Travelling along a back road between Kilmacolm and Greenock through what is known locally as God’s Glen, there is a blink, and you will miss it turn off. There is a sign marked “Haven”, with Strathclyde Teen Challenge written under it. If you do not know the names though, you will be unaware of the transformations taking place in lives, inside its buildings, just out of sight behind the trees.
Scotland’s deaths through drugs have been spiralling for years. With many still reeling from the number of 1187 from 2018 (NRS, 2019) people dying from drug induced causes, the latest “statistics” for 2019, normally published in July, were finally released. 1,264. That is one thousand two hundred and sixty-four people died from drug induced deaths in Scotland. one thousand two hundred and sixty-four families impacted by the tragedy. In 2018/19 there were 10,757 people registered for drug misuse (SCOTPHO). That is a lot of people needing help, as a percentage the deaths are very high.
There are many organisations, however, that set out to help those caught in the hell of addiction find the heaven of recovery – and even life free from the hold of drugs altogether.
We all know the figure for the deaths, but what about those that have beaten the curse of addiction? How many recover? Most of the news seems to centre around the cost of Methadone dispensing, more a harm reduction than a serious attempt at giving addicts their lives back. There are many stories of addicts being “parked” on heroin substitutes for decades, after seeking help to stop their addiction.
Turningpoint Scotland was set up from the English based Helping Hands in 2001. Their centres around Scotland offer short term refuge of one or two weeks, that points to long term support. Phoenix Futures offers longer term support for both men and women, and there are also many organisations that will give different types of care. Most of them receive no government support or funding, despite their successes.
The Haven Kilmacolm, is another charity set up as a response to addiction in Glasgow in 1990. They currently have twentyresidents on their four-stage programme that lasts a minimum of twelve months. The Haven is a faith-based abstention programme. Their ethos is Christian, and their programme is very Bible based.
Chrissy McFadden (38) was caught in addiction for twenty-one-years before entering The Haven twenty months ago. He has completed his programme and says that “the next step on my journey is to Teen Challenge Leadership Academy in Nottingham so that I can further develop the skills that I learned in The Haven, so that one day I can use them to help others break free”.
Iain Boden (39) has also just completed his programme, “I’m going to be doing Health & Social Care at college.”
Roy Lees founded the Haven in 1990 after pestering the Black family, owners of a rundown shepherd’s cottage on their farmland to let him use it. Along with another friend, Roy (who had converted to Christianity whilst serving a prison sentence) spent many an evening in Paisley and Glasgow providing support and a listening ear to addicts. Roy knew though that these souls needed an opportunity to escape to a safe place to overcome their problems. Initially Roy’s request was denied as a young couple were due to move into the cottage. “We’ll have to pray them out then” said Roy. Incredibly the couple had a new employment opportunity open to them, that included housing. The od cottage had a new purpose.
Roy and Donnie, his friend, set about offering men support, guidance and discipleship in their new safe place. Haven literally means refuge. Before long they discovered a Christian outreach bus run by an organisation called Teen Challenge. The bus would go into Glasgow at nights, and along with tea and coffee, would offer that much needed way out through hope in their belief in Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel.
The Haven has for the past thirty-one years, been welcoming men, young and old, into their centre and into their way of life. The discipleship they talk about and centre their programme on, is a Biblical based life application training. Offering teachings on such things as overcoming temptation, changing attitudes, and, most important of all, teaching the students that they have an intrinsic value. For every student that successfully completes their programme, there is a family receiving a son back, children receiving a father, and even communities receiving a new person with a commitment and passion to make a difference.
David Harper entered in 2009 after sixteen years of addiction. “I was a very broken young man” he says, “physically, mentally and spiritually. I thought there was no hope of ever finding a way out of addiction”. David completed the programme in 2010, and is now married to Amanda, with three young children. He is also now a senior worker in Glasgow City Mission, another charity leading the fight against homelessness and addiction in Glasgow city centre.
Andy Cameron was in a homeless unit in Greenock at the age of thirty-three. He entered the Haven in 2014. “That hole I could never fill in my life had been filled” he says of his experience with Christ. Andy travelled as part of a missions team to a Teen Challenge centre in Swaziland at the end of his programme, “…a real-life changing experience for me”. Andy was married to his wife Maddie in 2018 and is now a senior support worker in the Haven.
Gary Lister (58), Field Director for The Haven, and its affiliated charity Strathclyde Teen Challenge joined the charity in 2015 full time. Gary had worked for thirty years in the corporate sector. His role involves networking with other charities and local councils in both the referral process, and in placing graduates upon completion of the programme.
