Introduction to The North Sea Garden Mission from Alister MacKinnon
The Hebridean Revival - Duncan Campbell
One to One
Sitting together in a room with no atmosphere can be boring. As I have experienced in the past getting that confidence utilised you may at times go to a ball game, a café, a game of golf, a movie and when you’re doing this you are bringing them back into a sober environment. This gives them the confidence to be part of the community. This is a major step forward in their life having someone to come along side you during a difficult time of your life is a great asset. As this relationship getting stronger, these sessions can be more spontaneous as time goes on until he or she is strong enough.
Even when the one to one session is completed, the recovering alcoholic will need strong support for a long time. It is very easy to do well when things are doing good but when the hard times come they will need someone they can trust and depend on
Many who seek help for addiction have suffered much rejection. In fact, in many cases rejection has occurred prior to drinking and when a counsellor moves on after a period of counselling sessions the alcoholic at times feels rejected, there has to be a balance between both. It is very easily to get attached to somebody.
A Message of Sobriety
The awareness of alcohol abuse can be prevented at an early age or an early stage. In my own life it started at 14 yrs old, but 30 years on I was out of control and waiting for the bar to open at 6 am. I started with a half pint of shandy which was a little drop of beer in a pint mug with lemonade but eventually I wanted something stronger. Bringing my message of sobriety to the offshore installation and rigs would allow the men to come and listen to me whereas if they were at home would probably not bother to come and listen to me if I was speaking in their local neighbourhood.
Hitting home, the strong points of the damage, alcohol can do to the body and breaking it down to cover the individual areas of the body that can be damaged with alcohol.
Living without alcohol, starts first thing in the morning. In fact, the minute you open your eyes as a practicing binge alcoholic. The first thing that comes into your mind is another drink with money or without it. But since I lay the drink down which is close to three decades. Mornings are special to me. It doesn’t matter if it is raining, snowing, windy, frosty, or cloudy. It’s always a good morning without booze. A clear head will always take care at what the day throws at you.
This wonderful way of life free of the booze must be shared with people out there working on the rigs, just as I did, having the opportunity to bring the message of hope that there is life beyond booze.
I have gone 27 years alcohol free. Over those years I saw a great need to bring the message of sobriety to the North Sea. This will be the first active project to operate offshore, bringing the message of sobriety out there can be a great asset of those who take it on board. One of the main major focuses will be the medical side of addiction and what alcohol can do to the body. By using manniquins, I hope to show the severe damage caused to many parts of the body.
By visiting the installations periodically I would speak to the workforce collectively for a period of time not longer than an hour. This opportunity would allow the work force to hear first-hand from a guy who was been there. My offshore certificates are in place and as I draw close to retiring I want to have this opportunity before I draw the curtain of a wonderful career. If I could help one oil man to turn the corner this would be a great success.
West Franklin Tour
Alister MacKinnon from The North Sea Garden Mission onboard West Franklin A
About the Mission
The North Sea Garden Mission
Isle of Skye
Born in the Hebrides on the isle of Skye in December 1949 brought up by my grandmother, and left home at age of 15 and became a fisherman on the mainland. During these early years I became an alcoholic and by the age of 18 alcohol had taken control of my life. I left fishing for the oil industry and for many years worked on the rigs with several drilling companies.
Sclerosis of the liver
Over the next 20 years I spent on many rigs, at this time I developed sclerosis of the liver. I found it very hard to balance my off shore work and my addiction until eventually I had to come to terms that my life was ebbing away from me. I decided to go into rehab in fact I went there many times. Eventually, in a bar one night I came to believe a power greater than me could help me overcome the demons that were about to take my life. At first it was a great struggle but as time went I gained strength and stability.
A New Direction
As I pondered on my life doctors had told me if carried on drinking I would be dead in 2 years due to the sclerosis of my liver. I grasped life with both hands I felt I did not need a straight jacket but a working jacket. I threw myself into weld inspection and heat treatment.
During this time I lost my wife suddenly and my mother and best friend. This left a huge hole in my life so I decided to go to the eastern block to work with street children down the sewers. It was time I had to go back to work. It took me to Arizona and 20 other states of America including the Virgin Islands.
During these travels I received a four years scholarship in theology from The Marietta Bible College which I passed with honours. I also met my second wife who was studying at another college. We returned to Scotland as I wanted to give back to the North Sea, something that would benefit the oil men in their future.
Arizona with its burning heat and towering cacti, it was a shock to the system when you come from Aberdeen with the cold north wind which you have been used to. Working with the Navajo Indians was a new experience to me after spending 30 years in the North Sea working with cowboys. Oh boy! The heat was excruciating and affected my health. The people were great, we had to work 7/12 for six weeks. Living in a low class hotel has many problems.
