In 1996, an elderly lady living in Alvaston wanted to support a charitable cause with the sale of her deceptively large property on London Road. By a quirk of fate she was connected with the Jericho Benedictine community in Kilbarchan, just to the west of Glasgow. They were looking to extend their work supporting “individuals who find themselves left vulnerable due to addiction, domestic violence or homelessness”. This meeting gave rise to the Jericho House project which now helps men recovering from drug addiction.
Wedged in between a Dentist and Bed and Breakfast, the 5 bedroomed property is home to 9 men between the ages of 18 and 50 – all of whom are in different stages of recovery. That might suggest a strangely dark, and depressing atmosphere with a houseful of gaunt faces, and lethargic dispositions.
As soon as I entered the house, I was offered a cup of coffee by one of the residents. Standing at the foot of the stairs, waiting to see the Manager, Neil Ainslie, each person that breezed past me was welcoming, and was somehow, not what I’d expected.
The one thing that you won’t find in Jericho House is drugs; this is because it’s an Abstinence Based Recovery programme. The team operate with informed caution but the basic principle is that abstinence is the best route to a healthy future.
Talking to the 4 staff members, all of whom have recovered from drug addiction, they are very clear about their underlying approach:
“Continuing to use is more dangerous to their life than stopping…and we’ve never had a problem in our 14 years”
“We do try and encourage them to reduce their methadone before but , from my own experience, a bad case of the flu is worse than most heroin withdrawls we see. There are head games that go along with it, and the mental gymnastics that go along with withdrawl. In 4 or 5 days they’re starting to perk up, and if they’re motivated it’s not too bad…and in 2 weeks they’re starting to sleep, and getting their energy back, and are outside playing football”
This seemed to fly in the face of the popular belief that all withdrawls were agonisingly painful and dangerous.
“Drug addicts would like you to believe this. People don’t die from stopping taking drugs. People die from taking drugs”
” A lot of the addicts also believe this themselves. We have many phonecalls where it’s the fear of the withdrawl which stops them accessing the service”
Everyone at Jericho House, including the paid staff, and volunteers have been through the recovery programme, so each new resident is supported by peers who have personal experience.
“They sit up with them at night, the guys will have shifts to support them and watch DVDs together, make them a cup of tea. You’d be surprised…a wee bit of love, a bit of personal experience, and a lot of encouragement gets them through it. It’s never really as a bad as expected. If you’re out there then it is tough, but if you’re in a supportive environment like this it’s surprisingly less severe than you’d expect.”
Is there a common thread between the people who come here, and the types of people who are most affected?
“Nothing fits the mould when it comes to addiction. We get a lot of guys from “well to do” families who have never suffered any trauma. Addiction crosses all barriers, all sexualities, all religions and so on, it doesn’t seem to matter much”.
This wide variety of root causes could complicate how the team at Jericho House deal with each of the residents
“We work from the 12 Step philosophy, so we use that to counter balance the irrational thought process. We look at people’s belief systems and people’s upbringing and whether there has been any abuse. Addiction is quite illogical and quite deceptive. It is immersed in false beliefs and it’s pretty easy to expose this and help them talk it through”
“(The approach) is person centred – some guys will need more cognitive work, and if they’ve been on the streets for a few years there might be some social learning for some guys. Those that are very motivated it’s relatively easy. Some of the older guys are a bit more challenging.”
Jericho House is about getting the men through recovery, enjoying themselves and enjoying life and getting back into contributing to society. There are many outdoor activities and pursuits to build that overall sense of belonging, support, and to secure their long term future.
Jericho House is very successful, with around 85% of residents staying the course. Many go on to be volunteers, take further education and finally get back into work.
Funding for these sort of intensive programmes is very limited and the shortfall in the charity’s finances is made up by the Benedictine monks in the west of Scotland. This level of generosity is unsustainable. The management team are at full capacity, they know they need to secure additional funding but their priority is supporting their clients. They are finely balanced, and in a precarious situation….and sadly, their work is a never-ending endeavour.
Just as they support their clients, they need support from new funders.
Jericho’s Facebook page contains a number of impassioned testimonials from former residents. They may no longer live in the house, but they remain part of the wider “family”. This one, captured the spirit:
I remember that journey. I was leaving everyone and everything – opiates and their associates. That seemingly long journey up, my sister driving, both of us silent. I was scared. I didn’t want to be going to treatment but I was all out of options and excuses. Forty one years of age, West Midlands best Big Issue seller!
I’d been using substances for twenty seven years, the last twenty of which I’d used heroin( not to mention God knows what) on an almost daily basis. I first picked up a substance aged fourteen, from the beginning I used as much and as often as possible.
Looking back I was fractured before I picked up for the first time, my fearfulness and insecurities are evident, my attitudes, behaviours and coping mechanisms were unhealthy, they left me alone and isolated. When I picked up these exploded, it was all about me, what I wanted, how I could get it.
This led me to committing crime, stole off loved ones, unable to commit to anything, always looking for loopholes and shortcuts. I lied, cheated and stole. This is what brought me to Jericho House, broken, desperate, isolated, a hopeless addict.
Jericho loved me till I could start loving myself – it sounds cliched but it’s true. They allowed me to be, they accepted me as I was, they treated me with respect, didn’t judge or criticise. They encouraged and supported me. They guided me to the right decisions. They introduced me to a new way of life.
It wasn’t easy. I had to turn my whole way of being around. Jericho empowered me to do this asking nothing in return except I try. I tried and my life is the happiest it’s ever been. I’ve friends, purpose, direction, hope for the future. I’ve achieved so much and it’s given me the passion to strive for more.
Today I’m over nineteen months clean. I’ve the best relationship with myself and others I’ve ever had, I’m becoming a loving son and brother ( my dad tells me he is proud of me ), I’m privileged to volunteer for Jericho. I hope to pass my driving test, pursue further education and get my own place all with the on going support of Jericho. In short I am becoming a responsible and productive member of society. Much love to everyone at Jericho House.
Categories: Charity issues