In the tough moments in life, some individuals find relief and redemption in unexpected places. For Stewart Angus, battling the demons of addiction and grappling with deteriorating mental health, the turning point emerged on the greens of Seaford BC in Sussex. This is the story of Stewart’s transformation, from despair to the revitalising embrace of a newly discovered passion.
His struggle with alcoholism was a relentless challenge that plagued the early years of his adulthood. Seeking answers, he sought the help of psychiatrists and psychologists, but the clutches of alcohol seemed unyielding. By the age of 27, hospitalizations and detoxifications had become a grim routine for Stewart, and the deterioration of both mental and physical health was apparent.
The descent into darkness reached rock-bottom in 2017 when Stewart found himself in prison due to the repercussions of his addiction. The following years witnessed a continuous downward spiral, marked by homelessness, dangerous environments, and a looming sense of hopelessness.
“I got to the point in 2021 where I was going to take my own life, I had been drinking and I had been taking drugs as well. I ended up on methadone as a result of the drugs.
“I was just at rock bottom. I didn’t think there was any point carrying on. I didn’t believe I could stop. I don’t think there was any other way out. I couldn’t stop and there was nothing I could do.”
5th May 2021 marked a pivotal moment for Stewart, coincidentally aligning with his birthday. This was the last day he succumbed to the clutches of drugs and alcohol, as the police intervened for his own protection. This harrowing experience became the catalyst for change, with Stewart determined to turn his life around.
A year after relocating to Seaford in Sussex, Stewart stumbled upon an unexpected lifeline – Seaford Bowling Club in Sussex. Initially hesitant, he took a chance and attended a roll-up session, drawing on memories of childhood spent around bowling greens with his foster parents. Surprisingly, the familiarity of the environment eased the initial anxiety, and the feedback from fellow bowlers at Seaford was overwhelmingly positive.
Joining Seaford Bowling Club provided Stewart with a sense of accomplishment that exceeded his expectations. Receiving keys to the clubhouse symbolized not only a physical belonging but also a heartfelt transformation within. The act of opening the gates, stepping onto the green, and basking in the warmth of a sunny day at Seaford Bowling Club brought the feeling of a new life.
“It may not have meant a lot to some people, but the fact that I had the keys to the clubhouse, somebody with my background, it just made me realise of how much I actually had changed as a person.
“Here I am, the keys to the clubhouse, and I’m part of a club. I remember going down to the club for the first time, opening the gates, opening the clubhouse and going in and getting bowls and just stepping on the green. Just myself with this whole bowling green, beautiful sunny day, and just thinking, this is the life.”
As Stewart immersed himself in the world of bowls at Seaford Bowling Club, he discovered a respite from the relentless grip of mental health struggles. Playing bowls became a therapeutic escape, offering a few hours of respite where thoughts of addiction, past mistakes, and negativity faded away. The sheer focus on the game provided a rare gift – a momentary respite from the burdens of the mind.
In his first season with the club, Stewart enjoyed winning the club pairs alongside Ted Pattinson, and is determined to strive for more opportunities on the green to test himself.
Recognizing the impact of bowls on mental well-being, Stewart extended a hand to a friend who had also suffered with mental health problems. Encouraging those grappling with mental health challenges to join the greens at Seaford Bowling Club, he emphasized the unparalleled therapeutic value of the sport.
“I would encourage folk, especially those struggling with their mental health, to go down to a bowls club and play bowls for a couple of hours. You don’t think about anything.
“I’ve struggled with mental health for a long, long time and the one thing I noticed very quickly when I was down at the bowls club, playing bowls for an hour, I never thought about anything.
“For somebody who suffers with mental health not to think of anything for a couple of hours, you can’t buy that. There’s no prescription for that. That’s an absolute gift, it’s a godsend.
“When I was going down the bowls club, I was coming away and I would think to myself, I haven’t thought about anything. I haven’t thought about drinking, I haven’t thought about drugs, I haven’t thought about bad things I’ve done. All I’ve thought about is, what am I going to do with this bowl? And that’s priceless.”
You can watch our conversation with Stewart in full on our YouTube channel below.