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The extraordinary story of the triple award winning BBC5 Live podcast ‘Hooked-The Unexpected Addicts’.

In 2019 the triple award-winning BBC podcast ‘Hooked the Unexpected Addicts’ was created and presented by two women: Melissa Rice a former Liverpool based teacher, and Jade Wye a nurse. Both women had suffered form active addiction and now, with new lives in recovery, were perfect choices to present the programme,

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07q3jb7

‘Hooked – The Unexpected Addicts’ will always be a broadcasting first. The first time the BBC have commissioned a podcast series on all thing’s addiction and recovery. The first time that two professional women, Melissa and Jade, have had a platform to openly and honestly, discuss the negative consequences of active addiction. Their journey from ‘rock-bottom’, their meeting at Clouds House treatment centre, and the courageous story of their recovery journey. Originally 6 episodes were commissioned and the end by the second season 26 episodes had been broadcast! The first BBC podcast to be awarded radio (not podcast!) programme of the year by the Broadcasting Press Guild, BBC Best Community Podcast, and winner of a silver at the British podcast awards.

Melissa is a proud alcoholic in recovery who is determined to challenge the stigma and stereotype attached to addiction. Having gone from primary school teacher to rehab, Melissa knew that her experiences were that of many and so, set out to write the pitch for award winning podcast BBC 5live podcast Hooked: The Unexpected Addicts.

Jade has overcome many personal challenges and has lived experience of recovery from addiction, she is over 2 and a half years free from substances. A former mental health nurse was the co-host of the award-winning BBC 5 Live podcast Hooked: the unexpected addicts. Jade is a trustee for Treasures Foundation charity where she works on the ground as well as board level. She volunteers with the drug and alcohol service for SHP (Single Homeless Project). Jade also does charity work and fundraising for addicts and people wishing to leave gang crime in South Africa.

I made contributions throughout the series including a memorable ‘Christmas special’ recorded in a pop-up tent in the centre of the square in Media City Salford directly opposite the BBC studios. As the ratings rose and rose ‘Hooked’ became a national broadcasting phenomenon. Melissa and Jade were connecting with their audience. and the subjects they focussed on had rarely, if ever, been explored or discussed in such a manner. Segments such as ‘Music is my therapy’ asking guests and the audience to submit their favourite music choices endeared and entertained in equal measure. I was thrilled to have my choice ‘Comfortably Numb’-Pink Floyd played during the ‘Surviving Christmas and addiction’ episode. A life, and career, highlight!

‘Hooked’ help changed the lives of all of those who listened to it and those involved in its production. As a result of my involvement, I was asked to talk to the media on many occasions about addiction, treatment and recovery. Something that before that first BBC recording I had little or no experience of. If you listen carefully, at one point in episode 1 you can hear my dog barking! With the help of some good friends and colleagues experienced in these matters I was able to learn how to broadcast. They gave me many tips and suggestions which are important to know if you want to be successful in not only in providing the producers of the programme what they want but to also ensure that the message I wanted to pass on which was the reduction of stigma associated with addiction could be achieved. This was of vital help when I sat alone in a BBC5Live studio in the huge building that is Broadcasting House, London home of the BBC. With the six o’clock news being broadcast on the floor below. Waiting to go ‘live’ on the drivetime programme promoting and reflecting on ‘Hooked’. To say my heart was pounding and my palms sweaty would be an understatement. I was gripped by a fear which seemed overwhelming. Suddenly in my ear the producer announced it was my turn next and down the line from Salford the easily recognisable tones of the presenter Tony Livesey was introducing me in connection with ‘Hooked’. Cue for more heart pounding and sweat! Then suddenly he did something which changed my fear into one of compassion when he admitted, live on air, that he had struggled at times with his relationship with alcohol. The next twenty minutes or so then flew by and I managed, I hope, to be useful and sensible in all my answers and responses. I was surprised when the closing music could be heard in my headphones. I was thanked and then it was all over. I skipped out of the front door giving a brief glance to the bright lights from the One Show studio which had begun its broadcast and went home.

A few months later, as I was becoming confident of my newfound skills, the covid pandemic was upon us lockdown soon followed and within a few short weeks, out of necessity, we had all become broadcasters.

Melissa and Jade continued to record season two not from the BBC studios in Salford but in their homes with equipment shipped from Manchester. The quality of season two was as good as season one which was reflected in the solid audience ratings. When the final episode was broadcast Melissa and Jade had created 23 episodes covering all aspects of addiction.

So, it was with a real sense of excitement, for me when the three of us were reunited at an addiction conference in London. Melissa and Jade are very modest about their achievements with ‘Hooked’ but what they did, in broadcasting terms, changed the manner addiction was presented in the media, and they opened they way for many others to follow in their footsteps. Many people owe ‘Hooked’ a great deal. Whether they were looking for the courage to ask for help for themselves or a loved one, professionals seeking information about addiction, or practitioners like myself hoping to change attitudes and the stigma connected to addiction, one day at a time.

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