So how does the Haven take men that have been gripped by addiction, in some cases for more than twenty years, and in around twelve months help them turn their lives around?
“Hope,” says Gary, “we take broken down men devoid of hope, bring them into an environment where they can safely deal with their issues, and we give them hope.”
The Haven works closely with a local health centre to ensure that, the guys on entry work through any detox and any other medical issues they may have.
“We give them a structured day. From 7:15am to 10pm there is a timetable that leads from life lessons, helping them to build good foundations for their new lives – to life skills. With work activities such as the poly tunnel, growing their own vegetables, to building and farm maintenance, the guys pick up a work ethic and skills that will help them transition from the programme to normal life.
Each of the guys interviewed attributed their turnaround as beginning with a new understanding of God. “For the past 14 years my life had been consumed with hatred and unforgiveness towards the man who killed my dad but slowly God helped me overcome this this was a turning point in my life and also in my faith in God.” Says Iain.
Many do leave the Haven before completion of the programme, “they feel physically fit” Gary said, “but they haven’t really dealt with their issues. Of those that complete and go on into a new life, 85% remain drug free after five years.” This is according to the Haven’s own follow up.
The average cost for a resident in the Haven programme is £500 per week, or £26,000 a year, it costs just over £35,000 to keep a prisoner. The Haven receives around 60% of its funding through Housing Support but the other 40% comes from personal donations and church support.
Monica Lennon, MSP for Central Scotland and Scottish Labour Health spokesperson, has campaigned tirelessly for those caught in addiction. When asked how she views faith-based centres she responded, “…abstinence-based recovery models have helped millions of people around the world. For individuals of faith, it is important that their individual beliefs and choices are respected…Addiction impacts people from all walks of life and treatment should be available that supports the individual to lead their best life.”
This is echoed in Gary Lister’s final comments, “we see them as individuals rather than addicts, and look to help them recover their true identities. When they move on, they move on into work, many into further education, restored to their families and active in their communities. As I said, we offer them hope.”
What SHOULD recovery from addiction look like
What should recovery from addiction look like? Is it enough that we offer harm reduction solutions like Methadone that in most cases result in life long medicating the problem? Or even the newer drug Buvidal, which was described in a recent BBC article as a game-changer”? Are short term intervention stays, like Turning Point Scotland’s the answer? Phoenix Trust, Bethany, and many more organisations all claim to have THE answer. The truth though, is more nuanced than that. Because people caught in addiction are very real individuals with their own backstories and reasons – one size fits all solutions do not work. The much-heralded Portugal Solution, which many in the Scottish media think starts and stops at safe consumption rooms, (a place where addicts can inject their drugs with supervised healthcare), and decriminalization for drug offences – it was set up to treat the individual as an individual. If you are arrested, as long as amounts are within personal possession limits, you get interviewed by either a social worker or a psychiatrist to determine best course of action to “dissuade you from addiction.”
I myself have inside knowledge on drug misuse after fourteen years of addiction. Eleven years of which was intravenous. I had tried Methadone twice, with no success. I entered the Haven in May 1997 but continued my programme in an affiliate centre in South Wales, where I remained for a further three years. Staying onto work there. I cam in with a medical certificate and left with a P45. For me, like Iain and many others, it was the new hope and identity that was offered, as well as the very practical life applications, (giving me the tools to live) that made the difference. In grabbing the Christian hope with both hands, I not only let go of my addiction, but left it behind.
In March, my wife Tracy and I celebrate twenty years of marriage, and we have three daughters growing up in a home free from addiction. Another statistic that defies the odds. Children of addicts, or former addicts do not have to become addicts themselves. I now lead a small church in the community I grew up in, where we specialize in helping people with life controlling problems. Another of the former residents mention in the above article, David Harper, is now Project Manager for Glasgow City Mission. Two of the other interviewees, Chrissy McFadden, and Barry Murphy, are in the Haven because of David. There is a saying that hurt people hurt people, but places like the Haven also prove that healed people help people.
This POST 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.
I have now released an early edition of my story, Completing the Tenner.
I have also published two poem books: Simply Jesus and Five Weeks in May
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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:
Teen Challenge Strathclyde
Teen Challenge UK
Teen Challenge Global
Bethany Christian Trust
Jumping Jacks Outreach
Cornerstone Assemblies of God, Maryland
Broken Chains Ayr
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