Recovery Stories Blog

Being Heard: Huseyin Djemil

The people who gave Huseyin a job in the prison service knew of his past addiction, but it was something that he was actively discouraged from talking about. His past was considered a weakness. In contrast, Huseyin saw his past as a huge positive. At one stage, he worked for a rehab which helped residents put together a cover story, so that when they entered the outside world they wouldn’t have to disclose their past. He believes this approach is wrong—it buys into the stigma. Personally, he wants to be visible, and he is comfortable with that desire. 25 March 2023. [5’44”]

Please check out films from Huseyin’s first and second interviews.

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Helping Others: Dr. David McCartney

David Clark asks David McCartney whether he found himself helping others, in the way he was being helped by others, when he was in the rehab. David stated that when he found himself functioning more healthily as a human being, and felt that he had some useful things to share, he did start contributing in a way that could help others.

However, he had to first dismantle the veneer of a doctor identity he was using as a mask and shield. This was difficult at first, as a lot of his self-esteem was tied up with this veneer, even though it was holding him back. He had to stop being a doctor and be a member of the rehab community, and then gain the identity of being a recovering person.

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Rising Above Covid: James Deakin

During a Covid lockdown, 18 North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) members, including a number of former chefs in recovery, are locked down in the recovery community’s Penrhyn House. They start to feed vulnerable people in the community, using food from the community allotment and provided by supermarkets. The food is gathered, cooked, frozen and delivered. A total of 80,000 meals are provided to families and individuals.

The recovery community responds quicker to feeding vulnerable people than the Welsh government and local councils. In fact, the Welsh government eventually provides some funding for the initiative, at least during the Covid lockdown. NWRC currently runs a surplus food club at their cafe, Bwyd Da Bangor (Good Food Bangor). [7’30”]

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My Addiction & Recovery: Dr. Wendy Dossett

Wendy identifies as a person in recovery from addiction. She describes herself as recovering, rather than recovered, as she believes that if she were to drink alcohol again, she would quite likely eventually return to the same position she was in at the height of her drinking problem.

At that time, her life was unravelling, she was experiencing a lot of suicidal ideation and attempting suicide, and was clinging on to a job with ‘splintering finger nails’. She was living in a mouldy touring caravan in a field, showering in the university she worked at, and trying to pretend everything was okay. She thought alcohol was keeping her alive.

When Wendy reached what she considered was her rock bottom, a time of absolute agony, she reached out for help. She didn’t go to treatment, and attributes her recovery to mutual aid. As her sobriety continued, her mental health improved incrementally.

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Recovery Voices: Wendy Dossett of the University of Chester

I am really pleased to introduce the fourth of our Recovery Voices, Dr. Wendy Dossett, who is interviewed by my colleague Wulf Livingston. Wendy is a person in recovery who is an Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Chester, UK, and Director of the Chester Studies of Addiction, Recovery and Spirituality Group.

I have edited Wendy’s fascinating interview into 16 short films totalling 85 minutes and 55 seconds. She describes how she reached out for help 18 years ago at a time when she was in absolute agony due to her drinking problem. She has not had a drink of alcohol since that time. In their fascinating discussion, Wendy and Wulf cover a wide range of topics, including the nature of addiction, a wide variety of aspects related to AA, foundations of recovery, grassroots community, recovery advocacy and the system, and recovery friendly universities.

In the first film, Wendy and Wulf initially discuss how long they have known each other, probably around a decade. Whilst Wendy works in England, she lives in the heart of Snowdonia in Wales. She lived in or near Lampeter in South West Wales for 23 years, before spending the last 12 years in North Wales. She considers herself very lucky to live where she does. Wendy also describes her academic background in religious studies, and her interest in the discourse of religion and spirituality.

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Local Community Celebrates Start of Bangor Recovery Centre Project

I recently came across the following article about North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) from The Bangor Aye, the online newspaper for Bangor in North Wales. As some of you know, my colleague Wulf Livingston recently interviewed the Founder of NWRC, James Deakin, for our Recovery Voices project.

‘The local community has come together to mark the beginning of a £3 million project to develop former Hillgrove School in Bangor into a new home for North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC).

Thanks to the support of Watkin Property Ventures, NWRC purchased the former school last year. Having secured planning permission, work has now started on site to adapt the building into a much-needed new home for NWRC residents.

Mark Watkin Jones, Chief Executive and owner of Watkin Property Ventures cut the first sod to signal the beginning of construction. He said: “The occasion is a significant milestone for NWRC, and I am pleased that we have been able to support this project which promises to bring positive changes to the lives of many in the area. NWRC have been doing fantastic work for many years, the new centre will help them support more people and provide them with the modern facilities they deserve.”

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What Towards Recovery Is About: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin emphasises that Towards Recovery is about bringing people together. Members are meeting people who have experienced similar problems to their own, and have overcome them. There is a good deal of empathy in the community. People connect within the cafe, and via other activities, e.g. WhatsApp, or on Strava (which connects people through their sporting activities). David asks what he would experience if he turned up to the cafe in Henley. Huseyin also explains what happens with the online gatherings. Towards Recovery is NOT treatment. 25 March 2023. [8’55”]

Huseyin Djemil developed Towards Recovery, a recovery community in Henley-on-Thames, UK, in 2012. He has worked as a freelance consultant in the addiction field since 2007. Huseyin has held roles as drug worker, service manager, drug action team coordinator, commissioner, London regional lead for prisons and a number of other advisory roles both paid and pro bono.  Huseyin is in long-term recovery from an addiction to Class A drugs.

Being Held Back… by a GP Identity: Dr. David McCartney

Another film clip from the second of our Recovery Voices, Dr. David McCartney, the Founder of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) in Scotland. David is someone who has inspired me greatly over the years.

When he finished medical school, David wanted to make a difference and work where the greatest problems were evident. He joined an inner-city GP practice. The job was extremely stressing as the need (medical and social) was so overwhelming.

In retrospect, David felt he was naive and had not learnt to create distinct boundaries. He started to go to work earlier and earlier to be able to deal with all that needed doing in the practice. With the benefit of hindsight, he can now see he was not equipped to deal with all the tragedy he saw.

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The North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC): James Deakin

Last week, I introduced you to James Deakin, the Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC), and an interview he had with my Recovery Voices colleague Wulf Livingston. I was thrilled to edit this fascinating and informative interview into 13 short films totalling just under 80 minutes. Here is the 11th of these film clips [Apologies for the slow internet connection at one end]:

James describes activities of NWRC, eight years on from its initial development. It has a residence that houses 18 people, and provides a space for a larger group of people to engage in mutual aid groups daily. It organises outside activities, such as hill walking for recovering people. The Growing for Change project, with its gardens and allotments, engages community members in beneficial activities and provides food for local restaurants, including the community cafe Bwyd Da Bangor.

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Ten Year Anniversary of Recovery Stories

Ten years ago today I launched these words into the virtual ether:

‘I’d like to welcome you to Recovery Stories, a new website that is focused on helping individuals and families recover from serious problems caused by drug and alcohol use.

We’ll not just be trying to help people directly affected by drug and alcohol addiction, but also help people whose lives have been indirectly affected by the substance use problems of a loved one. Family members and friends also need to find recovery.

One important feature of this website is that it will carry the ‘voice’ of recovering people. Solutions to serious substance use problems are manifested in the lives of millions of people who are in long-term recovery. These lived solutions can provide important insights into principles and practices that underlie recovery from addiction.

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Recovery Voices: James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC)

In the third of our Recovery Voices series, Wulf Livingston interviews James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC).

James’s interview comprises 13 short films, totalling just under 80 minutes. He describes his drug-dealing days in Manchester and cocaine addiction. He begins his recovery journey after moving to Bangor, and spends ten years working as a chef before becoming a Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) worker. He becomes disillusioned by the treatment system, but inspired by recovery advocate Mark Gilman. He receives funding from outside the system to set up the peer-led NWRC, which has a residential facility (Penrhyn House), Growing for Change food project, and a community cafe, Bwyd Da Bangor. James describes NWRC activities. 

In his first film below, James initially describes growing up in a single-parent family, surrounded by heavy drinking, conflict and violence. He feels he is constantly on edge. He experiments with cannabis and party drugs. The work options for someone his age are narrow, and there is a marked contrast between low-wage workers and drug dealers with their posh cars and chunky mobile phones. James finds his ‘occupation’ and discovers he has a good business acumen….

