Chik J Duncan: what recovery means to me

27th September 2016

Chick J Duncan, writer, storyteller and performer of poyums, tells us what recovery means to him.

chik_at_the_stove_photoI describe myself as a writer, a storyteller and a performer of poyums. I’m also a part-time I.T. Tutor at Glasgow University (currently two days a year) and haven’t worked full-time since December 1988. More than 35 years of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have included 2½ years in 3 different psychiatric hospitals (11 months, 14 months and 7 months), a postgrad diploma in I.T., 4 years in a Buddhist monastery (Samyé Ling), another postgrad in Writing for Children and, most recently, 2 years as a volunteer co-worker at Lothlorien, a therapeutic community in Dumfries & Galloway, supporting residents who were not quite as far as I am along the road to recovery, whatever that is.

What Recovery Means To Me

I. Recovery
As when for no good reason,
Or perhaps by reason of some previous something good,
I woke without expletive and got out of bed
Because that day I wanted to and could.

II. Recovery
As when you plot your destination on a map
And yet it’s not your destination.
You’re only going where you’re going till you get there,
Before you set off going somewhere else.

All roads can lead to roaming. Like the fluttering
Moth which meets the windscreen with a splat
Nowhere’s your destination till you’ve died there
And you don’t do much recovering from that.

III. Recovery
As when it seemed the garden gate was closed,
Closed like a mind which thinks it’s thought enough,
The healing forest option I’d proposed,
Dismissed as dubious old hippie stuff.

I’d not have got the funding anyway
Although that trainee clinical psychologist
Did not know this when she saw fit to play
Last chance saloon barbarity apologist.

But then another garden’s gate swung wide
And off I went to Kagyu Samyé Ling*
Where four years mindfulness helped override
Enough outrage that I can almost bring

Myself to laugh at what she must have thought o’ me
To ask me if I’d like a wee leucotomy.

*rhymes with adjoo jammy ping

IV. Recovery
As when a decade later,
Struggling again, as usual,
And spending too much time on Facebook,
I saw Lothlorien’s call for volunteers.
Thought not much more about it
For a week or so, or so I thought
Till one day I woke up, decision made.
I phoned, I visited, I visited again, I went,
And spent two years
– Expenses paid –
Avoiding midge and blackfly,
Avoiding muck runs too,
But sometimes growing things in muck, or chopping wood
Then chopping wood some more because it really satisfies,
And getting back behind the wheel and making myself useful
Sometimes giving folk a lift,
And making egg fried rice for one and all a weekly special,
And even making do
With just a handwash, not a shower and a change of clothes,
Each time the cat got off the mat and sat on me.

I’ve moved on now, as usual,
Best part of a year. Still wondering
What the muse might whisper next
Still wondering if I’ll even find another muse at all
But one thing I can say for certain, I would not
Have been these places, done these things
Nor made these contributions, such as they are,
If my recovery, such as it is, had danced
To someone else’s definition.

V. Recovery
As when the falling cat
Twists, to win hands down.
Sits briefly startled, crouched, alert,
Then shrugs on nonchalance,
And saunters off
Towards tomorrow’s fall.


Read other contributions to the ‘what recovery means to me’ series.