Having problems linked to alcohol or drug use?

Living in the Western Isles?

Hebrides Alpha Project is situated in Upper Coll, 6 miles from Stornoway, offering a residential recovery orientated programme with an underpinning Christian ethos.  What we do

Also connected with Hebrides Alpha Project is Hebrides Alpha Trading which provides therapeutic employment to individuals in the community or the residential setting with an addiction to alcohol and other drugs and are serious about addressing these issues.

Find out more about  Hebrides Alpha Trading

”It’s not what I know in recovery that keeps me sober, It’s what I do that keeps me sober.” 

 Programme – what we do


Each individual resident has their own room and bathroom (all en-suite except for one room in 48C). Each resident shares the kitchen and living room with their fellow residents. 


We have several groups which can be attended during RECOVERY. These are AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) in Stornoway, Road to Recovery, Alcohol & Drug Recovery Support Group, and compulsory ‘in–house’ Recovery Groups which focus on many topics and relapse prevention.

Abstinence Environment

Staying here means total abstinence from problem substances – leading to HEALTH AND WELLBEING. No alcohol or drugs are allowed on the premises at any time.


We have several APPROACHES to counselling with motivational interviewing underpinning all of these. This means that the staff connect with you and your recovery and people CHOOSE their preferred method. This can take place both face to face and informally, whilst walking etc.

Christian Ethos

The project was intentionally set up with a Christian element to the programme by a group of individuals who themselves had found life and hope through relationship with Jesus Christ, as described in the Bible. We have morning Devotional or Recovery Meeting for all staff or residents each day.

We totally recognise that some persons seeking recovery may not wish to consider this aspect of becoming well as being important or relevant to their own lives. They may even have alternative ideas in terms of faith. This to us is no barrier to anyone coming into the project. All are welcome regardless of personal persuasion on these matters.

Agency Links

We like to join up with other agencies for the MUTUAL BENEFIT OF RESIDENTS!  We will assist attendance at recovery meetings and therapeutic employment, plus attendance at individual appointments or hobbies. Examples are our links with –

  • NHS nurses,
  • Medical Services
  • Local Pharmacies
  • Job Centre and Benefits Agency
  • Volunteer Centre
  • Road to Recovery, and local employers

We like to encourage all our residents to engage with the community.


The rent per room per week is approx. £167 and this is usually paid through Housing Benefit. We ask each individual to pay £18 per week for HEATING, LIGHTING, TV AND INTERNET COSTS. If residents have their own tenancy with for example Hebridean Housing Partnership, we will pay this rent for them while they are resident in the project. We ask for a contribution towards this to the amount of any income over £85 per week unless the individual has debts outstanding, they need to pay.

Therapeutic Employment

Therapeutic Employment is compulsory for all but set up, if at all possible, in accordance with residents’ own preferences and level of fitness. Can also include training elements.
We now also have a Polycrub on site for any who are not able to go out to work. This new therapeutic option offers a space for growing and for expressions of artwork.

Recreation and Aftercare

Examples of recreational activities have been walking, bowling, driving range, the gym, attendance at ‘the Shed’, trips to the mainland, fishing and peat cutting.

We offer up to 6 months Aftercare for persons who complete their programme and Aftercare also involves A NUMBER OF POSITIVE RECOVERY ORIENTATED ACTIVITIES!

how to give

 Rowing Fundraiser

Kayak Fundraiser

Skydiving Fundraiser

Cycle Fundraiser






All our staff are registered with the Scottish Social Services Council and are obliged to be qualified or to be working towards relevant and prescribed qualifications. Regular and updated training linked to assisting others in recovery / operating a care service is a routine part of staff life within the project.

David Graham


Stephen MacDougall

Deputy Manager

Malcolm Maclean

Full Time Care Worker

Emma Condy

Sessional Care Worker

Lyndsey Morrison

Support Worker

Mrs Carol Maclean

Full Time Care Worker

Aonghas Mackenzie

Full Time Care Worker

John Davidson

Sessional Care Worker

Karen Grant

Support Worker

“Aged fifteen I left school and Fort William to work at the fishing in Stornoway. With this freedom and no parents to answer too it was not long before I was drinking and taking drugs”.


I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came over me;

I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the lord: Lord save me.

Psalm 116:1-4

I was brought up in Fort William, the eldest of three brothers and one sister. We went to a catholic school and attended mass most Sundays. Drink played a big part in the home as we got older and my parents no longer went to church, though my grandmother continued to take us. I never paid much attention and it did not mean anything to me at the time although I kind of believed there was a God.

