In early March, Dave Hollingsworth, the Residential Treatment Manager at our Beckenham centre, took part in a self-development programme in Scotland with ex-service users of Gordon Moody. In his own words, he talks about the experience.
Five ex-service users of Gordon Moody – along with seven people from other rehabilitation programmes for drugs and alcohol – made their way over the border to Oban in Scotland for a week’s self-development programme. The trip included staying one night on an uninhabited island called Scarba. The exact details were unknown but all travelled with more excitement than trepidation.
THE LONG JOURNEY NORTH
Most had convened at Kings Cross station with two of our ex-service users travelling from Dudley. Weather conditions meant our train into Edinburgh was delayed with the knock-on effect being we missed the last train to Oban. Fortunately, taxis were laid on for us by the train company and we were actually ensconced in our youth hostel on time.
On Tuesday, we awoke early for our briefing and kit check ahead of the boat crossing to the island. Everyone was acutely aware that there was a sleeping bag on the required kit list but no sign of a tent! All part of the adventure.
We had to make the boat crossing in two groups, which would also form the groups for our time on the island. Our party consisted of five ex-Gordon Moody service users and one person from the other party – who became an integral part of our group.
A short walk uphill upon disembarking and we stopped to properly introduce ourselves to one another by sharing the best and worst things that have happened in our lives. This was a real icebreaker and a great way for bonds to be formed.
The group, led by Phil and Colin (or Phil Collins as I labelled them), ensured everyone’s safety both in terms of the activities (Phil) and pastoral care (Colin). Without spoiling things for anyone reading this who may go on a future trip of this nature, the group were put through their paces with a series of cerebral exercises that needed team cohesion to pull off.
As the evening drew near everyone’s thoughts turned to the sleeping arrangements. Driftwood was collected from the beach and spring water from the streams all around. All I’ll say is the sleeping bags and their ability to keep you warm at sub zero temperatures were most appreciated.
First light on Wednesday and there was no time for breakfast (unless you’d kept your packed lunch back from the day before) and we were straight into another activity which pushed everyone to their limits. It involved harnesses and heights and I will leave you to guess the blanks so as not to ruin things for future attendees!
To the surprise and delight of everyone, a hot breakfast had been rustled up in a bothy. (Worth a Google. I had no idea either.) The rest of the day was spent exploring the island with mindfulness and spirituality strong themes.
Caves were explored, wild boars were ignored and the weather turned ever more Scottish. Our boat captain radioed to say we needed to get off the island that afternoon else we would be stranded for a couple of days. Gulp.
Our nautical heroes duly arrived and we made our way to another youth hostel where we freshened up, warmed up and began to unpick the adventures that we’d all experienced. A lovely dinner of chilli was cooked by one of the Gordon Moody ex-service users and 17 of us were fed without fuss. He repeated the trick the following night with a goulash. Wondrous.
Early nights were had by all with full bellies and warm toes!
Thursday was a day in the warm doing self-development exercises in the two sub groups. Feedback was given to one another, always done with love and respect. Friendships were forming with mutual appreciation for one another’s journeys in recovery. By nightfall, the hostel’s guitar was discovered and an impromptu jamming session ensued.
THE LONG JOURNEY HOME
Friday morning was soon upon us and an arduous 12 hour schlep home. We travelled tired but happy, exhausted but fulfilled. As we said our goodbyes back in London it was “hugs not drugs” as we’d been told by our fellow participants and for those of us who love being out walking our own phrase (and Gordon Moody walking club) was coined, “rambling not gambling”.
Two of our ex-service users are setting up a Gordon Moody walking group with the aim of arranging weekend walks all over Britain. So watch this space!
With thanks to John Peck and his team for a memorable week. There’ll be more I am sure, they’re worth it.