“The long days are no happier than the short ones.” Philip James Bailey
Friday 21 April started, as most schooldays do, with getting my daughter Rubi ready, fed and delivered to school. I love starting the day this way; it is an instant reminder of my priorities. I then drove to The Edge Café for what was to be an extraordinary day.
Not long after I arrived, I had a meeting with a young woman offering to run another art workshop for us. She was bright and brimming with ideas – a positive start to the day. The café then got very busy. Eighteen builders turned up, all wanting a full breakfast. The Edge kitchen is fast and professional but numbers like that all at once put a strain on our single hob!
In the middle of my washing up and waiter duties, my 10:30 meeting arrived: Sarah from the NHS Sexual Health team, to discuss us being named a Centre for distributing free condoms to young women registered with them. I really wanted to achieve this as promoting safe sexual health fits in completely with our ethos. We discussed the rather complicated procedure for getting involved until my washing up skills were required again. More builders!
I was then informed that there was another woman wanting to talk to me. She had come to discuss holding events for an organisation she is involved with locally called Death Café –a monthly gathering where people can talk about death and grief. I am becoming less surprised when people and groups are drawn to The Edge’s magnet. As I talked about our work with people in recovery she was very moved and tearful. She felt she had found the perfect venue for the Cambridge Death Café. I had to agree.
When I finally had time to check the post, there was a letter for me. I had been waiting for a response concerning a potential donation to The Edge from someone I had met at a charity event in February. When I told him what my job was he was immediately interested and told me that there had been alcohol addiction and substance abuse in his family. He also informed me that he worked for a charitable trust and that I should email him. I did, and had sincebeen waiting for a reply. As soon as I picked up the envelope I knew what it was. I then went into a state of shock. Enclosed was a cheque for a five-figure sum made payable to The Edge Café.
I barely had time for this to sink in before I had to make my way home and then to London for an evening of ambient music with The Orb at the Royal Festival Hall. I had been looking forward to this for some time, especially as I was going with a very old friend. Also, it was some much needed downtime for me. The music was splendid, as was the company. It made me very nostalgic for my London life.
On the train back to Cambridge, just after midnight, I received a text from another very dear friend. Someone I knew from my London days was dead. He had hung himself. Absolute shock. Everything else from my eventful day left my mind. When I knew him, he was a coke dealer, or I should say wholesaler, with whom I did business. I don’t know whether he was still doing this, but my life has moved on so much in the fourteen years since I last saw him I find it difficult to imagine anyone would still be in that place. A place of substance use and addiction.
Wherever he was, he was in pain. And the pain he leaves behind is measureless. Suicide like addiction is a place of isolation and despair. Both are selfish. Both can destroy the lives of family and friends. Those left behind are haunted by unanswerable questions. My father used to volunteer for Samaritans. My respect is boundless for anyone who makes themselves available to those in crisis. It is priceless to know that someone is always there to listen. We survive by telling our stories, sharing our experiences.
After a day of such highs I was numb, then full of sadness; finally I was left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Grateful for being involved in The Edge, where we are connecting with so many people and changing lives with our positivity. Our recovery hub is building a community where our experiences and differences are understood and celebrated. I am grateful, too, that I am still free of addiction. I am blessed.
“I cannot make my days longer so I strive to make them better.” Paul Theroux