Life on the inside
Towards the end of last summer, a friend and work colleague rang. The conversation went something like this:
Friend – How are you doing?
Me – Good – you won’t believe it, but I am up the country for a few weeks.
Friend – Brilliant and… where are you?
Me – Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in Co Louth
Friend – I am sorry to hear that – Can’t believe you ‘fell off the wagon’ after all the years (a genuine note of sadness in his voice)
Me – Better still I am still on the wagon and back working here in an interim management role for a few weeks.
We were both audibly relieved at the good ending to the story as we exchanged updates on football, Covid-19, American politics and everything else in between.
You see, just previously, I received a call from Peter McCann, Chairman at the Castle Craig Hospital group in Scotland to see if I would be free to cover the clinic manager role at Smarmore for a short period due to the illness of the Clinic Manager Mary Curtis. Sadly, Mary passed away shortly after from a long and courageous battle with her illness.
From then until I passed over the role to the new Manager Keith Cassidy, I experienced a most insightful “hands on” encounter managing a medically led multi-disciplinary team of clinical, therapeutic, support and administrative professionals who went about their work in the most caring, empathic, and knowledgeable way. I don’t normally share some of my innermost feelings in public but for once I will make an exception: “I LOVED THIS LEADERSHIP ROLE!” (even with the daily temperature checks to keep “Covid out”).
My first ‘paid job’ was as a 15-year-old working in a local hardware shop in the Summer of 1966 – a year when England won the World Cup and our Tarbert minor team won the North Kerry Championship. Since then, I have been on the side of good fortune in that I held many good and great jobs, worked for many not so good and great bosses and have always been able to ‘pull plant’ (a Kerry-ism for moving jobs) without too many, if any, regrets.
But my time at Smarmore, or life from the inside was different in many ways.
- I was amid my own tribe – seeing first-hand how people of all ages start or restart their own recovery journeys fully supported by caring professionals.
- I celebrated my 43rd sober birthday in Smarmore with patients, sharing my recovery journey and talking poetry.
- I spent my 70th Birthday in October with my eldest son, taking some time off in the middle of Covid level 3 restrictions to spend an hour ‘celebrating’ in an open-air café. Keith even brought the candle!
- Delighted and grateful when all the best advice was to stay at home whilst my ‘calling’ took me back to what I know and do.
- I spent my first Christmas Day ever at work whilst serving Christmas Dinner to patients.
- During all this time, our Health & Safety team met every day with the key objective “keeping Covid-19 out of the Castle” and so far, so good. We kept the virus out whilst giving patients every chance of getting well and starting their own recovery journey.
You see, at Smarmore we dealt with two potentially ‘killer’ illnesses/diseases; Covid-19 and Addiction. And these two challenges help to focus minds and hearts every day.
In December 2020 Smarmore celebrated the 5th anniversary of the arrival of the 1st patient at Smarmore and heading into 2021, Smarmore had admitted over 850 patients to their residential detox, rehab, and continuing care programmes.
Time has surely come to have universal access to this proven abstinence-based model of care and facility – fully supported and fully funded by both state and other agencies across the island of Ireland. A view I am sure that would be wholeheartedly endorsed by the 850 patients, their families, friends, and work colleagues alike.