Being a recovered alcoholic I found it hard at times especially when alcohol was around. The alcohol drinking did not affect me, but living together with drinkers specially ones from your own country made your time frustrating. But on the whole watching the sunset was beautiful. The American people were good to work with. I survived two tours of duty even though the salary was not high and the conditions were tough.
Working in Chernobyl with street children and their life in the sewers showed me how grateful I should be. They have little focus in life. No mother no father to care for them and when they get sick there is little help available. It is only when coming into an orphanage are they recognized as a citizen. Very few children wish to come in into an orphanage because they have to follow rules. Where they live now is an existence but it is a life that they are hardened to.
I’m glad that I was a small part in their lives. But sadly across the world they're will always be street children as long as there is selfishness and greed and corruption in the world. As we watch our television we see the thousands who want to leave poverty for a new life in Britain. For me I saw the root cause and how low their life is. I don't blame them for trying to find their promise land. There’s a life out there that most of the world doesn't recognized. We all should contribute to those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Big charities do a great deal but there is room for more.
Offshore Work and Addiction
Information sourced from various websites.
- In 2012 there were 6,490 alcohol related deaths, a 19% increase in 10 years.
- Alcohol is a casual factor in more than 60 medical conditions including mouth, throat, stomach, liver, high blood pressure, cirrhosis of the liver and depression.
- The nhs estimate that around 9% of the men in the uk and 4% of uk women show sign of alcohol dependency.
- An estimated 7.5 million people are unaware of the damage their drinking could be causing.
- 34% of men and 28% women drink more than the recommended 4 units for men 3 units for women.
Teenagers and Alcohol
Information sourced from various websites.
- In 2012, 43% of school children age 13 to 15 said that they had drunk alcohol at least once.
- 193 males and 121 females between 15 and 34 years old died of alcohol related causes in 2011 in the uk.
- Almost half of young people excluded from school from the uk are regular drinkers.
Relationships and Marriage
Relationships, marriage and alcohol are wonderful in a very social manner. No matter where you go today to a function, wedding, engagement, funeral, birthday, and graduation, all of these are alcohol related. Marriages and relationships very often run into problems where the priority is alcohol. If alcohol becomes a problem in a girlfriend/boyfriend relationship should they marry, the alcohol problem will continue and sadly more problematic when a young family comes about.
When alcohol gets in the way of relationships and marriages it leads to a stream of destruction, from violence to severe debt, unfaithfulness and much blame. One or both in a relationship or marriage may suffer depression, sleeping disorder, suicidal tendencies - these are the inner scars affecting both male and female. In all these scenarios there is emotional blackmail which hurts into the core where trust has gone and has been replaced by fear. Sometimes fear of the unknown.
I experienced an alcoholic who had been drinking many years and quit and went back home to his family and after a short period of time his family cannot cope with his sobriety. This statement may come as a shock to many, but it happens in scores of relationships. There has to be a huge adjustment in both parties for the relationship to work. The recovered alcoholic may want to meld his family into his thinking, for many years his thinking was never straight in fact many are only dry drunks.
I believe this is where the North Sea Garden Mission - the way to sobriety can come alongside. These families and build their relationship within their family. That trust must be strong and the problems during the drinking had to be spoken. It is easy to put it behind you but I assure you when arguments will arise in sobriety the past will be brought up in an angry manner. All these hurts from the past must be ironed out when both are humane to each other. Very often money and debt arises through time. They can work through their problem but when a third party has been involved in a relationship this takes longer. In fact this stumbling block may always be a thorn in the flesh of the family that are trying to make a fresh start.
In short, alcohol plays a huge part in the destruction of families. Sadly, many children are caught up in the crossfire. And over my 30 years on oil rigs I have sat for hours with men and some women who pour out their heart to me. Sadly, 2 weeks cannot cover their problems but the root cause in their family situation is money, alcohol and sadly lately gambling. Those people who came forward to me came looking for trust and a solution but it doesn’t happen overnight. A start has been made when a family realizes that booze has destroyed a life that could be beautiful, but time is a great healer.
The North Sea Garden Mission is willing to help these families and share their burden back on the beach at no cost at all. This is the beauty of this service which will run approximately 5 years. In that time I believe it is possible for many families to have a life of freedom from booze. These are the fundamental pillars we stand for. Standing in the gap showing the grace of god and sharing my life and testimony.
Those who prays together stays together.
