My good friend Michael (Mike) Scott from Perth, Western Australia, last had a drink of alcohol 44 years (16,060 days) ago today. This morning, I’m going to celebrate his achievement with a blog post.
Mike first contacted me about our Daily Dose website back in 2002 when I lived in Wales and was running my community initiative WIRED (later called Wired In). He loved our drug and alcohol news portal that I had launched with Ash Whitney early in 2001. I gave Mike a big shock when I called him one day back in 2009 and suggested that we have lunch together. He replied, ‘How can we do that? You live on the opposite side of the world.’ I told him that I had moved to Perth on Christmas Day 2008.
Since then, we have become best mates. We generally meet once a week for lunch and go out with Mike’s wife Andrea and my partner Linda every few weeks. The four of us have just come back from a week’s holiday in magical Broome in the north-west of Australia. There, we celebrated Mike and Andrea’s 30th wedding anniversary.
You can find Michael’s Recovery Story, The Power of Empathy and Compassion, on my Recovery Stories website. Mike provided a seven-year update for his story last year which appeared in my book Our Recovery Stories: Journeys from Drug and Alcohol Addiction published one year and one day ago on Recovery Stories. Here is that update:
Seven Years On (July 2020)
I retired from my job at Next Step in 2016, having worked there for just over 30 years. At the end, I was glad to leave the place given the problems that I (and others) had been experiencing with certain ‘senior’ members of staff. I know this is a sad thing to say.
At the same time, I really enjoyed working with our clients, the people who came to our establishment for help with their substance use problem. I believe that I have helped a lot of people during my time at Next Step. I have certainly received a lot of thanks and compliments. And yet what I did were very simple things, such as to be kind and treat my client as an equal, try to understand the world through their eyes, and pass on little ‘pearls of wisdom’ I have learnt along my journey to recovery.
The foundation for the way I acted with my clients was built all those years ago, when a ‘down and out’ Michael Scott was helped along by the nurses in the rehab I attended. Their empathy and kindness helped me to build my self-esteem and feel good about myself. In fact, they made me feel important.
I was talking with David recently and I just came out with, ‘I just love addicts!’ [I do not use that last word in a derogatory way] He asked me, ‘Why’, and I told him that they are good people, just like everyday people, but have experienced problems in their life and then are looked down upon by so many other people. And so many of them are not only stigmatised, but feel a strong personal shame. And yet many of them come through this stigma and shame, which are strong barriers to recovery, and overcome their addiction and change their lives around. That is just wonderful!
I have a casual job with Mission Australia now, working with young people (generally 12-21 years old) at their detox and rehab centres. I like to think of myself as a ‘recovery buddy’ or recovery coach. I take the young people on outings, like to Kings Park, to play mini-golf, or watch films at the cinema.
On one trip to Kings Park we ran into the famous former Australian Football player, and proud Aboriginal man, Adam Goodes. He thrilled the members of my group, particularly the Aboriginal boys, by talking with them. You can see what an inspiration a person like Adam is to young people. I also take the young people to the gym, the bank, and even to court on occasion. I spend a lot of time playing pool with them in the two centres.
I see my role as helping the young people to socialise and connect with other people, giving them an opportunity to gain a sense of belonging. Gaining a sense of belonging is a key element of the recovery process.
I remember the long periods of isolation I felt when I was drinking, and in the first years of my recovery journey. I also give the young people ideas which will facilitate their recovery, discuss with them some of their problems, and reinforce their good thoughts and actions. It all helps. Many of the youngsters call me the ‘old man’, but we all get on well.
Yes, I’m getting on now, a ripe old 70-years of age… and 42 years in recovery. [Now 72 years old and 44 years in recovery – MS]
The leading recovery advocate Bill White would call me an ‘old-timer’, someone in long, long-term recovery. Bill and his writings have had an enormous impact on me and I’m really pleased that David Clark introduced me to his work on recovery and recovery-based care. David also introduced me to the work of Phil Valentine of CCAR (The Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery), another person I hold in high regard. I have fond memories of David and I sending Phil Valentine messages of support when he set out on his walk on the Appalachian trail.
I have to say that I am deeply saddened that I know of no one else in Western Australia who knows of the recovery work of Bill and Phil. It’s so important that people in Australia entering the addiction field get to know about the high-quality work that has gone on before, particularly in other countries like the USA and UK.
I live a good life with my wife Andrea and our new dog Sophia, who is such a delight to have around the house. We manage to get away on holidays, although Covid-19 has put a bit of a dampener on things recently. Mind you, we are lucky here compared to other countries in the fact that our government locked down early and we did not suffer as many deaths as other places.
I go for lunch with David once a week at our favourite café, and we and our partners go out every few weeks for dinner. I went on a couple of day trips with him down south to visit Carrolup, an old Native Settlement he has been writing about in his book about a group of Aboriginal child artists.
I’ve been working on David for some time, encouraging him to ‘come back’ into the recovery field and start publishing his old recovery writings. And you know what? I think my mission is bearing fruit! As far as I understand, this is the first of several books that David is working on relating to addiction and mental health recovery. Old-timers have their worth, you know!
Thanks for listening.’
Hi, I’m now back on the 8th April 2022 sitting alongside David as he types this blog post into the Recovery Stories database ready to post on my 44th Sober Birthday.
I just wanted to send a message to those people out there reading this blog post, some of whom may be struggling with an addiction (of some sort) and thinking that they can’t overcome their problem. Even though you might think you can’t, I say to you, ‘You can!’
Never ever give up, even when you are feeling down. Sometimes it might be hard, and even very hard, but there will be other times where you find yourself moving forward again. One thing we know for certain is that there are many, many people who are in long-term recovery—and they would have felt really bad at times on their journey. You too can find long-term recovery!
I leave you with a link to one of my favourite songs by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush.