Rowdy Yates - Lifeline

In 1992 Rowdy wrote and published ‘If it weren’t for the Alligators’ a history of the Lifeline Project’s first 21 years. The title for the book taken from ‘the Lakes of Ponchatrain’ 

….if it weren’t for the alligators
I’d sleep out in the wood
You’re welcome in kind stranger
Our house is very plain
But we have never turned a stranger out
On the Lakes of Ponchatrain

In 1993 Rowdy left Lifeline and become the Director of the Scottish Drugs Training Project (SDTP) at University of Stirling.  This was an organisation offering in-service training to the drug and alcohol treatment field.  In 2001 when the SDTP closed, he became a member of the faculty specialising in teaching and researching in the addictions.  Rowdy retired in 2016 but didn’t stop publishing right up to his death.[3]

Rowdy Yates - 1993

Wrestling with Demons[4]

In 1978 Rowdy met Eric Broekaert at a WFTC conference in Rome. That was the start of lifelong friendship spanning nearly 40 years until Eric’s death in 2016. Rowdy and Eric worked closely on so many pieces of work. They led the European Federation of Therapeutic Communities to the successful far reaching self-funded organisation it is today. They co-founded EWODOR The European Working Group on Drug Orientated Research.

They did all of that with intelligence, passion, commitment, and humour. We always knew where to find them whatever country we were in - go to the darkest smallest pub you could find that did the best beer and you would find them in the corner putting the world to rights and having a brilliant time. 

Rowdy supported the establishment of Therapeutic Communities across the world and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of them all. Rowdy was Vice President of EFTC from 2004 -2012, when he became President a role he kept until 2019. He remained as a Board member of the organisation he was so committed to until his death. 

In 2012 he released ‘Wrestling with Demons’, a mini disk of four songs reflecting the struggles and victories of men and women in recovery and working towards it. In true Rowdy fashion – the proceeds of the mini disk were donated to EFTC.

In this House 

Rowdy was a founding member of the Phoenix Scotland Board. As a Board member his focus was always on the recovery journey of our residents and people who used our services. He challenged us to stick with the evidence base, to know it, to teach it. A regular visitor to ‘the house’, he loved nothing more than sitting with residents, singing with them, and ‘breaking bread’ together. He inspired so many residents and staff who would greet him warmly and talk of him often.

In 2010 he combined his two passions for music and therapeutic communities and wrote ‘In this House’ the EFTC Anthem. 

He said about the song 

‘’It was written to celebrate the colossal achievements of so many former addicts who have graduated through drug free therapeutic communities. For far too long we have failed to challenge the myth that addiction is incurable. This song was written to give ‘’incurables’’ – the ‘’No chance kids’’ something to sing about.’’


And sing they did – often, including in 2012 in Glasgow with a Phoenix Choir of residents from ‘the house’.[5]

‘In this house we will wrestle with the demons of our past 

In this house we will struggle to make changes that will last 

In this house the cost is courage as a price we can afford 

Oh the No Chance kids are coming home restored. 

You say its for your own good but we want this understood

We demand the right to live our lives anew

If you wont support our fight to turn darkness into light 

Then get off the road the kids are coming through’ 


Rowdy Yates - In This House

Rowdy left us on Valentine’s Day surrounded by his family that he loved so much.

What we would do to be able to listen to his growly voice sing a folk song, sit with him regaling a story or call him up to tell him our woes and get his sage advice. 

In an interview with Dianova in 2017 he said

"over the course of my working life, I had the privilege of experiencing the drug treatment field as a customer/client, a worker, a manager, a researcher and a teacher!"


He was so much more than those roles he has held. In the 53 years of working with people who use drugs he gave us so much, left a huge legacy behind but took so much with him. 

We will miss him, 

Rest in peace brother 

Karen Biggs and Bob Campbell

Karen Biggs is the Chief Executive of Phoenix Futures UK and an EFTC Board member. Rowdy was her colleague, her boss, her mentor, and the best person in the world for her to have a rant with.

Bob Campbell has known Rowdy since 1977. He met him whilst a resident at Phoenix House in London when Rowdy arrived with a client from Lifeline. They had a chat and both realised they had a lot in common! A year later Bob was working with Rowdy at Lifeline and they have been friends ever since.

[1]Microsoft Word - SITE doc (

[2] Rowdy in 1993. 

[3] Rowdys 42 published papers Rowdy YATES | University of Stirling, Stirling | School of Applied Social Science (

[4]▶︎ Rory Yates (

[5]Rowdy Yates - In This House (Glasgow Grand Week) - YouTube