Recovery Cafe is a breath of fresh air in the community

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East Dunbartonshire Community Recovery Café is celebrating its first birthday later this year at its regular weekly meeting place every Friday at St Ninian’s Church hall in Kirkintilloch.

Set up by founding members, Jasvir Bamrah who is the chairman, secretary Donald MacLeod and cashier John Docherty, the three members are all on the committee that helps run the cafe for those who are recovering from drugs, alcohol or other addictive personality issues such as gambling.

It provides a safe space for people to come along on a regular basis or just drop in as required for a friendly chat, while enjoying a cup of tea, a biscuit and a bowl of soup.

But the centre is much more than just a place to meet, according to Jasvir, or Jaz as he is known to his friends.

The self employed businessman from Bearsden, who has had his own battle with addiction and describes himself as a recovering addict, said that everyone who attended the centre has their own unique story to tell.

He said: “We are all on a journey and The Community Recovery Cafe is here to bridge the gap between addiction, treatment and rebuilding productive lifestyles.”

Jaz met up with Donald and John while in recovery on the SMART programme which was running at the time in The Foundry in Broadcroft, Kirkintilloch, by The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH). SMART, which stands for Self Management and Recovery Training, offers many people experiencing addictive issues a way of breaking through and finding coping mechanisms to deal with their issues.

Jaz added: “Once we were mature in our recovery we decided we wanted to share our experiences with others in similar situations. Addictive behaviour could be anything from gambling, drugs or alcohol. We want to help people and offering them support and understanding to let them know they are not alone.”

Fellow committee member Donald who is also from Bearsden and comes from a local authority environmental health background said: “We are all volunteers here and one of the most important things is to provide a safe space for people to be themselves and relax. We don’t judge people here. Everyone is welcome to come along when they are in recovery.”

And he added: “We find that addiction and mental health problems go hand in hand. We are here to help and part of this is to listen. But we also have a bit of a joke. The camaraderie is great and we also offer walk and talk groups in places like Mugdock Park and The Trossachs. This is part of the Green prescription that can help people come to terms with their addiction issues.”

The Recovery Cafe is funded by community grants from East Dunbartonshire Council and St Nicholas’ Fund which is a Christian organisation. Other help has come from Tesco and Scotmid. Jaz thanked St Ninian’s Church for letting it have the use of their hall at a greatly reduced rent, adding, “Father Hannah from the church has been great. We have also been given help by Guru Nanak Sikh temple in Kelvinbridge.

There is a broad cross section of people that use the Recovery Cafe and the split of men to women is roughly 50/50. All of those who volunteer have been through the recovery process so are aware of the value of the Recovery Cafe offers.

One of these is John Kelly (50) from Kirkintilloch. He said: “I’ve been involved from the start of it. It makes a big difference to my life. My health is so much better and the friendship I get from the people here has been really valued.

“I’ve been in recovery from alcohol for four years and don’t drink at all now. I’m a different person and it is nice to give something back. I decided to give the drink up because my health was deteriorating and I was losing my family and friends. My time here has helped me emotionally to understand where I should be going in life. I’ve done the SMART training and am now a facilitator. I help make the soup.”

And fellow volunteer Angus who was originally from Springburn but now lives in Glasgow, and has been off drugs for the past seven years, said: “I’m a general helper and feel it good to give something back to the community. There is a great feeling of friendship here and we have a good laugh as well.

“I sometimes come up to Kirkintilloch on a Saturday and pick up food for the cafe which is something that helps us a lot.

“There are a lot of good people that come in here and the vibe is great. I sometimes go on the walks that are organised around Mugdock and these are good for clearing the head and refocusing.”