From the Daily Record 14th November 2002
Sally Mclean Exclusive
THAI MONKS HELP SCOTS JUNKIE KICK HIS HABIT
DRUG addict Stuart Brindley vomits into a bowl in a monastery in Thailand.
The methadone user endured this daily ordeal as part of a harrowing detox regime.
But the 38-year-old dad, of Dundee, said the hellish experience has helped him stay drug- free for the first time in 25 years.
He said: "If you come through, there's a gift at the end of it. That gift is your life."
Stuart was the first Scot to be helped at Thamkrabok.
But the treatment could soon be offered on the NHS.
THAI TORTURE HELPED ME END MY 25-YEAR DRUG HELL
Nov 14 2002
How Scot's ordeal on other side of the world gave him back his son and his life
Sally Mclean Exclusive
DESPERATE drug addict Stuart Brindley flew halfway around the world to endure the nastiest detox programme ever invented.
The methadone user spent two harrowing weeks in a Thai monastery. He took a mysterious black potion brewed by monks, then vomited it into a drain.
Dad Stuart, 38, went through horrific withdrawal symptoms. He even threatened to break his own arm in a bid to get back to Scotland.
But six months after his ordeal at Thamkrabok monastery, Stuart is still enjoying being drug- free for the first time in 25 years.
The Buddhist monks claim to have cured thousands of addicts from Thailand and overseas. Supporters say their methods work far better than those in Scotland.
Stuart, of Dundee, was the first Scot to be helped at Thamkrabok.
But the treatment could soon be offered by the NHS if trials now going on are a success.
Stuart began taking speed, barbiturates and powerful painkillers when he was only 13.
He moved on to methadone, neglecting his young son and stealing from his mother and brothers to buy drugs.
Stuart said: "My brothers always worked, and any cash they left lying around I'd have. I stole my mum's jewellery too.
"I had a few runs-ins with the police, but mainly my family were the ones I stole from."
Stuart tried to quit drugs when his son was born in 1989. He reduced his doses and had a spell in a rehabilitation centre, but everything failed.
He said: "I spent eight months in chemical detox, but all I did was replace methadone with alcohol because you were allowed to drink a limited amount.
"I was back on methadone within weeks of coming out."
His father's death a year ago gave Stuart another push to get clean, and he set up a support group for other users.
But it was a chance meeting with Mike Sarson, a Berkshire-based drugs counsellor, that changed his life.
Mike discovered Thamkrabok in 1990 and became a passionate supporter of its ideas.
Many British doctors were sceptical, so Mike set up a body called East-West Detox in 1996 to promote the monks' treatment.
Stuart said: "Mike showed me a video of a girl being treated for heroin addiction. I just thought, `That's what I need to do.'
"I'd tried chemical detox programmes and they hadn't worked. It was going to be hard, but it was a last resort for me."
Before going to Thailand, Stuart had to prove he meant business. He cut his methadone intake significantly, and tried to prepare mentally for the task.
Finally, in May, he went to the monastery with a volunteer from East-West Detox.
The tough reality of the regime was made clear as soon as he arrived.
Stuart was met by Monk Gordon, a veteran of the Vietnam war, who stared into his eyes and said: "Well Braveheart, this is the last stop. Everything in the past has gone.
"You either live or you die, brother."
Stuart was given a pair of pyjamas. He handed over his last methadone, and a monk poured it away.
The Scot then took a sacred vow to stay off drugs and was taken with 11 other addicts to kneel beside a drain.
Stuart was handed a shot of "horrendous" tasting black liquid, a secret herbal recipe devised by the monks.
He and the others were told to keep the foul brew in their stomachs so the herbs could work.
Then, as monks chanted in the background, the addicts had to drink litres of water until they were violently sick.
Stuart had the same treatment every morning for seven days.
Despite the vomiting, his first 72 hours at Thamkrabok were bearable. But when the last traces of methadone left his system, the withdrawal symptoms began
He said: "It was horrendous. I was burning from head to toe, and all I could think about was getting a fix."
There were several times when Stuart wanted to give up.
He admitted: "I tried every trick in the book. Tried hurting myself, threatened to break my arm to get home on the travel insurance, was violent."
Stuart could have left at any time but the Buddhist monks convinced him to stay.
And the time he spent 6000 miles from home helped him realise how much damage his drug use had done.
He said: "I was on the other side of the world, to try to break an addiction I'd been battling with most of my adult life. It made me think about what brought me there.
"Basically, years of drug abuse in Dundee took me to Thailand to vomit in a drain.
"It was weird - this was what I'd been reduced to."
After the first week at Thamkrabok, things got a little better. Instead of the grim vomiting treatment, Stuart spent his time working around the monastery.
He also took part in daily rituals. He had regular saunas to ease muscle cramps caused by drug withdrawal, meditated in the afternoons, and joined in the singing of the Thai national anthem.
After 15 days, Stuart flew home clean.
He has stayed that way, helped by family, friends and his support group.
"And he is as confident as any addict can be that he will never touch drugs again.
"I'm taking it a day at a time," Stuart said. "As long as I get to midnight each day, the days turn to weeks and then into months.
"It hasn't been easy, the two months after I got home were hard.
"But I've got through. I rely on the things I was taught out there to get me through.
"My life has changed so much. I'm at college doing computing and I'm still doing my voluntary work.
"I even applied for, and got, an interview for a job.
"I didn't get the job, but for me it was a huge achievement."
Stuart is also determined to help other addicts benefit from the same treatment.
He has helped raise the £2500 needed to help a friend visit Thamkrabok in January.
He said: "I'll go with him for support, to get him through the tough times. He has seen the change in me and he's determined.
"He has reduced his methadone doses and is receiving counselling to prepare. I want to give something back. That's something that I learned over there - to give and be happy."
Stuart is most proud of being able to spend time with his 13-year-old son, who he admits he neglected while on drugs.
He said: "Before, when he came up to see me, I'd be lying sleeping or smoking dope.
"I would shout at him for making a noise because he was disturbing me.
"Now, I'll take him out for a meal, take him to the pictures and to the football.
"He has seen the difference in me and I'm enjoying it.
"Thamkrabok was a hard option. It was harsh and it wouldn't work for all addicts.
"I can't imagine some young kids coping. It's really for people who have reached the end of the road, which I had.
"But if you come through, there's a gift at the end of it.
"That gift is your life."
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