When I heard that I could join a small marketing delegation to the castle in Scotland, it gave me a special feeling. Because there, about ten years ago, my recovery began.
By: Mick Boskamp, photography: Jenny de Rijke
A few weeks later we pull into the driveway of Castle Craig, in the council area called the Scottish Borders. And because the special feeling really gets the upper hand now, I can also better analyze what I feel exactly. When I see the castle looming on the right, I feel 75 percent pride mixed with 25 percent nervousness. That pride has everything to do with the fact that I arrived here ten years ago as a wreck and so many years later I can say that I have dried up nicely. And that nervousness? It has exactly the same thing. Because what will it do to me? If I return to the place where I was all through?
We enter the castle through the main entrance. My heart skips a few beats. The entrance with that large sofa in front of the fireplace is exactly the same. And the smell of the castle is still the smell of the castle.
Three days later I'm sitting on that big couch in front of the fireplace. We still have an hour before we go back to the hotel and say goodbye to our Scottish colleagues in the castle, because the next morning we fly back to Amsterdam early. I have my laptop on my lap and I'm making notes of what I've been able to experience the past few days. In all honesty, I had already been back to the castle. That was five years ago, along with two mates of mine from my Scottish days, who are still close friends. We were there for the annual reunion. But strangely enough, between all those conversations with old acquaintances, I didn't have the idea that I was in the place where all the good things for me had started at zero.
All I really remember from that trip was the hike the three of us went on with our sweet fitness instructor from 2013, Jo Sutherland, who had kept in touch through social media all along.
But this was different. This took place during some weekdays when everything was going on in the castle, like when I was there.
Very confrontational, intense, but at the same time also liberating was the moment that I was allowed to attend a group therapy, say as a group member. As I watched and listened to the faces of the group from my seat, I saw and heard myself. The uncertainty and fear dripped from some. Why towards the end of the therapy the intense feeling I had gave way to a feeling of liberation was because I could now understand so well that I was safe then, just like all the young guys here.
But mostly they were beautiful moments that I had experienced here in Scotland in recent days. Like the surprise greeting from therapist Tony Marini, who must have counseled hundreds of clients in the ten years he hadn't seen me, but still recognized me, even by name.
Like the moment I was allowed to tell my life story for clients in the castle. Ten years ago I myself looked up to those powerful, but also spiritual guests from Glasgow and Edinburgh, who came to tell their life story here in the castle, including what beautiful it had brought them to be clean. And now I was sitting there telling my life story myself. It can be.
While taking notes, I look up and see an older, charming woman. I know her face all too well. When she almost passes me, she pauses and asks nicely who I am. I put my laptop aside, stand up and introduce myself. 'Ah, you belong to Fran's group (Frances Beek – CEO Castle Craig Netherlands),' says Dr. Margaret Ann McCann, along with her husband Peter McCann, founded Castle Craig Hospitals in 1988. 'How do you like it here?' she asks. I tell her as briefly as possible – because knowing myself it will just become a novel – that I came here almost ten years ago and have never used it since. Visibly moved, she tells me that my story made her day.
And at that moment I know. Actually I already knew it. But now I saw it too. You may know what Johan Cruijff once said: 'You won't see it until you realize it.' And there, in that moment, in the room where I first set foot in the castle, I saw what Castle Craig really meant to me. Namely a place where my life had been given a wonderful second chance.