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Jackie Mcgeachie: "I didn’t want to give up my life, I just wanted to give up alcohol."

I stopped drinking 16 years ago. It was a very isolating experience. For a long time I’ve wanted to create a place where people who don’t drink can meet socially on the weekends.”

Jackie with a pangolin

I’m talking with Jackie Mcgeachie, founder of the fledgling “Sobriety Cafe” in Livingston. Jackie’s life was very nearly ruined by alcohol, but having managed to get her life back on track she has had in her heart for several years to open such a venue. She says, “When I stopped drinking, I dreamed of having somewhere to go and socialise at the weekends. I was 32; I didn’t want to give up my life, I just wanted to give up alcohol. You have to leave your friends behind; your drinking buddies don’t understand what you’re doing, and if you’re in recovery you don’t want to go out anywhere where there is alcohol. It makes it very difficult to socialise at that stage when you’re fragile.”

“I know if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, I’d be dead now.” Jackie’s story is one she is happy to share, and she now lives life to the full. She runs a dog-grooming business, Mucky Mutts, which she set up in 2006, after working for a decade at Edinburgh Zoo and then as a veterinary nurse. “I also had a short spell working in an office but realised I couldn’t live without animals!” she says. Since getting her life back she has travelled extensively, and most recently, undertook an extraordinary trip to Namibia to work with pangolins. She is passionate about animal welfare.

“I know if I hadn’t stopped drinking when I did, I’d be dead now.”

“Hardly anyone has heard of pangolins, but they are highly endangered as they are hunted for their scales and their meat. I was watching a David Attenborough documentary on them last February, was utterly fascinated and just felt it was part of my journey to go and work with them.” After watching the programme, Jackie contacted the Endangered Species Trust and by the summer she was on a plane on her way to Namibia to spend two weeks volunteering there. Pangolin scales are believed to have medicinal properties, in China, and eating their meat is also a huge status symbol as it is very rare and expensive. “It was an amazing experience, to be so close to an animal that may well be extinct in the near future,” she says.

Back to Livingston, the Sobriety Cafe is currently a pop-up cafe at Craigsfarm every second Sunday afternoon. “Eventually I’d love to have it more regularly, somewhere you can go to relax, have a bite to eat, a bit of a dance on a Saturday night perhaps,” says Jackie. But it’s small steps at the moment, she started it in February and is funding it herself. Between 1pm and 3pm on a Sunday, you can meet up for tea, coffee, chat and a bacon roll. There is a group of regulars and Jackie wants to get the word out to anyone who may be interested – it’s for people who lead alcohol-free lives, people who don’t drink or who would like to not drink.

For more information on the Sobriety Cafe please call Jackie on 07954 414542 or search “Sobriety Cafe" on Facebook.

Article published in Konect July 2019

Author: Helen-Jane Shearer


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