A rat race is for rats


“A rat race is for rats. We’re not rats. We’re human beings. Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement.”

Jimmy Reid

On Being Open to Change

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Aged 46 and weighing in at 30st I had gastric surgery which had an immediate and radical effect on many aspects of my life. Smaller waist, new energy and an ability to shop for clothes without humiliation. Less welcome was the instant loss of control over alcohol. If there was a personal boundary between misuse and dependency, which is doubtful, it was erased overnight. The immediate consequence could perhaps be described as ‘colourful’. Both literally and figuratively.

The end of the union between me and alcohol was messy and and is politely referred to as “the summer”. I am tempted to write about it because it was packed with incident, drama and dark humour. But war stories of drunken daring are ten a penny in Scotland, recovery tales are less frequently told.

The interesting and more challenging story was the autumn and winter that followed. In that colder and darker period I met and worked with remarkable people and I was given the chance to learn things I find hard to express.

Perhaps luckier than I deserve to be, I arrived at a community rehab in Govan in October 2012 and started a lifesaving and life changing process. My life in Govan is a whole book on its own. I love my rehab friends dearly and when the funniest member of the group died recently I realised I’ve strayed too far from the nest. I miss the unity, humour and honesty of our group and I’d like to go back. So I will.

Rehab is in the past but I have a daily commitment to Recovery thinking. It keeps the open warmth of rehab alive and it keeps me on the planet. From that personal perspective the independence debate sounds like the dull persistent thud of artillery in a mindless conflict in which we are the foot soldiers. The voting fodder. Speaking personally, I would prefer a different debate. Fallible contemplation rather than confident confrontation.

I had my own war wounds and I was weary when I arrived in the Govan docks for a major refit. My defences were up, and the last of my shell shocked crew were permanently at battle stations. I wasn’t alone. Some of my rehab pals have seen conflict at home and abroad which gives trauma a different perspective. Drug addiction, male violence, abuse, unemployment and war all combine to make a tough tour of duty. That was our shared experience prior to rehab. Scotland in miniature if you will excuse the pun.

What I learnt, and what we all learnt, was openness, acceptance and sharing of experience. We explored and discussed that shared experience and in doing that we recovered. We became thoughtful, caring, sober and kind.

What is interesting from a referendum perspective is that we recovered in Scotland. We became thoughtful, caring and kind on a street full of drug dealers, in a city of addiction and in the shadow of a billion pound Scottish killing machine.

So my referendum interests are the shadows cast over Scotland by poverty, discrimination, addication, violence, war and more.

But I’m also interested in acknowledging how Scots have cast those self same shadows for ourselves and others and how we might change.

And finally, I’m interested in the referendum process and how we create more interesting and creative discussions. Its not consistent with thoughtful recovery thinking to dismiss the entire referendum debate as a heap of tedious moronic nonsense.But that’s how it feels.