In this blog journalist Mick Boskamp, 9 years clean & sober and former client of Castle Craig, tells what addicts in recovery have ahead of the rest of humanity.
Over the weekend I went for a walk along the beach. I almost never do. And that while I live in Zandvoort. Often when you have something that others want, you don't talk about it anymore.
With a smile on my face, I was reminded of Wednesday and Thursday when I taught writing to addicts in recovery in two different safehouse locations under the same umbrella.
Why I smiled was because it's totally unique and beautiful what the clients are doing there. We make a newsletter together every week. That newsletter, of which I am a sort of editor-in-chief, is filled with articles from the clients. I correct the pieces and of course provide them with comments directly to the writers and then I shape the whole, including accompanying photos, gifs and headlines.
But what is completely unique about it is the quality of the articles. At a time when life seems to be ruled by the issues of the day, it's a relief to read honest and candid pieces. Articles with self-mockery and self-reflection and which are also exceptionally well written. Especially when you consider that most of them are in their 20s and have never done anything like this before!
When I rolled into journalism 45 years ago, I wasn't nearly as good as my students in the safehouses, that's for sure! It's an extreme comparison, I know, but being editor-in-chief of this newsletter could be compared to Rinus Michels who had to train Johan Cruijff. In principle, Michels didn't have to do much with Johan either. It is simply a matter of enthusing (because there is of course some resistance in the beginning) and pampering the young writers.
And I think the secret is that in an addiction clinic and later perhaps in a safe house you learn to expose yourself, to look at your own part instead of pointing your finger at others (which is what half of the Netherlands has done in the past two years). And that you also come to understand that you can also look at your own actions from then and now without judgment.
When I ended up in a safehouse myself in early 2014, it took me a while to put what I learned at Castle Craig into practice. But once that got going, I got going myself and learned to live again instead of surviving. I learned to laugh at myself again, simply because I thought there was a nice guy inside me.
And now I've been clean & sober for almost ten years, I teach writing to addicts in recovery and I get to write a weekly blog for the clinic where I once walked in defeated and trembling as a straw. And I haven't even mentioned my other writing activities yet. Maybe I'm still a bit of a workaholic after all...
In 2013, at an NA meeting in Edinburgh about an hour's drive from Castle Craig, I heard a speaker say that as addicts in recovery, we are privileged over the rest of humanity. Purely and only because in our recovery we learn to fearlessly go within ourselves, where most people cannot or do not dare.
That's why those safehouse dwellers' articles are so wildly strong. And as I walked further along the high tide line with a beautiful sky in the distance, I rhymed:
It's not nice
to be addicted
But are you going to recover
Then you'll get there
ps Of course I urge the safehouse clients to do something with their talents. Fortunately, most take that advice seriously.