020 – and produced a beautiful poem.

In January 2020, I was asked to reserve a day in my diary to run a creative activity with some of our clients who are in recovery, and clients of the DAPR (Drug and Alcohol Prevention and Recovery Service). Ideas began to whirr in my mind, and I began to slowly formulate a session for 25th September 2020, to be able to produce some work to display in the office and for participants to take home with them. We work with some very talented and creative people, and I was looking forward to collaborating with them on this project.

Little did we know then the impact coronavirus (COVID-19) would have on all of us, and the way in which Shelter is able to support clients. So, in August, although Recovery Month was still on the agenda, we needed to seriously rethink how to involve people at a distance, taking into account materials and resources – challenging!

Shaping the idea

As Education, Training, Employment and Leisure Co-ordinator, I am able to spend time with people finding out what they are interested in, and ideally what they would like to be involved with to help them identify a way forward and help reduce isolation. Quite often, this is a way for people to integrate with others who have shared interests, such as music, English and the Arts. One such person had been referred to me, and in speaking with him, he helped me formulate an activity in which people could be involved from wherever their journey had taken them.

The word, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, from the film Mary Poppins was the starting point. Clients, identified by their support workers as possibly being interested in participating, were contacted, and the activity explained to them. It was accompanied by a request that they make as many words as they could from our starting word – with support of family and friends if they wished. They were then to chose one word from the collection they had come up with which meant something for their recovery journey, and another which represented their home. 

Notebooks, pens and pencils were sent out along with instructions and of course, the starting word – which is not the easiest word in the world to spell!

Once these were gathered together, I met with our clients – in a socially distanced way, of course – and a poem was formulated for everyone to receive a copy.  Over the next week, the wording was tweaked until we eventually came up with the final version. The poem is called FRAGILE.  This was the most popular word submitted by the people who participated, with many different meanings – from how they felt and fee currently – so it seemed appropriate to call the collective work by this word. 

The end result

Words are not my strength, so I am so grateful to be have been able to work alongside our client to produce this work for Recovery Month 2020.

The poem has been printed and framed, and along with a purple plant (it was in flower when purchased) to represent Recovery Month, a jigsaw to assist with mindfulness and being in the present, and a diary to help with planning and organising, the goodies were delivered to clients who submitted their two words. 15 bags have been passed onto participants.

Charlotte has embroidered the poem to be displayed in our new reception, and we are hoping to have a larger version for the wall.

The talented client who has assisted me with this has written the following:

This work of Art is a massive collaboration. I am so proud to have curated the ideas of people finding their way through. 

I chose the initial word ‘supercallifragilosticexpallidocious’, because there is a sense of joy in the song that I believe Recovery represents. Recovery is not easy (like the word) but it brings pleasure.

I thank everyone who contributed a word or a thought about how to make sense of their recovery through this idea. The battle is real. 

I would especially like to thank Shelter for their daily support in my own recovery journey.


Super Ferocious Fragile
Appalled, expel pull.
Lapsed caged frustration,
Life isolated spoils.

Unstable self-care life lost.
Stoic logistics
Cautious purpose
Suspect lost dialogue.

Realistic support,
Peace palatial.
Gratitude excited,
Stay clean.

Support self.

Shelter Recovery Month, September 2020

You can also read about how we marked Recovery Month with a series of walks.