One of the toughest parts of the Covid 19 lockdown was the separation and isolation of families who have been unable to meet, talk and simply hug.
Residents at our two residential addiction recovery centres, run by local charity Teen Challenge North East Scotland, have been no different.
When the Prime Minister Boris Johnston announced the nationwide lockdown on March 23, the students at our men’s facility, Sunnybrae near Fyvie, and women’s refuge, Benaiah near Mintlaw, were already in the midst of a “year out” to rebuild their lives, after struggling with addiction to the likes of heroin, crack cocaine and alcohol.
A key part of true, lasting recovery involves not just abstinence from substances, but financial stability, healthy social network, a suitable home and, crucially in many cases, the restoration of family relationships which are often strained, and at times destroyed, by the addiction of a loved one.
At Teen Challenge, reintroducing residents to the community and re-connecting them with their families is done gently and progressively, as recovering addicts can find facing these situations – clean and without any drink or drugs – overwhelming.
As residents journey through the programme they enjoy individual days out, before leaving the centres for weekends out, in advance of graduating and moving on permanently into a new life of freedom
Lockdown changed all that though with men at Sunnybrae and women at Benaiah unable to leave the centres at all.
The Teen Challenge staff team worked hard to adapt and provide opportunities for residents to connect with family members, bringing in Zoom and Facetime meetings.
As good as these online tools are, they of course are no real substitute for face-to-face quality time with mothers, fathers, wives, husbands and children. Again, many of whom have felt the collateral impact of the resident’s previous reckless behaviour.
Now, with the easing of lockdown, residents have been reunited with the family members with Sunnybrae and Benaiah able to open up their doors to allow men and women to travel to their hometowns and cities and spend precious time with loved ones.
After months apart, sons and daughters have been reunited with their mothers and fathers, while those in Sunnybrae and Benaiah who are parents have been reunited with their own children, as well as brothers, sisters and friends.
This has included a Father who has been able to see his 15 year old son for the first time in many months, a mother who has been able to spend quality time with her three children, and a son who has been able to visit his family.
It has provided a welcome boost to the residents in their recovery, helping to spur them on as they focus on building new futures, that they and their families can be proud of.
Teen Challenge’s Paul Beaton commented: “As with everyone across the nation, our centres have been impacted by the lockdown and subsequently our residents have found themselves navigating unique programmes, as they’ve been unable to enjoy the recreational elements outwith the centre, and have been unable to re-establish relationships with their loved ones.
“Our men and women have done remarkably well and shown real stickability to press on and they are undoubtedly coming out the other side all the stronger for it.
“Now, we as staff get to experience one of the very best parts of our job – seeing our men and women, who are healthy and whole, reunited with their families.
“That connection and restoration of those relationships can have a huge impact on an individual’s recovery as they find freedom not only from drink and drugs, but crucially the hurts, guilt and shame they feel for mistakes they’ve made; which often lie at the root of their addictions.”
Teen Challenge North East Scotland is now also able to take new intakes in to Sunnybrae and Benaiah. If you or a loved one are caught in the chaos of addiction and would like more info on the year-long Teen Challenge programme, please visit www.tcns.org.uk or call Sunnybrae on 01651 891627.
Just like everywhere else, Teen Challenge North East Scotland is being impacted financially and so a fundraiser has been organised to help raise funds. The Prize Draw will see the winner ride off with a custom motorbike. Info can be found at www.tcns.org.uk/prize-draw
Both Teen Challenge North East Scotland centres are located in rural Aberdeenshire settings, offering peaceful retreats where those suffering from substance misuse can take time out to rebuild their lives.
At the centres, residents complete the charity’s faith-based programme, which is made up of a balanced mix of class-based studies, counselling sessions, personal reflection, work duties and recreation, helping students to become physically, emotionally and spiritually whole.