Recovery Stories Blog

New Recovery Voices: Tim Leighton & Gary Rutherford

Just wanted to let you know that we have added two new interviewees to our Recovery Voices website in the past month. My colleague Wulf Livingston interviewed Tim Leighton, formerly of Clouds House and Action on Addiction, and Gary Rutherford, Founder of ARC Fitness in Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland. I have edited these amazing interviews into a variety of films and written extended summaries.

Here are the summaries you can find on the Recovery Voices page of the present website:

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My Forthcoming UK Trip

Sorry for the long delay since my last post. As some of you will know, I’ve been busy posting on the Recovery Voices website I run with Wulf Livingston off North Wales. This trip is partly to see my family and partly work.

I’ll be spending a week in North Wales in late April with my Recovery Voices colleague Wulf Livingston and his lovely wife Melanie. It’ll be a full-on week for me as I will be spending a good deal of time at North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor, where a number of activities are planned.  I’ll also be visiting Eternal Media in Wrexham. It will be so good to finally meet James Deakin and Marcus Fair, the Founders of those recovery initiatives, respectively, as well as their colleagues.

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My Journey: From Brain Chemicals to Human Connection

First of all, my apologies for not posting on this website for a couple of months. I’ve been largely focused on one of my other websites, Recovery Voices, which I run with my good  friend Wulf Livingston from North Wales. Our website focuses on capturing conversations about what works in supporting recovery from addiction, and in the development of peer-led recovery communities, from a range of individuals with lived experience, as well as friends of recovery.

We’ve now interviewed nine people for this website, some on more than one occasion. Content related to seven of these people is currently on the website, whilst we are ‘working up’ two other conversations. The website takes up a good deal of my time, as I am doing a great deal of film editing (over 400 films clips), as well as creating lots of written content. I’ve also been busy working on what I originally planned to be a book relating to my work journey.

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Ten Most Viewed Posts, 2023

First of all, I would like to wish all readers All the Very Best for 2024. I hope you all had a restful and enjoyable Christmas. To help bring in the New Year, I thought I would let you know the ten most viewed posts on Recovery Stories this year.

10. Michael’s Recovery Story: ‘The Power of Empathy and Compassion’  Michael followed both his parents into a life of dependent drinking, but he was 45 years sober on 10 April 2023. He describes his recovery journey, his work as a drug and alcohol counsellor, and his part-time role in ‘retirement’.

9. Anna’s Recovery Story: ‘Should I or Shouldn’t I?’  Through his heroin addiction and recovery, Anna’s brother has taught her so much about life, including the most valuable lesson she could ever learn—you can get through anything.

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Reflections on, and Quotes from, Noreen Oliver MBE (RIP)

In my last blog post about the late Noreen Oliver MBE, I referred to the evaluation of the structured day care programme at Noreen’s Burton Addiction Centre (BAC)—later to become The BAC O’Connor Centre–that my Wired In colleagues and I conducted back in 2004. In addition to this evaluation, which was requested by Noreen, we wrote 19 Stories of BAC clients, and conducted two pieces of qualitative research, one focused on recovery and the role of treatment processes, and the other on recovering heroin users’ views on substitute prescribing (methadone versus Subutex).

This was an incredibly stimulating and enjoyable collaborative project that led to a close friendship between Noreen and I which has continued over the years, despite me living on the other side of the world. In this blog post, I refer to my early visits to BAC, Noreen’s earlier life, Noreen’s reflections on key treatment matters, a memorable short story, and …

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An Extraordinary Recovery Champion: Noreen Oliver RIP

I woke up yesterday morning to find a message via Linked In from Kendra Gray, Strategic Director at The BAC O’Connor Centre, about my good friend and inspirational figure Noreen Oliver MBE. Kendra’s message was accompanied by the following::

‘It is with deep sadness and heavy hearts that we share the news of the passing of our beloved Founder & Managing Director, Noreen Oliver MBE, Hon.DLit, who passed away on December 16, 2023, at the age of 63. Noreen was a passionate advocate for drug and alcohol policy reform, dedicating 25 years of her life to the relentless pursuit of positive change within the drug and alcohol community.

Noreen’s unwavering commitment to her cause was truly remarkable. She fearlessly challenged politicians, tirelessly pushing for reform and improvement in every corner possible. In 1998, she established the BAC with just two rooms in Burton-on-Trent and a mission to make a meaningful impact. Today, the BAC boasts over 70 beds providing detoxification, residential rehabilitation and recovery housing and operates community services nationwide, a testament to Noreen’s unwavering commitment.

