12 – An ‘L’ of a place part 4 – Bus Service

In  the previous three blogs on these particular days, I recounted how I found myself with a gun stuck in my back, (An ‘L’ of a place Part 1), then I spoke about my final weekend on drugs, (An “L” of a place – Part 2 Completing the tenner) and finally my first meeting with Ken Persaud, (An ‘L’ of a place part 3 – the phone call), and the phone call that changed the direction of my life.

Ken had prayed over the phone for me on Monday evening when I was desperate for a fix, I had apologised to my mum and dad, gone to bed and slept all night. The Tuesday morning I got up and, to be honest, I never even thought about having a fix. It was probably the nearest to normality (for me anyway) I had ever been since about 12 years old. We did phone Ken later on that day to see if there was any news on a rehab place, but I helped about the house and just really hung out. There had been phone calls to my previous employers (yes the ones that tried to shoot me) as they still owed me about three weeks wages. I never did get that by the way.

We knew that some guy called Roy would be out that evening after the Teen Challenge bus was parked up at Easterhouse Health Centre so pretty much the whole day was spent treading time.

Around 8pm there was a knock at the door and a guy I had a vague knowledge of came in. It was Roy Lees. For those of you that know Roy, you will know that he has spent pretty much his whole life since the early 90’s being used to rescue men and women, boys and girls from the horrors of addiction and let them know how much they are loved and valued.

I knew none of that then.

royTC Bus

Roy came in, my mum hung around and listened in this time. My dad disappeared to another room. This was all a bit too much for him, I think. I can understand his pessimi8sm and cynicism. I even got that fact that being a “Glasgow man” he was not going to be anywhere near anything that could make him emotional.

Roy talked about a girl I knew a little bit, Susan Halley, who had gone to Teen Challenge Hope House (the women’s centre) just over 12 months previously and how well she was doing. Why Susan’s story had caught my attention was that around this time I spent a lot of time with her brother, Gus. I liked Gus and we got on very well together. My dad also knew their dad, Gus. It was strange to hear of someone so close to me. I had been with Gus just a few days previously before this all kicked off.

I was intrigued. It is hard to say why, but I genuinely felt what can best be described as a spark going off in me. I would later define it as hope arising, but at that time I just felt a wee bit better and more optimistic about the future. Future! Wow only 4 days before someone wanted to shoot me, and even if that had not got me, an overdose or something else probably would have, and here I was anticipating a future.

Roy did not say much about the process, other than he knew that Ken was trying his best. I was later to find out he never said much as he knew Ken had promised I would be away within a week, but the Teen Challenge process was to visit the bus at least once a week for six weeks to show intent and then fill out an application form. Thanks Roy for not crushing my mum and dad’s hopes at that time by staying quiet. I would not have lasted six weeks.

Roy left, and I went to bed early and slept all night again.

I got up the next morning and had to go and sign on. My sister, Yvonne, insisted she was coming with me. After all, they only knew me as a manipulative addict that would do anything for a fix. I was ok with that and off we went. Its hard to actually write all the stuff that was going through my head at this point, but NONE of it was about completing the tenner or even looking for a fix. I genuinely do not even recall thinking about drugs at all.

Later that afternoon, Ken called. My mum had answered and called me out to the hall, (remember that was where we used to keep our phones). Ken said he had me a place in the Teen Challenge men’s centre in South Wales on Monday, but because of how I was they were going to take me into the Haven in Kilmacolm for the weekend. He said he would come and collect me the next day at 2pm.

As I recounted the call to my family, I remember the tears in my mum’s eyes. But they still had to get me there.

That afternoon I took everything I owned and had a fire in my dads metal bin in the back garden. Everything!

Needles, clothes, rare vinyl albums! Everything other than one set of clothes was burned in that fire.

Around tea time I said I was going a walk. I was honestly just wanting to stretch my legs, but my sister said, “If you go out that door then don’t bother coming back!”

“Ok.” I said and went into the kitchen to make tea. No fight! No argument, no moaning. This was not me. Only a couple of weeks before I had threatened to jump through Yvonne’s closed living room window in an attempt to get out and get drugs.

