Saturday, 3 May 2014

Finding inspiration in an unexpected place.

Almost a year ago I wrote a blog, A day in the 'glamorous' life of an author

 It was a tongue in cheek tale about a book launch I'd attended. My friend and mentor, Lisa Cherry, otherwise known as 'the lovely Lisa', had just published her second book, 'The Brightness of Stars' and this was the first book launch I'd attended. My little allegorical story, 'TheFluffy Dandelion' was included as an appendix, which made me even more excited to be there. To say that it wasn't the 'glamorous experience I'd expected would indeed be an understatement. But it was fun!

Lisa has now published another book, 'Steering the Mothership', about 'the complexities of mothering' i.e. when it doesn't work. It was held in the Ley Community, a rehabilitation facility near Oxford which is quite unique! Here all the residents and staff work together to help people to beat their addictions and learn to live life, instead of leading a lifestyle which is killing them. Again any preconceptions I had about a glamorous book launch weren't fulfilled!

It was much better!

Instead I listened as one young mother told her heartbreaking story of how her beautiful 15 year-old daughter had died suddenly after taking half a gram of MDMA or ecstasy, and how she was using her grief to reach out to try to help others. She's also written a book, '5,742 days' by Anne-Marie Cockburn. The title is the number of days that she had with her daughter. But on the night she was able to tell us the exact number of hours and minutes also. The only sound that could be heard in the room, was the rustle of tissues or the discrete blowing of a nose as this brave young woman told us her story. She's a small ,slight woman who looks extremely fragile. But she has a strength about her that is truly inspiring.

One of the reasons that Lisa chose to hold her book launch here, was that she recently became re-acquainted with a guy that she was in care with. When they left the home, he went down a path of self destruction taking drugs and living a life of crime to pay for it. He was also at the book launch and he spoke about how the Ley community have helped him to turn his life completely around. More than that really! They've helped him to learn how to live!

He was followed by the director of the community, herself a former addict, who talked about the community and the work they do there. She told us that they use something called the Onion Concept. The onion concept is a tool that helps people to begin to see and work through layers to discover what has influenced them. It helps them to understand who they are in order to help them break their cycle of addiction. Some layers can be more painful than others to look at and this is where being part of a community comes in. Just like a family, they help and support each other through the process.They don't use any drugs, such as antidepressants, they have to go cold turkey. But with a success rate of 84%, it shows that it works.

I think that the Onion Concept is something that would work in helping any of us to deal with any of our issues. Some people believe in ripping the plaster off! But sometimes that can open the wound up again, especially if the wound goes very deep. But by gently peeling the layers away, it gives us time to prepare ourselves for what we might find is the centre of our problem.

Lisa is currently fund raising as next year she wants to walk a section of the Great Wall of China to raise money for the Ley Community. She fully expected her friend to be dead by now, and she is extremely grateful to them for all they've done for him and others like him.

No, the book launch wasn't a champagne reception; although they did provide some yummy canapes. But it was an uplifting and inspirational evening that I felt privileged to be a part of!

Photos Isabel's own, apart from Anne-Marie's book cover photo.

Isabel Johnstone 2014 ©


  1. I love the 'onion' analogy. What an amazingly brave lady.

  2. Truly inspiring Isabel .. yes I agree with the Onion Concept, quite brilliant for us humans and you made such great point in that exposing a wound when raw over and over never truly heals the wounded, just breaks it open .. but by going through it layer by layer we can careful mind it & heal it .. wonderful post thank you

  3. Thank you Tina and It's always great to have feedback, especially when its positive!