Eric and his bike

The gift of life

How a bike became the catalyst for change

Eric is a devoted volunteer at the Phoenix Development Centre. A community centre in Easterhouse, Glasgow that has changed his life.

Living in a cycle of depression, constantly in pain and unable to find medication that worked, Eric was constantly angry, bitter and alone. In his worst moments, Eric considered taking his own life.

Fast forward 10 years and Eric is the lynchpin of the local cycling group and a face of the table tennis club run from the centre. Eric’s journey is remarkable, and he is very aware of the crucial role the Phoenix Development Centre played in helping his transformation.

How it began

Growing up in Easterhouse was tough for Eric. From an early age he combined school with providing for his mother, working as a log chopper. But as regeneration projects installed central heating into local homes, work as a log chopper dried up. It’s somewhat ironic that efforts to modernise one of Scotland’s poorest areas would force Eric out of work.

18 of the 20 neighbourhoods of Easterhouse are amongst the 10% most deprived areas in Scotland. Finding work was not easy. It was made even more challenging by the sideways curvature of his spine. A crippling and painful condition, Scoliosis would continually hamper Eric. In constant pain and frequently prescribed different medication, on top of rejection and a feeling of worthlessness all contributed to Eric becoming increasingly angry, depressed, and isolated.

For 10 years, Eric drifted, unable to find a job and unwilling to engage in his community; distancing himself from friends, family, and neighbours.

After a decade of struggling and feeling like there was no other way out, Eric learnt to tie a noose so that he could take his own life. However, Eric’s mum passed away and through the grief, Eric was given a glimmer of hope. A tragic event that would be as Eric identifies to be his ‘turning point’.

Catalyst for change

His mum left Eric a small amount of money in her will and stipulated he was to buy a bike, something that brought Eric joy and happiness growing up.

Honouring his mother, buying a bike proved to be the catalyst for change.

Eric said:

“It was the bike that changed my life.

"I am scared to think where I would be if I didn’t buy that bike with my mum’s money she left behind for me. It was a life changer.”

He started to feel the sense of freedom and energy again. That feeling he had in his younger years. After 10 years of pain, his caged anger and depression started to dissipate, and he could feel the positive difference cycling was having on his wellbeing again.

He began engaging in conversation with a neighbour who told him about the refurbished Phoenix Centre and encouraged him to drop in. With no idea what it was, Eric found out it was a community centre in the old library, five minutes from his house. Eric self-referred in social prescribing at the community hub, part of Easterhouse community sport hub.

Community leader

A combination of the Phoenix Centre and his bike means Eric is no longer on the intense medication plan he once was.

He is in all day, every day and is known as the ‘every day go-to-man’ that supports the voluntary running of the centre. He attends the table tennis club, two nights a week, engaging with others in the local club.

Supportive of his passion for cycling, the Phoenix Centre encouraged Eric to undertake bike maintenance and leadership courses. The education the Phoenix Centre has given him is allowing Eric to give back. He is now a community leader and alongside the Phoenix Centre runs the local cycling group, which has grown from strength to strength.

He now supports other people with their physical and metal wellbeing as he says: “There is this lassie who has big anxiety challenges. She won’t go far. But I’ve seen her on the bike and it’s giving her a sense of freedom to explore other places around Easterhouse. Places she was too scared to go before.”

Richard McShane, founder of the Phoneix Development Centre said: “You can’t get Eric to be quiet these days. He is a completely different man. He talks and he engages. Far from the mute he used to be.”

By self-referring into the Phoenix Centre, Eric’s life has positively changed. Eric’s now a community leader and in a positive place, allowing him to engage and give back to the community centre which changed his wellbeing. He is no longer on the medication routine that sent him into a dark slump. Eric got the best possible gift his mum could have left behind for him. A bike. A gift he is showing others how to use and benefit from.

‘’I don’t know where I would be without the Phoenix. I speak to people and I do things I never use to do. I love the cycling and I give back that way.”

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