Thursday came. Anticipation (and probably a bit of dread on my family’s part) built. Ken arrived and we all said our goodbyes. My last goodbye was to Susie. Susie was my lurcher dog. She was an incredibly clever dog, as well as a brilliant hunter. Susie gave hugs and smiled. (I promise you this is true). And off I went into Ken’s white car.

As he started the engine, he asked if I minded if he put some Christian music on. I nodded, expecting to hear organs and tambourines. Instead what came out was this great and joyful explosion of music and voice. It was only later that I found out this was music from Hillsong Church in Australia.

That day was my dad’s birthday. 22nd May 1997. No one remembered at that time. We were all caught up in getting me away. My dad never mentioned it once. No cards, no presents. No fuss!

As we arrived at the Haven, I was dumbfounded when I saw it. I had only ever travelled on this road once before. It was two weeks previously when I was doing security at a site in Weymss Bay. I needed to get home and get a fix on the Saturday and after asking one of the workers (I said I needed to get home for something else obviously) this was the route we took. He actually made a big deal about pointing out the Haven. The sign said something like “The Haven Men’s Christian Training Centre”. I asked what that meant and he said that it taught men how to live proper Christian lives. He never mentioned rehab.

It seemed surreal that I already felt a familiarity with this place because of that drive.

The Haven Entrance

As we arrived, I was taken into the manager’s office and introduced to the then manager, Fin Moffat. Fin was a graduate of the Teen Challenge programme and had come back to Scotland to help people like me.

“Stuart”, he said “We are not going to call you a junkie or a smackhead or anything like that, as that as not who you are anymore. We are not going to call you a Christian, as you have not made that choice. But we are going to call you a student as you are here to study the Bible, whether you like it or not.”

(That was the last time in Teen Challenge any direct reference was ever made to “junkie”. I will do another blog at some time to share why they are so successful.)

After a wee while Fin called me back into the office and said that they were going to keep me at The Haven for my induction. This was the first, four weeks, part of the course. “No, you are not!” I said. “I have a place in Wales and I am going there on Monday. If I stay here I will be up the road (I will go home) as soon as it gets hard.” Drug addicts are not meant to think this way. We normally take the path of least resistance and are very compliant in search of completing the tenner.)

“Ok,” he said. “I’ll call you back in a while”.

About ten minutes later I was back in his office, and he asked if I had any money for my bus fare to Wales. “Are you serious” I replied, “I couldn’t even get my second fiver for a fix.” He laughed and sent me back out to the lounge, (on reflection I was in and out an awful lot that day, hmmm).

When I was summoned again to speak to Fin, he told me that they had a ticket on the National Express coach the next day. (Later I found Roy had paid the fare, don’t think I ever paid it back.)

The next morning Steve (a Phase 3 student from Lancashire on a break in the Haven,  and I were brought to Buchanan Street Bus Station. I bought a packet of cigarettes which thoroughly displeased Steve because, as he said, I was already on the programme and smoking was not allowed. I didn’t see it that way.

It set the tone for the next 13 hours travelling on a very warm May Friday. We changed at Birmingham and headed for Swansea. We had been instructed by the staff to get a taxi from Swansea the 15 miles to the centre and it would be paid when we got there.

As the taxi was about to turn into the centre, I stuck the packet of cigarettes down the back of the seat, (what is it with me and sticking things down the back of car seats). I knew that I had had my last cigarette.

Challenge House

We walked in through the back door of what later come to be known as Challenge House at 12,30 on the Friday night / Saturday morning. Exactly one week almost to the minute from when FC had stuck the gun in my back in that ‘L’ of a place.

Walking into the corridor of a converted supermarket, in a small village called Gorslas, in South West Wales, I was struck by how at peace I was. For the first time that I could think of, I felt that I was where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there for what I was supposed to be there for. I had moved from ‘L’ to heaven (on earth) in the space of seven days.

If you would like to know more about the centres and organisations featured in this please click on the following:

The Haven Kilmacolm

Teen Challenge Strathclyde, including TC bus info

Teen Challenge UK

Each of these sites will also be able to help if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.