I think the next time my mum and dad were so excited to help me pack my bags to go away was in May 1997 as I got ready to leave with Ken Persaud to go to Teen Challenge. It is hard to get into words what it meant for my parents to be able to draw breath, as they did not have to worry about that knock at the door telling them I was either dead or in prison.
Funnily enough, I have never asked them what those first days were like. So I asked my sister Yvonne. Now anyone that knows our Yvonne knows that she has never been one for mincing her words. Uh oh.
“They never thought ye were gonnae stay there. Dae ye remember the letter ye sent my ma?” Straight to the point.
“Whit letter?” I asked, but knew what was coming.
“You sent her a letter, telling her you couldnae handle it and wanted tae come hame.Ye sent it tae ma ma cos she wis the weak link. You thought she would gie in, Cammy wis ragin wae ye. (Cammy being Yvonne’s husband).”
“Cammy wis ragin?” I retorted, “he’s got a cheek. ”
“He wiz ragin thit ye sent it tae ma ma cos the rest o us wid ave telt ye were to go.”
Nothing I could say to that. It was true.
My only saving grace was that I had actually talked over that letter, and a few other things with my mum, AND apologised for it.
It was true though, both my mum, and Roy Lees, in the early days would get letters and phone calls begging to let me come home. It got so bad that I remember calling Roy one night and saying to him just to ignore me and Ronnie (another Easterhouse boy) that used to take shots each with me at calling Roy to bring us home. I told him it meant we were just having a tough day. “Tell us to shut up and hang up on us, we will get over it”.
I did tell my mum the same thing on the phone as well, but it did take a long time and a quite in-depth chat with Jay Fallon before I really found the freedom to be quite open with those closest to me.
My favourite evening snack in my Teen Challenge days was a piece n chips. This was because you weren’t allowed a piece n anything through the week. Apparently, the very Scottish tradition of sticking anything between two slices of bread proved too much to a particular management staff member when one of the guys had bolognese (a quite tasty piece if I do say so myself) and had the favoured mealtime practice banned. The exception was a Sunday evening. We would stop off at one of the local chippies on the way back from church in Swansea and get bags of chips for all the guys.
My mum and dad did get some respite whilst I was there. I never left early, in fact, I never came home for eighteen months. I spent my weekends away with the wonderful Sutherland family (John, Joyce and Jackie) in the stunning town of Newlyn, Cornwall. John and Joyce were involved in the leadership of The Rock Church and had welcomed other Teen Challenge students into their home as a safe place to get used to their new lives outside Teen Challenge.
My mum and my sister Yvonne travelled down to Gorslas a few times, like for my baptism and one or two day visits, as well as my graduation in November 1998. I never got sucked into that trap of feeling I had to prove my addiction was gone by going back to Easterhouse as soon as I could. This suited my mum and dad as it meant their respite continued. I am not quite sure though if theirs included milk n a piece n jam though.
This blog is part of a wider collection to show the journey that would eventually lead me to the cross of Jesus Christ, my personal redemption, and my journey of faith afterwards. If you would like to know more of my story, please click on my “About” page and take it from there.
Alternatively, you can visit the Media Links page and see a short visit done by BBC Radio Scotland for an interview I did there.
If you or someone you love, needs help with the Christian response to addiction, or if you would just like to know more or need hope, please click on one of the following:
The Haven Kilmacolm
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Street Connect, Glasgow City
Bethany Christian Trust, Scotland
Jumping Jacks Outreach, Maryhill
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
Easterhouse Community Church