Peter McCann, Castle Craig Chairman's Speech at the Reunion 2012

A very big welcome to all who have come today, a welcome from myself and Dr. Margaret Ann, all our staff here at the “Castle” and of course  from the patients in treatment at present. We are aware that many of you have travelled from the Netherlands and so we welcome Sonja from Castle Craig Netherlands and the team who have accompanied her. Stand up Sonya and let’s give the Dutch office a big hand. We also welcome professional visitors including Rupert Wolfe Murray and I would recommend to you some of his blogs in the Huffington Post. We hope that today will be a celebration of recovery and a chance to meet old friends.

The order of the morning is that I will give a short update on developments here over the last year, allow Dominic to give you some information about the “Friends” and then introduce to you our main speaker of the Day.

Castle Craig goes from strength to strength and we continue to have many people  coming here for treatment, this is despite the severe recession in the country and the world.   It is always regrettable to hear of other facilities going under but sadly this has been the case, despite the increasing burden of addiction in the UK.

As I said this is to be a celebration of recovery and I see many happy faces of people whose lives are changed.  In fact I would like to read to you a most moving email that we received from a former patient who could not be with us today.

I received this from Michael from Shetland and he gave me permission to read it out to you:

“Thank you Mr and Mrs McCann for your kind invitation to the reunion in July. Due to another family commitment falling on that day I am not able to make it this year. I will try next year.

I left Castle Craig in August 2005 after a tough and enlightening 5 month stay, staying with you turned my life around in so many ways. When I came home my employer had dismissed me from my job as a senior manager and I found myself unemployed for the first time. I also had to many tough choices when I returned. Through the resilience and self-exploration I had achieved at Castle Craig I found a part of me I never knew existed.

This new found inner strength sewed many changes and new opportunities for a life I had never known. I am now free of substance use for over 7 years. I went on to train for three years as a Person Centred Counsellor and now work in a senior position in the local authority Mental Health Support Team. I short, without the new way of living I was immersed in at Castle Craig, I would not be here today. I am sure of that!

Just wanted to say a big thank you to you both AND THE TEAM AT CASTLE CRAIG.  Seven years on, it is still to me the most important time in my life for many reasons.” 

Now, News from the Staff.  Mark Abrami, one of our therapists, and Claire Anderson, one of our nurses, were married just last week and are currently on honeymoon.  A very large number of the staff attended the reception and we wish them every happiness in their future life together.  They are both a wonderful couple.

Jillian in Admissions had a young baby at the end of last year – Aulay and Joanne our Head of the Fitness team had a new baby Noah and Mark Lafferty one of our new therapists is also enjoying changing nappies over the last year.  He has beautiful young daughter – Grace.

We have a new Financial Manager, Duncan McLeod and Tom Bruce was appointed to be ECU Manager and Jane Spurgeon has been appointed to become a senior nurse.  We welcome Bea our physiotherapist whose involvement in the Fitness team has added much to our Fitness programme the physiotherapy and I know that she like all our fitness staff is highly popular.

We would like this morning to remember and pay tribute to Dr. Peter Geerlings who died from cancer in the summer of last year. He gave tremendous support and encouragement to Fran and ourselves at Castle Craig Netherlands.  Dr.Geerlings  was the Medical Director of Castle Craig Netherlands. He became involved with our work, following his retirement from being Medical Director of the prestigious Jellinek Clinic. Peter was a very eminent addiction psychiatrist and he had been honoured by the Queen of the Netherlands with the equivalent of a British Knighthood.  He has been a tireless Ambassador for this type of treatment since he first came to see its visible results and he brought the name of Castle Craig to the forefront in the Netherlands.  Peter was full of vigour and he fought hard to recover from his illness and when I last saw him during a remission there he was in the office working away doing what he loved doing, which was treating people with addiction and helping them to recover.  Margaret Ann and I attended his funeral in the Netherlands.  We will never forget his warmth and his greatness.

The other gentleman I want to mention was an old personal friend of ours John.  John became a patient here some 5 years ago, an experience which for him as for all of you was life changing.  John was a Herald at the Heraldic Court of Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.  When we first came to Castle Craig it was he who designed and obtained for us the Castle Craig Coat of Arms.

We were very privileged to receive this official coat of arms.  This was a great honour.   You will now see a plaque with the Coat of Arms in the entrance porch.  It is highly symbolic of the work at Castle Craig.  Look at it carefully and you will see the 12 steps, the Butterfly,  signifying new life;  the Scottish Saltire of St. Andrews; and the symbolic serpent-entwined rods Asclepiush Greek God  associated with healing and medicine ;  the Camel –  which can travel a long way, one day at a time without a drink; the Mustard Tree which starts as a tiny seed and grows into a big tree where the birds of air nest – this is like our recovery starting as a seed which then nurtures and supports others.

All highly symbolic and of course heading up the coat of arms is our motto ‘Let Go Let God’  – an AA slogan so important in recovery.

Many years after John arranged for us to have this Coat of Arms he in fact became a patient here.  Many of you will remember him.  An elderly gentleman he mixed with everybody and his recovery was a joy to behold.  John died last month and Margaret Ann and Chris Burn went to his funeral in North Yorkshire and Margaret his wife said that Castle Craig gave her and John five extra years of life together.

We have been out and about as usual over the last year. Many of our staff have acted as Ambassadors at Conferences,  I would like to single out Richard Scanlan who gave an extremely well received talk at the UKESAD Conference in May about trauma  and Tom and Richard who attend annually at the American Counsellors Conference in Germany.  Gordon also visited Romania in a professional capacity  Castle Craig is not only a treatment centre for our Scottish people but has become an international treatment centre.  We receive a number of patients from Romania India, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Malta, Switzerland and it goes without saying of course all our wonderful Dutch patients.

Castle Craig always tries to be innovative and introduce new ideas, the hyperbaric chamber has now had 2000 treatments and we continually hear from patients of the benefits they receive.  The biggest  benefit of course is unseen but it is the healing of the brain which has been damaged so much by all the poisonous toxic substances that we pour into our bodies and which end up in the brain.  It takes time to heal.  This is where oxygen is so important as well as exercise and good food together with abstinence.

But it is of deep regret that due to the financial crisis over the last few years and changing policy for NHS referrals to treatment that we have been unable to secure funding for Scots patients.  Scotland has arguably the worse addiction problem of any European Country;  for instance deaths from liver damage run at 60% higher than in England.  It is so important that our former patients get in touch with Members of Scottish Parliament and Counsellors and leading figures in the community and keep reminding their doctors about their recovery. You are all ambassadors for recovery.

And now before I introduce the main speaker I would like to mention to you the programme for the rest of the day.

We will start lunch after the speaker then at  2.30 pm we will come back here and listen to sharing from  some of our alumni. This will involve several shares from our alumni and a family member.  After that tea will be served before we depart.

Main Speaker Introduction

And now indeed we are deeply honoured and deeply appreciate the efforts that our main speaker has made to with us today. David was a patient at Clouds when Margaret Ann and I were running Clouds House.  So you can calculate yourselves how long he has been in recovery for more than 25 years.  It has been a remarkable recovery.  David was formerly an actor and now uses the theatre and performing arts to give people affected by drugs and alcohol addiction a voice enabling them to reach and recognise their potential and his company provides theatre interventions in treatment facilities throughout the country.