In 1988 aged fifteen I left school and Fort William to work at the fishing in Stornoway. With this freedom and no parents to answer to, it was not long before I was drinking and taking drugs. This progressed over the years and resulted in me getting into trouble with the police and messing up relationships.

One day in Nov.1998 I was working on a small crab boat with a friend.  On the return voyage to port the weather had become very poor and the boat took on a lot of water to the point it capsized. We became separated in the water, it became dark, it was hard to breath. I kept swallowing water and I became so tired I thought I was going to die, and in despair I called out to God “please save me“. Shortly after things got easier, the wind and the sea calmed some then I felt something brush my feet. It was seaweed so I knew then I was close to the shore. Then my foot was on the rock.

I woke up in hospital and was very aware that I had called on God to save me and decided I was going to go to church to thank God. I also realised that I had lost a good friend that night.

The following Sunday I went to Church and a lot of what was said was relevant to me but it was the words of Psalm 40 which really struck me.

I waited for the Lord my God and patiently did bear

at length to me He did incline my voice and cry to hear

He took me from a fearful pit, and from the miry clay

and on a rock He set my feet, establishing my way.

That was literally what had happened to me a few days earlier.

I began to pray and read my Bible, attend church and enjoyed Christian fellowship. But like the rocky and the thorny ground in the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4, Luke 8. Matt 13) when trouble and the worries of this world came, I fell away. I turned away from God.

I returned to drink and drugs and at times I felt I was in a self-destruct mode, not really caring much about anything or anyone and a general dissatisfaction with life. I started working away from home from six weeks to months at a time; I was working hard but playing hard also. All this was hard on family life. Around the beginning of 2012 all the lies, cheating, drinking, all my sin had caught up with me. I had made a real mess of my life. I felt I was on a precipice and if I carried on the way I was, the whole world was going to drop out from under me. I knew I could not carry on the way things were.  I needed to change, and that involved coming clean about some things with Margaret, who is now my wife, and stop drinking. I returned to sea not knowing if I was going to have a family to come back to and it was then that I called on the Lord again. Unknown to me at the time Margaret had begun to pray also. When I got home from sea we both prayed together with many a tear and started to go out to Church.

There was hardly a service where God did not speak to us in those times. I prayed hard and often for forgiveness. It was a long while before I felt any assurance, there were many ups and downs, doubts and worries but God extended His grace and granted perseverance to keep on reading the Bible and praying. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.(Prov 3:5) I heard Him tell me on many an occasion. Jesus revealed Himself to be the only way, the truth and the life (John14.4). God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might have the righteousness of God.(2 Cor 5:21) Hallelujah! What a Saviour! There were many other things that happened in the following months that prompted me to give my life to Jesus, and in February 2013 I made a profession of faith in baptism and two days later Margaret and I sat at the Lord’s Table for the first time.

There have been testing times since, but I bring everything to God in prayer and trust that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28)

I started working in the HAP Supported Accommodation in Sept 2015 following redundancy from the offshore industry. It ‘s been a wonderful learning experience and great to work in such a supportive environment with excellent training, which boosts your confidence.  It is a pleasure to get alongside and hopefully pass on the things I have learned in my own life to the residents and to seek to help them in their lives. To be continued!

Stephen MacDougall

Full Time Care Worker

Resident Reflections


“A community nurse referred me to Hebrides Alpha Supported Accommodation and I entered the project on 29/02/2016”.


I am 48 years of age. For as long as I can remember my life was ruled by alcohol and violence. Growing up in my parents’ house was a nightmare from day one. We always had the stigma of being ‘that house’. I had my first glass of whisky when I was 9 -10 years old, first got drunk at 11 years old, went to Cumbernauld at 13 years old and nothing changed. My brother was 16-17 and wasn’t around much. The violence got worse towards my mother and myself because my mother no longer had her family around. At 15 -16 years of age I began to drink every week, began work in Glasgow and drinking progressed. At 19 years old I knew I had a major problem. I passed my driving test at 18 years of age and I began to drink and drive all the time.

At 22 I was disqualified for 18 months for drinking and driving, got my licence back and went straight back to drinking and driving again. A friend took me to a flat in Glasgow: I was on vodka and my friend was on whisky. The two girls in the flat were on wine. A third girl came out from the bedroom and I heard someone leave the flat. The girl came in, left and came back 20 mins later, produced 6 wraps of heroin and she and her friend began to smoke it. It turned out that the two girls were prostitutes and raising money for drugs in this way.

