this is how it all began…

Penny in her mid 30s realised there had to be more to this life. Having worked hard throughout her 20s to achieve a sense of security and wellbeing, she discovered paradoxically that she could only find it by complete surrender. Since 2000 this has been a journey that has taken Penny to THIS place.

On the 18 March 2003 she had her last alcoholic drink. After years of struggle, her surrender began a new journey that has led to THE OVERCOMERS PLACE. The Big Book of AA says that the only way to ‘insure immunity against addiction is intensive work with others’. So to insure her newfound abstinence, Penny volunteered at a rehabilitation centre in western Sydney in 2004. This began a love for seeing others find recovery. A passion Penny pursued in 2005 with an excursion to Toronto for AA’s International Convention. This trip allowed her to begin researching Addiction Rehabilitation models. Initially this search led her to establish a support network for others like herself who had sought refuge in a Christian Church.

In 2006 she quickly discovered that this support was not enough. She had been able to access additional treatment for her own recovery. Many others cried out for additional treatment but were not fortunate enough to be able to access suitable programs. Penny found some answers and was encouraged to pursue solutions, through a network of other Addiction Treatment Facilitators. At her first ISAAC – International Substance Abuse and Alcohol Coalition – Conference in Egypt  she was introduced to Janis Feely, MBE. 

This relationship developed over many years. Janis had established a unique structured day program called The Living Room in 2000. When Penny visited this centre in 2007 she met folk who had advanced in their recovery over a seven month period and had achieved what had taken Penny a good seven years in recovery to achieve. Penny’s supervisors back in Australia encouraged her to pursue her research of Janis’s unique work. In 2010 Penny was able to spend a couple of months living and working with Janis at this centre in Hertfordshire, UK.  Over many hours of conversation Janis inspired Penny’s journey to advance the cause of breaking the cycle of addiction in the lives of others.

From 2007 Penny began academic studies in Counselling, Addiction, Neurobiology and Trauma. Many leading experts could NOT agree about Addiction. Most found it a baffling condition and when honestly pushed, said they would rather not address its complexity. The stigma and shame of addiction has an odour,  that has long been associated with this confusing cunning complex mental illness….

In 2014 Janis volunteered to lead a trial with Penny in Darlinghurst. Penny had been leading a weekly support group there and had members willing and available for the trial when Janis arrived in March. This trial resulted in such favourable comments as “this is functioning rehab model”, “this is what we need daily”, “this trial should have run for longer”, “this has given me hope of overcoming”.

From this trial Penny faced her fears and enrolled in a Masters degree. Sadly her first lecturer was dismissed for turning up to work intoxicated. Maybe t’was a sign! Penny’s compassion for this individual’s struggle spurred her on throughout the years of this difficult degree, resulting in her final research paper on Addiction, Attachment and Affect Regulation. Penny realised that many of us attempt to regulate our agitated nervous systems with the false belief that a substance can be a secure attachment object resulting in a “run away” addictive cycle.

In 2016 Penny received a generous grant to establish the legal structure for  the charity. This hurdle like so many she faced, seemed insurmountable for her. Facing each fear with perseverance, courage and faith, enabled her to overcome the many boulders along this path. Her capacity was increased by a power greater than herself at many points along the way. Once the application was done, the lawyers informed that it would be at least six months before receiving a reply from the government. Yet to theirs and everyone’s amazement the reply came in less than 21 days – 100% approved! The Overcomers Place Ltd became a reality.

Pursuing the complex administration of a registered tax deductible not for profit charity was not Penny’s natural talent but she has consistently turned up for each task. Inspiration was stirred on when she stumbled upon suitable premises! After witnessing the successful move of the Rainbow Recovery team’s 12 step groups to a small office suite in Surry Hills in 2018, Penny’s imagination was ignited and she began considering using an office suite. In October 2019 Penny’s private practice counselling premises replaced their carpet. This randomly resulted in the furniture being stored in the office suite above Penny’s work. A tool she used accidentally went missing. This all led to a chance visit to the office suite on the floor above her practice. Instantly she knew it was a perfect group room. After convincing her husband that this was an excellent location for this dream, she made an offer to the owner on January 2, 2019. Miraculously the generous owner immediately, on hearing what Penny wanted the premises for, was able to say “you know what, I think I will sell this property to you and than donate back what you pay, so you can get this service operating”. 

Well if that is not a power greater than ourselves at work….

So on 18 March 2020 The Overcomers Place began amidst a global pandemic. The centre operated for two days a week. Now in 2021 the centre is open four days a week offering clients a means of recovery. A supporters group and AA 12-steps meeting also run at the centre.

Penny is the CEO of The Overcomers place, a unique service aimed at breaking the cycle of addiction in our community, one life at a time.

The Living Room Hertfordshire, UK.