David was having a “really bad time” after drug-induced psychosis before finding Venture Scotland. He completed the full programme in the summer of 2019. Here is his story…
Before Venture Scotland, my life just centred around getting high and chasing serotonin release. That was my only interest, my only goal. I was quite happy to work a minimum wage, no-skills job to do what I did on the weekends.
There were lots of peaks, but lots of troughs too. It was just a habit, for years and years. But I got to the point in my head, chemically, where things were quite awry. My imagination had been set loose and I was talking a load of nonsense. The only one who couldn’t see it was me.
I had a crash – drug-induced psychosis – and ended up in a coma for a week. That was a wake-up call. Then I spent a month in a mental health hospital in Glasgow. But the Esteem service – which helps young people try to get back to some normality – pointed me towards VS. The rest is history.
‘They will look after you. That is a great feeling’
It is easy when you are depressed to say ‘nah, I don’t really need it’ but I was quite mechanical in thinking ‘these are things I know I would enjoy, so I am going to be there, I am going to do it and I am going to see how it treats me’ rather than ‘I don’t feel like it’. I think when people rely on their feelings too much, it can hold them back.
On my first day at VS, I remember feeling welcomed straightaway. ‘Would you like a cup of tea? Biscuit?’ My first impression was you were looked after. It is one of my favourite things about Venture Scotland. They want to make sure you are fed and watered, you are topped up, good to go. They will look after you. That is a great feeling.
I was a bit reluctant to join in and go for it at first; I have always had a bit of a reserved attitude. But once you get into the swing of things and give it a try, there is fun to be had.
Gorge walking was my number one activity – walking and crawling over uneven ground, climbing over waterfalls, swimming, splashing about, problem-solving. There was something about weaselling too; really going deeper into the crevices was pretty cool. Orienteering was more challenging – it required a bit of brain power – but was absolutely invaluable. I enjoyed everything.
I have been to some beautiful places with Venture Scotland, especially at the bothies. I realised the simple joy you can find from majestic surroundings and being surrounded by people from all walks of life with all sorts of experience. The activities in the outdoors take your mind off things; they keep you focused and entertained.
Memories of ‘extreme badminton’ and stories by the fire flood back.
The Glen Etive bothy is just a beautiful place to be, with people who want to help you. Chris, the course leader in Glasgow, was my mentor. I could talk to him about anything. The relationship is professional but there is still a feeling you are talking to another human being.
‘The underlying thing is always care. The people at Venture Scotland care, and that is important.’
I found being in the group challenging but over time you get to know people and find out their boundaries. I learnt a lot about myself and others. I remember one day at the bothy I was in a cheeky mood and being quite annoying, but didn’t realise how annoying. Another group member flared up, raging, and then I was raging. She was quite honest initially about how she felt, but I didn’t listen and appreciate her boundaries. It was a good lesson.
You get past all that, you learn and grow together. Bonds are built. You learn how everyone ticks and how to help each other. Some people need more support and connection, some need less. That comes over time. It is nice when you get to that point where you all mesh together. Our group still keeps in touch and it almost feels like we are a wee family.
VS is good for goal setting too, giving you the means to find out what you are looking for. I had never really thought about that much before. But VS got me into cooking and guided me towards the Tennent’s Academy, where I got my ‘Essentials of Catering’ qualification. That got me into my first job and into college. Now I am doing an NC in Professional Cookery and working as a commis chef at a hotel in Glasgow.
I am not the best student, but I am getting there. The coronavirus situation has put a bit of a spanner in the works, but I am trying not to use that as an excuse. Going from seven days of activity to none takes a toll but it has given me time to do things I like doing, to find a way to replace the routine. I am going for runs and walks, exercising more at home and getting myself into shape. I am being active and learning to play the piano – on my sister’s old Yamaha keyboard from the 90s!
Too many drugs brought me to VS in the first place. But I came to realise I don’t need that and there are better things to strive for. Just getting outdoors, doing some exercise, getting some sunshine will reap more benefits, rather than the self-indulgent things I did. Not only are you doing something more innocent, but you will feel better, you will look better, you will be better.