Dangers of Drinking
Time for Change
House of Alcohol
Building one which is the bar, for me my life revolved around this building. Breakfast, lunch, and supper, I was there. Others came in and went home. I was still there. While the money was in great abundance usually when I came back from the rigs many folk would be round about me even the landlord wanting what I owed them from the previous trip. This was an existence that continued for two weeks until I returned offshore.
A day came when my body rejected the alcohol and it was round about that time the bar people started to reject me. I wasn’t spending what I usually spent. The quality of friends I had changed and it became harder for me to get credit from the landlord. A day came when the laughter went and I no longer used the jukebox, no longer coming in extremely well dressed. It‘s a sad place to be when you are lonely among people: a crowd, who only accepted me when I opened my wallet wide. It was not unusual at the height of my drinking to spend £300.00 a day. That’s a lot of money 27 years ago.
House of Sadness
The second building, it’s a house of sadness. It is where the drunkard will lay his head down. Very often with his clothes on and very often without washing and seldom he will make it to his bed but collapse on the sofa after binging and eating some junk food. This is a very common pattern of the drunkard house that lives alone. Very often the continuation of binge drinking brings them to this level. They will find themselves living alone, a stepping stone away from being homeless. There is a fine line between a home and being homeless.
Not paying your rent is a major factor towards ending up on the streets. Very often when you reach there you lose all contacts with family and friends in many cases. The stepping stone between here and the grave is a short distance. From the happy go lucky laughter in the bar to skid row is a sad road.
House of Joy
The third house is the one i would like to speak about. Sadly, going from the crazy house to the house of joy and sobriety does not happened overnight far from it. if the family are still together when the alcohol is removed, it is a great achievement. All the debt has been dealt with trust restored, love where there was hate. Dad taking his son to a football match restores the family values of father and son. A summer picnic on the beach is another step forward. Food in the fridge instead of whisky and beer the furniture is new. A week’s drinking money now puts clothes on the backs of the children.
Daddy has a job once more and as they gather round the family table to a warm meal together, that rarely happens today that families eat together in the evening. The garden that once was a mess with beer cans and broken fences are now painted and have flowers. Once again the neighbours are unified with this family. No longer is the finger pointed at them.
House of Health
READ THIS STATEMENT VERY CLEARLY.
A man and a woman were in a hospital. The woman was discharged and told by her doctor that there was nothing they could do for her. So she went home to be with her family and sure enough she passed away within weeks. This was somebody with an illness.
The man was sent home and told by his doctor that alcohol was damaging his health. There was nothing more he could do for him but if he stayed off the booze he could lead a normal healthy life.
Who of the two above had an illness?
Today sadly many thousands of people visit their doctor and after a few visits they are told they are alcoholics. How this diagnosis come about I will never know. And sadly, many wrap themselves in cotton wool, and life stops. They believe they have an illness which brings in sufficient finances from welfare to live on. I believe the wrong message has been sent out and i wholeheartedly believe that heavy drinkers boozers and binge drinkers need a working jacket not a straight jacket. When was the last time you saw an alcoholic having a fulltime job? I believe very strongly in counselling but having sober friends and a change of lifestyle goes a long way to maintain sobriety. More needs to happen that just stop drinking
House of God
The fifth building is the house of god the church which I believe is essential to every family and individual. It is not only for christening marriages and funerals. For me myself, when I walked out of the bar that night, it was to the church I entered. I got a welcome, I felt peace, and I felt I was in a place that I belonged to. It was in this place I received Christ as my personal saviour and lord. Being a Christian is very simple. The bible has been designed that those with little education can understand it and that each and every one of us must have a personal relationship with Christ before leaving this world.
When a family gets together after being separated with alcohol it is the church that plays a major factor in the reconciliation of the family. The children attending the Sunday school and the parents involving in church activity this balance of a family home and the church brings strength, stability to a family that once struggled. New friends are found and it is essential that many of the recovered alcoholics, old drinking buddies are no longer part of his lifestyle.
A blind man was once asked, if there is anything in the world that was worse than being blind? Yes, there was. “Sight without vision”.
House of Eternity
As we go through the last part of this journey to the final building, the graveyard. We look at the grave stone of the many young people who died due to alcohol abuse and many who were killed in car accident by drunk drivers and those who took their own life when they couldn’t cope with life. We ask, why? But sadly, many more will die with alcohol male or female, young and old.
One of the most common statistics of life that one in one will die and each and every one of us will come to that valley where our eyelids will close for the last time. But we have the comfort that death is not the end and according to the scriptures we shall be forever with the lord. That may sound confusing but a good bible believing church can explain the reality of the cross and why Christ died on Calvary for our sins.
