"It’s coming up to three years since I’ve been involved at Simpson House. I found the place myself. I had gone to the doctors because I was addicted to marijuana. I made a joke at the time that I shouldn’t really have had enough motivation to have gone to see him. The thing was, he told me I didn’t fit the criteria to get help; I wasn’t on hard enough drugs to be referred for rehab. He said he didn’t really know how to help me other than suggesting I went on anti-depressants. It was really frustrating that I couldn’t get the help I wanted.
"I did a bit of ‘googling’, found Simpson House and saw that there was counselling there. To be honest I was pretty cynical about that idea, but since it was free and there was no other option, I had nothing to lose. To be sexist about it, I probably thought counselling was ‘a bit of a bird’s thing’. Women like to talk, but men don’t do that sort of thing. Well bollocks to that. I’ll never be cynical about it again. I can’t say how grateful I am.
"I’d been addicted since the age of 16. That was 20 years and as time had gone on I was smoking 15-30 spliffs a day. I would skin up as soon as I woke up; ‘waking and baking’ as the Americans call it. It’s just as well weed isn’t fattening or I would be obese, given the amount I was smoking
"At 16 you could say that I had started smoking relatively late I suppose. It all happened because I fancied a girl who smoked. I had been quite anti-smoking before that, given the surroundings I’d grown up in. I had a hippy upbringing; there’s no other way to describe it. My mum was a hippy from the moment she woke to the moment she went to bed at 4am, smoking dope…friends round for magic mushroom fondues… but she was living in denial about the fact that some of the way she was living was harmful to her. As for my dad….he lethally overdosed on coke and heroin when I was a boy. I thought he was just asleep but the neighbours came round when they smelt him. These things had made me anti-smoking but when I tried marijuana….well the best way I can describe it is to say I found it to be very ‘more-ish’; but more than that I also felt complete. It was like those Trivial Pursuits wheels with the little pieces; this was like the last pie falling into place. I liked it so much it quickly became an addiction.
"I can see now that it was an escape, a comfort, in the same way that chocolate is for some people. But then this became a coping mechanism, and the safety blanket turned into a cocoon, and it was soon difficult for anything to penetrate it.
"I managed to maintain a lot despite the addiction. I held down jobs, I had a relatively normal life and even when I had times of being homeless I never slept rough; I still managed to get by. But it was obvious that my addiction was a hindrance to me in all sorts of ways. Most recently I was having times of depression, and physically I was getting a lot of infections and wheezing badly. Another big factor in wanting to give up was that I wasn’t being creative. I look at things I wrote during that time and see it as stoned rubbish. Weed stunted my motivation to do write in the first place and changed my outlook on what I did produce so my judgment on what was good was distorted.
"More than that though, it was interfering with my ability to grow up properly. A phrase that emerged later through counselling was ‘man up’ – did I really want to ‘man up’? When you are young you’re desperate to grow up. Looking back I was a man fighting with every last bit of his energy to stay a teenager. The question was, did I have the willpower to change when I was really tested?
"In a way there were no major revelations through the counselling, and yet I now regard it as a lifesaver. I needed that help to get things right. It was like a game of ‘52 Card Pick Up’. I had everything in front of me but it was all scattered on the floor. I had to get it sorted and in the right order.
"In counselling it sometimes surprised me what came out of my own mouth. At the start I just felt like I was waffling. But after a while it was a good place for instilling moments of clarity; like looking at a kaleidoscope image with lots of fragmented bits of colour when suddenly you see a shape emerge. You hear yourself say something that makes sense – after that it’s difficult to walk away and be a fool again or be hypocritical.
"That’s the power of counselling. Before you do it you can lie to yourself. Afterwards you have faced the truth because that’s why you’ve come here. I found that the truth gave me incredible strength and this place helped me know that I did have this strength within me. Previously I had almost been so scared of not being able to do it that I didn’t try. The truth was I hadn’t tried that hard.
"It wasn’t always easy and didn’t work from day one. It was incredibly draining when I started and very emotional at times. You have to break yourself down before you can build yourself up…but as they say ‘What doesn’t break you makes you stronger’. Sometimes the addict in me was not helpful in the process, but I knew that something was happening. The staff here had patience with me and put up with a lot. So it was not all fun and games, but it was healing and therapeutic.
"I had always told myself that in order to get sober I needed an extreme solution. To go to some cabin out in the forest, chain myself up with just enough food to get by and get through the withdrawal. Finding this place was my cabin in the wilderness.
"I like the way I am sober. I was so stoned for 20 years that I didn’t know what sort of man I would be when I stopped smoking, but I’m relieved to find I’m not a bad bloke. It could have been different; it would have been easy to have got lost along the way. But I did get a strong moral code from my mum and I’ve been influenced by people like Bob Marley and John Lennon who have a real passion in life and values for other people.
"Looking back, I have very little to show for all of that time but I have no regrets. It wouldn’t be good to find sobriety and be resentful so I don’t think of those years as depressing. I can see that I’ve wasted time and maybe wasted some talent if that doesn’t sound arrogant. But on the other hand I can see how it happened.
"Anyway, now I’m being more creative…I can retain more. I’ve not had one depressed day since I stopped. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved by doing this.
"So realistically if I hadn’t found this place? I’d still be smoking, I’d now be on anti-depressants, I’d be wheezing….I would have wanted rehab but wouldn’t have qualified for help…..I’d be a failure.
"For me and anyone else through the door here….there are no happy stories if you take this building out of the picture. I know everyone’s addiction is different but I would hate for any addict to think that they are going to be a loser."
For more recovery stories from the Greater Glasgow/Clyde region visit www.storiesofrecovery.org.uk