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Recovery Voices YouTube Channel

I just wanted to remind you about our YouTube channel, which is now called Recovery Voices, rather than Recovery Stories which it was originally called.

This YouTube channel is a core part of a Recovery Voices project, which I have recently developed in close collaboration with Wulf Livingston of North Wales. The project involves interviewing people on Zoom who are recovering, or have recovered, from addiction, as well as their allies.

The aims of Recovery Voices are to: (1) celebrate the lives and achievements of people recovering from drug and alcohol addiction; (2) create a powerful voice of recovering people and their allies; (3) help develop a greater understanding of addiction and recovery; (4) enhance our understanding of factors that can lead to addictive behaviours; (5) challenge the stigma that is attached to people who experience substance use problems and those who are trying to overcome such problems; and (6) facilitate the development of peer-led recovery communities.

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Until the Lion Learns To Write: Huseyin Djemil

Here’s a film clip from our first interviewed Recovery Voice. Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery believes there is the opportunity for the treatment system to innovate, just by involving people recovering from addiction. This is happening to some extent, but the treatment system often treats recovering people as their assets. ‘So they get kind of wheeled out… look how wonderful our systems, processes and outcomes are, give us more money, give us that contract.’

Huseyin mentions the proverb, ‘Until the lion learns to write, all the stories will be from the hunters’ perspective.’ The present sorts of video and the recovery-related content on Recovery Stories are the lion learning to write. 25 March 2023.

Dr. David McCartney’s Recovery Voice

Dr. David McCartney of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) is the second of our Recovery Voices, a project I developed with Wulf Livingston of North Wales which involves filming interviews of recovering people and their allies.

In the first of 15 film clips edited from an interview I had on Zoom with David in late March 2023, he introduces himself as a person in recovery and as an addictions doctor. He spent the first half of his career in an inner-city GP practice in Glasgow, and the second half working exclusively in the addiction treatment field. He also does work for the Scottish Government supporting the development of residential rehabs in Scotland.

In the interview, I point out that we have known each other since 2007, when I first started visiting LEAP (Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme), which David had set up earlier. I had always enjoyed my visits and had continually been inspired by David and his work colleagues and patients.

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‘Hope in Addiction: Understanding and Helping Those Caught in Its Grip’ by Andy Partington

Andy Partington’s new book, Hope in Addiction: Understanding and Helping Those Caught in Its Grip, is well worth a read. Here are two endorsements I wrote for the book, a long and a short one.

‘Addiction to drugs and alcohol, and to various activities such as gambling, has increased markedly in recent times. These addictions have not only wrecked the lives of individuals, but have also impacted negatively on entire families and even whole communities.

Andy Partington’s insightful and thought-provoking book takes us on a journey of discovery into how we can help people overcome addiction, and also reduce the incidence of addiction. In helping us to understand the nature of addiction and recovery from addiction.

Andy introduces us to moving personal stories of hope and leading research findings that educate and inspire. He describes features of modern life that nourish mass addiction, particularly in modern Western capitalist society—past and present adversities, including childhood traumas (neglect, abuse and household dysfunction); social disconnection; feelings of emptiness, loneliness and dissatisfaction; and a sense of hopelessness and despair about what the future holds.

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My Journey: Part 9. Wired In’s Early Online Presence

Development of a strong online presence was one of my key aims with Wired In (initially known as WIRED). With the help of website developer Ash Whitney, I launched Daily Dose, a drugs and alcohol news portal, in early 2001. This website was followed by—which contained sections for people suffering from substance use problems, practitioners, and members of the general public—and the news portal Drugs in Sport. We later built, which focused on the range of work that Wired In was conducting. (1,500 words)

I’ve often been asked why I came up with the name WIRED, the original name for Wired In. I could say that it was because I wanted to connect people, which I now consider the main ‘power’ of the name Wired In. In fact, the reason was that I initially saw WIRED as a way of providing people with information about drug and alcohol use problems, and how they could be overcome. WIRED was quite simply an acronym: Web-based Information REsource on Drugs—alcohol is, of course, a drug.