Consequences of Addiction
The Vicious Circle
The Central Nervous System (CNS) includes the brain and the spinal cord. The most important parts of the CNS are protected by bones. The skull protects the brain and the spine protects the spinal cord.
The nervous system is made up of the CNS and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS includes the neurons, or nerves, that form a network that carries information to and from the neck and arms, trunk, legs, skeletal muscles, and internal organs. Neurons can send nerve signals to and from the brain at up to 200 miles per hour. When the nervous system is working smoothly, it is amazingly efficient.
The CNS is responsible for taking in information through the senses, controlling motor function, as well as thinking, understanding, and reasoning. It also controls emotion.
But alcohol is a depressant of the CNS, meaning it slows activity down. Many people think that alcohol is a “pick-me-up” experience because, initially, when people begin to drink, it causes them to become more animated and less reserved. But the opposite occurs as they continue to drink and more alcohol enters the brain. The degree to which brain activity slows down depends on how much, and how fast, a person drinks. Some effects people experience include:
- Altered speech
- Hazy thinking
- Slowed reaction time
- Dulled hearing
- Impaired vision
- Weakened muscles
- Foggy memory
- When alcohol flows to the brain, it first sedates the frontal lobe, the centre of all conscious activity. As the alcohol molecules diffuse into the cells of these lobes, they interfere with reasoning and judgment.
- Speech and vision centres in the midbrain are affected next. If the drinker drinks faster than the rate at which the liver can oxidize the alcohol, blood alcohol concentrations rise: the speech and vision centres of the brain become sedated.
- Voluntary muscular control is then affected. At still higher concentrations, the cells in the cerebellum are responsible for coordination of voluntary muscles are affected, including those used in speech, eye-hand coordination and limb movements. At this point people under the influence stagger or weave when they try to walk, or they may slur their speech.
- Respiration and heart action are the last to be affected. Finally, the conscious brain is completely subdued, and the person passes out. Fortunately the person can drink no more, higher doses of alcohol would anesthetize the deepest brain centres that control breathing and heartbeat, causing death.
- Heavy drinking can cause Pancreatitis which is when your pancreas becomes inflamed and its cells are damaged. Gallstones are a major cause of both acute and chronic pancreatitis.
- Acute pancreatitis can occur quickly, the pancreas becomes inflamed but usually only lasts a few days without permanent damage. However, one in five cases of acute Pancreatitis are severe. Enzymes from your pancreas can get in your blood stream and lead to more serious conditions like kidney failure. Symptoms include:
- recurring, severe pain behind the ribs and through the back
- You’re more likely to have repeated episodes of acute pancreatitis when you drink heavily. Over time this will cause permanent damage to your pancreas, causing chronic pancreatitis which will cause the pancreas to stop working properly. The damage of chronic pancreatitis is irreversible and only permanent medication can help to digest food and maintain blood sugar levels. Symptoms include:
- recurring, severe pain behind the ribs and through the back
- weight loss
- back pain
- Around half of people with chronic pancreatitis develop diabetes; this is because the damaged pancreas cannot make insulin (which you need to regulate your blood sugar). It usually occurs years after the pancreatitis diagnosis.
- Chronic pancreatitis also increases your risk of developing pancreatic cancer.
- Liver disease is the term used to describe damage to the liver and there are two types. Acute is when liver problems develop over a few months and chronic is damage over a number of years.
- There are lots of different causes of liver disease, including drinking alcohol to excess which causes ‘alcoholic liver disease’. Scientists are not sure exactly why drinking too much alcohol can damage your liver but the reasons include:
- Oxidative stress. When our liver tries to break down alcohol, the resulting chemical reaction can damage its cells. This damage can lead to inflammation and scarring as the liver tries to repair itself.
- Toxins in gut bacteria. Alcohol can damage our intestine which lets toxins from our gut bacteria get into the liver. These toxins can also lead to inflammation and scarring.
- Alcoholic hepatitis (not related to infectious hepatitis) is often the second, more serious stage of alcohol-related liver disease. It occurs when alcohol misuse over a longer period causes the tissues of the liver to become inflamed. Less commonly, alcoholic hepatitis can occur if you have been binge drinking. The liver damage associated with mild alcoholic hepatitis is usually reversible if you stop drinking permanently. Severe alcoholic hepatitis, however, is a serious and life-threatening illness.
- Cirrhosis is the final stage of alcohol-related liver disease, which occurs when the liver becomes significantly scarred. Cirrhosis is generally not reversible, but stopping drinking alcohol immediately can prevent further damage and significantly increase your life expectancy. If you have alcohol-related cirrhosis and you do not stop drinking, you have a less than 50% chance of living for at least five more years.
