We received a story from Wim van der Plas who was a patient at our hospital in 2011 and we reproduced it below so it can inspire others on their way to recovery.
His therapist, who wants to remain anonymous, wrote a short introduction which you can read below.
Wim and I worked together on recovery. It happened that I was the therapist and he the patient but we were (and still are) on the same road. Though we had our differences from time to time, Wim displayed the three essentials for recovery — honesty, openness and willingness to change — and this made my side of the relationship a lot easier.
I was delighted when he sent me this straightforward account of how it was for him. He highlights the importance of knowing one’s priorities and keeping it simple. Wim is building his life around his recovery and not his recovery around his life.
Wim’s story reminds me of the power that lies in the example of others doing the right thing.
It encourages me in my daily work and in my own recovery and I know that it will do the same for many others.
I was drinking for about 35 years. Many times I tried to stop but I couldn’t. I went to a Dutch clinic and stayed sober for half a year, then went to AA and stayed sober for one year. Every time I relapsed. In the end, I lost my job, drivers licence and wife.
I decided to go to Castle Craig on the 11th of January 2011. I phoned their office in The Hague and two months later I was in Scotland. I was desperate and the only thing I wanted was to get sober. It was exciting to go to a foreign country. They picked me up at the airport and the adventure began.
When I arrived at the Castle I was very nervous but the people were very friendly and I felt at home. During the first six weeks of detox, I worked very hard and had a good therapist. I met many others in treatment and realised I wasn’t the only one with a problem. I felt great and began to understand that change was happening.
After detox, I went to the Extended Care Unit for twelve weeks and got another therapist. I talked almost every day with him about my problems. I learned a lot from him. I went to as many meetings as I could in Edinburgh and my favourite one was in Cockburn Street.
Before I went back home my therapist and I made a continuing care plan with a list of recommendations for when I was back in Holland. For the first two years, I went to 5-7 meetings a week, didn’t go to parties, had no alcohol in my house and didn’t go to pubs.
Every week I phoned, texted and emailed my therapist. I flew to Edinburgh eight times in order to go to the AA meetings on Cockburn Street and sometimes I would meet up with my therapist in Edinburgh and we would go for dinner on George Street. I met people in the AA fellowship who are now my best friends. Last September I visited Castle Craig for the first time since leaving treatment and it gave me a warm feeling that they remembered my name.
I had difficulty getting a job but I kept trying. Eventually, I got a job in a bakery but it was very hard and the pay was poor. After a year I gave it up because it became too stressful and I had to put my sobriety first. I am still looking for a job and do some voluntary work to keep me busy.
My priority has to be my sobriety and when this goes well my life goes well. I know that I have to do so that my old behaviour does not come back. I stay with the right people and they keep an eye out for my old behaviour.
My advice to those leaving Castle Craig and starting their journey of recovery is to live according to the plan you made with your therapist. Go to AA meetings and find a sponsor; avoid certain places from the past; stay in touch with Castle Craig and your fellow patients, and be honest to yourself and others. Actually, it is simpler than all this: don’t drink or use. Just for today.
Now, three years later, I have a good life, new friends in Holland and Scotland, a girlfriend, my drivers licence back and, last but not least, a happy and sober life. I am very grateful to Castle Craig that I achieved all this.