In myself I had ‘given up’ and accepted life for what it was. I was a full blown alcoholic and I did not care. I cut myself off from my brother and nieces and hurt him badly. He had been the best friend I ever had.

Fast forward to 19 years later. I‘m living in Stornoway, out of work, both parents dead. My legs no longer work because of alcohol – dirty, smelly, crawling around on my hands and knees. I was relying on others to bring drink into the flat. A community nurse referred me to Hebrides Alpha Supported Accommodation and I entered the project on 29/02/2016. I was confused and full of mistrust, looking for ‘what’s the catch, the pay back’? Soon I had bought new clothes, shoes and cleaned up. They listened, supported, introduced structure and meaning into my days. I attended AA, church, voluntary work and training. 3 months in and I knew that it would work.

Now I have a good relationship with my brother and I’ve made friends. I stayed for seven months and life has been one big plus. I have no urge to drink again and go back to that terrible place. For the first time I know sobriety, self respect and respect for others. If I stick to going to my AA meetings, my voluntary work and to the principles shown me by the staff at Hebrides Alpha, I have a better and good chance of staying sober. This has been a brief summary of my story so far. To be continued!


“After this began three years of ‘totally out of hand ‘ drinking and inability to work often…”
My name is Evan and I am 50 years old. I had a good childhood: I was brought up in Marybank, just outside of Stornoway. I am the second oldest of four children, but my sister passed away about three years ago partly caused by alcohol problems. My father worked for ‘Tawse’ road contractors and my mother stayed at home.  She passed away with cancer when I was 11 years old. My father was drinking very heavily when I was young. I left school at 16 years of age and started drinking then but I never expected to become an alcoholic. I worked with Colin Macaskill’s business at 17 years of age for work experience, then started doing fencing, driving , fish processing, all types of work. I am what you would call a ‘grafter’. I like being at work.

I continued drinking all this time and then the morning drinking started when I was 37 years of age. I was living with my partner at this time but eventually the heavy drinking led to the break up of the relationship. I moved in with my father to the flat I now live in. He had totally stopped drinking by this point but I carried on and it started to interfere with my ability to go to work and I lost jobs and a lot of other things through it. My father became increasingly disabled and eventually passed away in 2012 through a heart condition, having been sober ten years and by then had stopped smoking.

After this began three years of ‘totally out of hand‘ drinking and inability to work often. Eventually in summer of 2015 my nieces started pushing me to do something about my drinking. I managed to do six months of no alcohol with the help of the Community Alcohol Nurse but then went back to drinking.  I applied to the Hebrides Alpha Project Supported Accommodation and went in there on 30th November 2015.

Since then I have had a drink for only two days which was a great upset to me and I enjoyed very much being in the project, attending AA, church and meeting with the staff. I have left now, have no thoughts of alcohol and am determined to keep going. I am able to attend my work and I am busy, have redecorated my flat and I am much better.  


“Eventually someone spoke to me about the residential project in Upper Coll. I agreed to consider it and was taken in in July 2017. I haven’t looked back since alcohol wise”.
I was brought up in the Western Isles.  I saw very little drink in the house or my family when I was young. I remember being very sick when I first touched alcohol. I went away to college but returned home to look after one of my parents. I worked in a small factory for a while and only had the odd drink then, I was just about 19 years of age. I went away to work for a while again but returned to the islands and was working in another factory. My mother passed away when I was almost 21 and I ended up alone in the house.

After some time of being alone in the house I could not sleep and I began to have a drink when I went to bed and that did work for a while. At 25 years of age I had a daughter but was living as a single parent and I began to drink a bit more regularly at night and I was finding that I needed to have more alcohol to get to sleep.  I became seriously dependent on it. At age 32 I was chose to go  to Dunain House for four weeks in Inverness and that got me sober for 16 years.

Unfortunately when I was in my late forties I had a lot of bereavement and I began taking alcohol again and the alcohol got a grip on me again although I was managing to work. It crept up on me worse and worse and I thought I was in control but I wasn’t. I ended up having heavy drinking binges and also my husband and myself separated. I was living a double life of drinking and working and it was hopeless – I also became very physically ill by the time I was 60.