- Too much alcohol can affect your blood pressure. People who drink too much are more likely to have high blood pressure which is a common cause of kidney disease. And medications for high blood pressure can be affected by alcohol.
- Your kidneys filter harmful substances from your blood. One of these substances is alcohol. Alcohol can cause changes in the function of the kidneys and make them less able to filter your blood.
- Chronic drinking can also cause liver disease, this adds to the kidney's job. The rate of blood flow to your kidneys is usually kept at a certain level, so that your kidneys can filter your blood well. Liver disease impairs this important balancing act.
- The kidneys are also responsible for keeping the right amount of water in your body. Alcohol affects the ability of your kidneys to do this. When alcohol dehydrates (dries out) the body, the drying effect can affect the normal function of cells and organs, including the kidneys.
- Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, cause problems including:
- cardiomyopathy, the stretching and drooping of heart muscle
- arrhythmias, irregular heart beat
- high blood pressure
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease and can lead to sudden death from a heart attack. It’s caused by the gradual build-up of fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries in your heart (the coronary arteries) on which blood clots may form. These deposits cause the artery to narrow, and make it harder for it to supply your heart muscle with the oxygen and nutrients which it needs to function normally.
- Heavy drinking weakens the heart muscle which means the heart can’t pump blood as efficiently. It’s known as cardiomyopathy and can cause heart failure. This leads to symptoms such as swelling of the ankles and shortness of breath which affect you for the rest of your life and often become progressively worse. Although there are drugs that can help limit the impact of heart failure, there isn't a cure at the moment.
- Long-term drinking can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol causes raised blood pressure which is one of the most important risk factors for having a heart attack or a stroke. Increases in your blood pressure can also be caused by weight gain from excessive drinking.
Born in 1949, a time when a spiritual awakening hit the Hebrides of Scotland and many people fell by the power of God which is commonly known as 'revival'. Sadly, that didn't prevent me falling into alcoholism. During my darkest hours on booze I reflected on what happened in 1949 in hope that someday my life would change and I would be spiritually secure in Christ Jesus.
The great opportinity to study in Marietta Bible College in Ohio USA and recieve a scholarship during my four years there I was able to achieve a diploma in pastoral theology and religious studies which included Greek. This helped me in preaching the Gospel, not too clever at school this was a great achievement commonly known as "God's Grace".
Over the last 30yrs working home and abroad I have got to know many people from many religions. Many today from different religions are great friends of mine and I have to respect their religion and faith. The best way for me to show my faith and christianity is by my actions and words.
Today, I find great pleasure in sitting down with someone and sharing that faith and encouraging those that are less fortunate than I am, telling them how dark life was and at times I could see no way out.
I believe in the scriptures that it is the inspired word of God written in the Bible. Fundamentally according to the scripture that Christ dies for our sins in Calvary. I also believe according to the scriptures that he will return at an appointed time for his church. His church are those who have been converted by giving their life to Jesus Christ commonly known as being born again.
The Boozer's Psalm
Booze is my Evil Shepherd. I shall Always be in Want. He Leadeth me beside Troubled Waters. He Destroyeth my Soul.
Booze Leadeth me in the Paths of Foolishness, for the Effects Sake. When I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Booze will Mock me.
Booze Prepares an Empty Table Before me in the Presence of my Family. He covers my Head with Shame. My cup of Trouble Runneth over.
Surely Destruction and Misery shall follow me All the Days of my Life, and I shall Dwell In the House of the Damned Forever.
Finding the Path
Spiritual Side of the Mission
A Clear Head
It sounds boring life without booze. I can assure you it is anything but to wake up in the morning with a clear head knowing where you were the previous night and still money in your pocket.
I live life now as if alcohol never existed in my life but in the back of my mind I know the minefields I have to avoid. It just comes to me automatically even my food I make. Certainly, that no alcohol was involved in cooking. Beer battered fish is a no go. Neither is any gravy with wine sauce or any dessert with rum or such.
This is all part of my sobriety mechanism. Following that path it is impossible to fail.
After spending 14 years as a fisherman, working on trawlers from the west coast of Scotland to Aberdeen, sadly, it was during this time I did my apprenticeship as a drinker and unfortunately by 18 years old I was seasoned to the booze. It was a way of life. Worked hard all week and drunk hard all weekend and back to sea on Sunday night. This was a cycle that goes on today.
But sadly, the industry is in need of new blood and young men to fish their own shores and a time will come that many of the boats will carry no local crew or skippers. I feel there's a need to encourage young men to take up the challenge of going to sea. Yes, it is a dangerous occupation, but today the safety aspect is very high.
Still the young ones that go to sea over indulge very much like the oil men and the same encouragement applies.