I had initially received funding from the Welsh Development Agency, which at the time was the economic development agency for Wales, to develop and maintain an online resource that would help people in Wales better understand the nature of drug and alcohol use problems and how they could be overcome. Use of illegal drugs, in particular heroin, and excessive drinking were major problems in parts of Wales, particularly in areas suffering economic and social problems such as in the Welsh valleys. These problems had increased as coal mines in the valleys closed. 

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Recovery, Connection & Hope: Dr. David McCartney

I’ve deliberately broken my ‘blog break’ to announce the second of our Recovery Voices, Dr. David McCartney of LEAP (Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme). I’ve known David since 2007 when I first started to drop in at LEAP when visiting my daughter Annalie, who was a medical student in Edinburgh. David and his team and patients always inspired me. I loved my visits, the last of which was in September last year.

In my Zoom interview with him, David talked about the development of his drinking problem whilst working as a GP in an inner-city practice in Scotland. He described an unsuccessful attempt at sobriety, which involved a medical approach focused on prescribing. In crisis, he later called the Sick Doctors Trust Helpline and was told a doctor’s personal recovery story. That telephone call gave him hope and the opportunity to take his own journey to recovery. David talked about setting up LEAP and about facilitating recovery in the community.

I am thrilled to have this collaboration with David. I’ve always hoped that one day we would be able to do some serious recovery advocacy together. I hope there will be more! I have edited our discussion into 15 short films, totalling just over 76 minutes. Above is one of my favourites from that collection. Please check out the other films. And why not subscribe to our YouTube channel?

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Taking a Break

I’ve been absolutely thrilled this week to have my two boys Ben and Sam visiting us from the UK. Sam has not been here for nine years and Ben for seven years. I’ve been seeing them and their two sisters Natasha and Annalie in the UK over the past years, other than during Covid. It’s so great spending time with my boys here. I’ve really missed them.

I’ve decided to take some time off from regularly posting on my blog for a few weeks so that I can have a bit more of a break. I’ll still be working behind the scenes on content for the new revised version of the website which will probably come out in a few months. This includes the Recovery Voices project I have initiated with Wulf Livingston from North Wales.

You can see films of the first of our Recovery Voices guests, Huseyin Djemil, here. I’ll shortly be posting film content of an interview I did with David McCartney of LEAP (Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Project), which I will announce on my blog.

I was just looking through my blog posts and have realised there have been 92 posts since my last proper break in the second half of last year, and 248 when I restarted blogging on this website on 4 March 2021 after a six year break.

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Setting Up Towards Recovery: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin describes how he first set up Towards Recovery in 2012, starting out by renting a church coffee shop for monthly evening gatherings. He and his colleagues wanted to make recovery visible, letting people see ‘it’ and decide whether they wanted to connect to it. They also organised a few conferences, with notable speakers from around the country, and various event nights. A key aim was to show that people in recovery are assets. They are people who have walked through deep water, come out the other side, and are now helping others who have problems in their lives. 25 March 2023.

This film clip is one of 15 taken from an interview with Huseyin in March 2023. Yesterday, I posted eight more film clips of Huseyin from a second interview conducted recently.

All film clips are on Huseyin’s Recovery Voices Playlist which appears on Our Recovery Stories YouTube channel. Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel? The Recovery Voices project is being developed with my close collaborator Wulf Livingston from North Wales.

Theresa’s Story: Wired In To Recovery

Here is some powerful writing from Theresa, who started blogging about her recovery on our online community Wired In To Recovery in May, 2010. Here are her first two posts:

Me (6th May, 2010)
I am 17 weeks, today, into Recovery from alcohol addiction. I have found that getting into Recovery is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It is also the thing I am most proud of because of the unbelievable physical and mental effort it has taken to get this far.

The fear of withdrawal and the absolute belief that I would be unable to cope without drink made me believe for a very long time, that a drunken haze would be my life until I became so distraught and heartbroken that I ended it (which I almost did) or my body just gave up the fight.

But now? Now I have something I never thought could exist in a hopeless wreck like me, and that is hope. I. Me. Theresa. Is in Recovery and has been sober for over four months! Well slap my thigh and call me Norman!!! Haha! I am dry!

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