Eventually someone spoke to me about the residential project in Upper Coll. I agreed to consider it and was taken in in July 2017. I haven’t looked back since alcohol wise. I know I am an alcoholic, I have been attending AA and really enjoy that. I have loved being in the project and meeting everybody, I have done really enjoyable therapeutic employment and have found the staff to be really good at what they do and very helpful. It has been a wonderful experience for me and I know that I cannot take alcohol for the rest of my days if I am to stay alive and have any chance of a useful fulfilling life. My faith has grown and I have made some lovely friends who I get on with really well. I am very happy to still be in the project. (February 2018)


“A Community Addiction Nurse suggested that I come in to the Hebrides Alpha Project residential unit. I have been here since the end of November 2017”.
CURRENT RESIDENT –  I was brought up in a rural community in the island of Lewis. I was extremely shy at school and was a bit of a rebel also partly because I hated the hostel in Stornoway. Bullying especially was a problem there – a lot of boys got bullied by the older ones. I encountered alcohol majorly in my late teens but went to the pub firstly when I was 20. I worked in a hotel in my early twenties and my alcohol intake went up then.

I began to drink every day when I was working away in the fabrication industry because I found the job stressful. I began having a drink in the evening before I went to work –I was on night shift. I left there and came to the fabrication yard in Lewis and the habit of drinking before work continued. I was living back in the family home then.

After this job finished I was scraping around a bit looking for work and I ended up buying a loom which I put in a shed on the croft. I was weaving for 26 years. It was during that time that I began drinking heavily although I still managed to weave. I did enjoy the weaving and neighbours called in a lot and tourists also who heard the loom. Twice I was filmed on the loom .

I started having stomach problems because of the very heavy drinking. I stopped drinking for a while with the help of STARAN where I was sent to by  the Job Centre. I was also going for counselling with two of the staff who are currently working in the Hebrides Alpha Project where I am now. I was 58 years of age then and by this time I was alone in the family home. I stopped drinking for about 16 months and I was enjoying doing art work which I had always been happy doing but the physical work was more difficult due to the damage in my body from the drinking.

Unfortunately at about age 60 I started drinking again and I left STARAN but one of the workers was very good to me and still is. By the age of 67 my legs were starting to go and I was not looking after myself or my house properly. A Community Addiction Nurse suggested that I come in to the Hebrides Alpha Project residential unit. I have been here since the end of November 2017.

My legs and my walking are definitely better, I have not touched a drop of alcohol since I came in and have no desire to. I am attending all my medical appointments and have benefited from this. I was apprehensive when I came in first but as time went by the staff and the people around me are so friendly and it is really comfortable to have people like that around me.  I was worried a bit about the one to one counselling but I don’t mind that now and it is good to talk about my alcohol problem and now benefit from ‘looking inside myself’ . We did a group meeting on the effects of addiction and then the benefits of sobriety and abstinence and it was a revelation to me to see every thing that was written down. I used to reject the word addiction and just said I had a habit. I was deluded and now see the extent of the problem I had. I really don’t want to go back there again.

I struggle a bit with Alcoholics Anonymous meetings because of my shyness, but the ‘in-house’ groups are fine and Road to Recovery and church meetings I enjoy. I’m back doing my art work and I see my family a lot and they are delighted to see me the way I am as are my neighbours from where I live. People tell me that I’m looking great! (just like I was years and years ago!)

In terms of the future I’m not too worried about it. I need to do repairs on my house . I feel really clear that I don’t want to go near alcohol any more. I believe that stopping drinking as I have now for a good while will be a great help and a great start and I ‘m really glad to get this chance just now.

contact us

Hebrides Alpha Project

48 B Upper Coll, Back, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0LT


T: 01851 820830

E: manager@hebridesalpha.co.uk

W: www.hebridesalphaproject.org


You are very important to us.

All information received will always remain confidential.

Our Supporters


We want to thank all of you most sincerely for your continual support of this project and work! It is a joy for us to serve men, women and families in this community and you are helping us do this. May you be blessed and encouraged in your lives and all you do. Your kindness to us is making a real difference!



Hope Trust, The Alcohol and Drug Partnership (Western Isles), LEADER Innse Gall, the Joseph Rank Trust, The Souter Charitable Trust, The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust, the Anchor Foundation, The Gannochy Trust, The Hugh Fraser Foundation, The Pedmore Trust, All Churches Trust, Susan H Guys Trust, Meb Charitable Trust.

All local Church congregations who support us such as Tong Free Church, Martin’s Memorial Church CofS, High Church CofS, Carloway Church CofS, Carloway Free Church.

Point & Sandwick Wind Farm Trust, Scottish Salmon Ltd, Horshader Community Development, Tolsta Community Development.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN)

We would also like to thanks Tesco Fare Share & Western Isles Food Bank.