“Heave awa, lads, I’m no’ deid yet!”

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 2, 2017 5:30:00 AM / by John MacDougall

hands-bg.jpgI just returned from a trip to Scotland with my family. We visited the ancestral home of the MacDougalls, in Argyll, near Oban, as well as in Edinburgh, where my grandfather was born in 1888.

On High Street, there is a monument that commemorates the collapse of a crowded tenement house on November 24, 1861. Bailie Fyfe’s Close was a multi-story collection of homes making up one side of the street, and was almost two hundred years old. Many families were crushed in their beds as it fell. Excavation began at once, but very few were found alive. As the rescuers were giving up, a young voice was heard from the rubble: “Heave awa, lads, I’m no deid yet!” (Heave away lads, I’m not dead yet.) The monument is a testament to the survival of that eight-year-old boy, who called from under the collapsed heap.


I thought of our retreat guests, and the strenuous efforts of our volunteers. If you attend the Retreat’s “Imagine” dinner, you will hear from The Retreat’s alumni who are speaking about their gratitude. They will be well dressed, sparkling, and successful, and happy. They are splendid examples of recovery. At the other end of The Retreat’s efforts are the volunteers who pick up our guests at the airport and bring them here. Most of them are not well dressed, sparkling, successful, or happy.


The Retreat welcomes people who need to recover from alcoholism and addiction. At the time that they completed a pre-registration over the phone, they said that they wanted to recover, and they said that they wanted a residential Twelve Step immersion program. At the time, they said that they understood that they needed to arrive free of current intoxication, having detoxed at home or in a detox facility. After hanging up the phone, the disease had plenty of time to get them to reconsider just how happy they might be to come here.


Our volunteers pick people up at the airport. Most arrive clean and sober, and are grateful for the welcome. They appreciate saving the $60 cab fare, and are happy to be welcomed by a member of A.A. Others arrive, showing the symptoms of the disease we know so well. One volunteer was directed to his guest by the airport police, who pointed him out, passed out on top of his luggage. Others want to stop at a bar or the Holiday market for a last drink, and become argumentative when denied a “last hurrah.” Our volunteers handle them well, and also sit through hours of flight delays.


There are many stories of God arranging coincidences where the volunteer matched the incoming guest, and they spent their drive time sharing experience, strength, and hope in a way that was indeed miraculous.


One guest this fall was an older alcoholic who had relapsed on methamphetamine, a drug he had never used before. He was terribly, physically and spiritually ill when he arrived. The volunteer who picked him up was a recovering methamphetamine addict with a strong A.A. program. They sat in the parking ramp for two hours and had a good cry together. That special time was exhausting, but it was the most important time in that guest’s whole stay at The Retreat. I thought of them, and that powerful work, when I read “Heave awa, lads, I’m no’ deid yet” for that man would have died soon, if he had not come here. We pulled him out of the rubble, shortly before he would have died.


Volunteers come in nearly every day and hear Fifth Steps. The Big Book says “Clear away the wreckage of your past. Give freely of what you find and join us.” Our volunteers are eager rescue workers. I was away almost two weeks, and I got an e-mail from one of our Fifth Step volunteers, concerned that I might have forgotten him, and I reassured him that I was just out of town. Our volunteers and our guests together clear away the wreckage of the past so that no alcoholic should perish under the collapsed rubble of this disease.

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat

His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from


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Topics: Alcoholics Anonymous, 12 steps of aa, Men's Sober Residential, Women's Sober Residential, Recovery Program

John MacDougall

Written by John MacDougall

John MacDougall is the Spiritual Care Coordinator at The Retreat.
His book, “Being Sober and Becoming Happy” is available from

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