Carrying the Message: James Deakin

In Monday’s blog post, I described how James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC), was incredibly intimidated by academics at one time. He got over that and today he is working with a number of us academics—in my case, a former academic.

James believes that both people with lived experience, and academics, have a role to play in the recovery field. For individuals on their recovery journey, storytelling is more relevant, but academic research is needed to influence funders and drive policy change.

James says that the upside of people with lived experience is that they are able to support people much more effectively, compassionately, and in a quicker manner. The downside of it is that ‘we’re also an ex-bunch of addicts and alcoholics, and it’s really easy to discount what we say, and what we think, and what we stand for, and what we advocate.’

Interviewer David Clark emphasises that an important role for academics working in the field must be to promote the voice of recovering people. He believes that this is the most important thing he’s done in the 40+ years of his career. He points out that one of the most intriguing questions relates to the psychological processes that underlie the transformation seen in many people recovering from addiction.

James points out that he is always trying to identify potential recovery carriers—people who make recovery infectious to those around them—when people access North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC). Of course, everyone receives the same sort of help, but it is important to recognise recovery carriers as they provide the continuity in the programme. James has come through addiction 20 years ago and it is easy for a new person to dismiss his journey because it happened so long ago—‘what do you know about recovery?’

James emphasises the importance of NWRC’s cyclical approach—keeping recovery ‘fresh’ in the eyes of new community members—and recruiting recovery carriers as paid staff. At present, the six housing management staff at Penryhn House—the residential part of NWRC—are recovery carriers and this underlies the high rates of success within the community. All staff have passion, drive and commitment. Their primary purpose is to carry the recovery message to still struggling addicts.

Bio: James Deakin has been in recovery for 15 years and is now sharing his experiences of active addiction and offending to support other people to bring a positive change to their own lives. He believes strongly in the concepts of mutual aid and shared experience, and these are underlying foundations of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) which he developed in 2014. NWRC delivers a programme of meetings and recovery activity from Penrhyn House and members of NWRC contribute significantly to the local community in various ways. Their community cafe, Bwyd Da Bangor, provides the best food on High Street, Bangor.