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My Apologies

I need to apologise that I have not posted on our Recovery Stories website for some time now. This is due to focusing on my Recovery Voices project and website, both done in collaboration with Wulf Livingston of North Wales, and enjoying a month-long visit from our youngest son Sam. During Sam’s visit, we spent five days in Sydney visiting my youngest daughter Natasha who is currently a Sydney tour guide for Welcome To Travel.

I thought I would remind you about the Recovery Voices website, which has been developed by Ash Whitney of Wired Up Wales (who also created the present website):

‘Recovery Voices, developed by David Clark and Wulf Livingston, captures conversations about what works in supporting recovery from addiction, and in the development of peer-led recovery communities, from a range of individuals with lived experience, as well as friends of recovery.

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Recovery Voices: Our First Two Weeks

We have just started Week 3 of our new Recovery Voices website, a project with Wulf Livingston of North Wales and Ash Whitney of South Wales. This project was developed in order to capture conversations about what works in supporting recovery from addiction, and in the development of peer-led recovery communities, from a range of individuals with lived experience, as well as friends of recovery.

I thought I’d just update you on our most viewed web pages to date. Here are the top five:

1. Dr. David McCartney: Links to the 15 main films I edited from my interview with David, along with summaries. David founded Lothians & Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP)—a residential rehab in Lothian, Scotland, delivered by the NHS and partners. David has an excellent Recovery Review blog.

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The Recovery Walk in Hull 2023: Carl’s Story

Hull Recovery Walk 2023, t-shirts courtesy of Release

Recovery Month in the UK is now over. There is no doubt there were many exciting and inspirational activities around the country. Here are some reflections sent to me by a person who I first met over a decade ago.

‘As Recovery Month comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the wonderful experience I had just a few days ago at the UK’s annual Recovery Walk. On Saturday 23rd September, like thousands of other people, I attended the UK Recovery Walk in Hull. I went to see friends and colleagues from across the UK that I had not seen for a while, and honour my friends and clients who sadly couldn’t be with us.

I started my recovery journey in 2007, and my brother followed me 6 years later. Dedicated workers, peer support, mutual aid groups, good friends and family helped me maintain and grow my recovery. Seeing thousands of friends and allies of people in recovery on Saturday reminded me just how important this cause is.

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Huseyin Djemil, Part 2

Huseyin Djemil became the first of our Recovery Voices when he was interviewed by David Clark in March 2023. He was interviewed again by David in April 2023, covering a varied range of topics which included: recovering people needing to be visible: the Japanese art off Kintsugi, which teaches you that your broken parts are valued; an analogy of the revolving door of treatment; promoting belief in recovering people; his work as a Drug Strategy Co-ordinator for the seven London Prisons; and his reflections on the drug treatment system.  [8 films, 41 mins 32 secs]

Recovery Voices Launched Today

At long last I am back to posting a blog on this website. My apologies for the silence, but I’ve been very busy working on a new website, which has been officially launched today. The Recovery Voices project has been developed in collaboration with Wulf Livingston of Tregarth in North Wales, and the website built by my good friend Ash Whitney of Wired Up Wales, who is from Cilfrew in South Wales.

The idea for this project developed exactly a year ago when I visited Wulf and he took me to visit two elements of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor, their residential community Penrhyn House and their cafe/restaurant Bwd Da Bangor (Good Food Restaurant).

What we wanted to do was capture conversations about what works in supporting recovery from addiction, and in the development of peer-led recovery communities, from a range of individuals with lived experience, as well as friends of recovery. To do this, we have initially been conducting interviews online with five friends who have lived experience of addiction and recovery who have go on to develop exciting new recovery-focused initiatives—James Deakin, Huseyin Djemil, Wendy Dossett, Marcus Fair and David McCartney. In addition, I have interviewed Wulf.

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Apology and What’s Coming Next Month

First of all, my apologies that I have not been posting on this blog recently. I’ve been very busy working on the new Recovery Voices project and have been developing the new website with my long-term partner in crime, Ash Whitney from Cilfrew in South Wales.

Ash and I launched our first website, Daily Dose, back in February 2001 and this was followed by others whilst I was living in the UK. Ash developed this website for me back in 2013 and then The Carrolup Story website for John Stanton and I in 2018. It’s always great fun working with Ash and good to share our interests in sport. Check out Ash’s work at Wired Up Wales.

I’ve been thrilled working with Wulf Livingston of North Wales on the Recovery Voices project. We’ve both been interviewing various people in the recovery field and I’ve been doing a great deal of film editing. Some of you will have seen some of the work we’ve been doing with our collaborators in my blog posts and our Recovery Voices page.

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Powerlessness: Wendy Dossett

I was fascinated by Wendy Dossett’s interview with my colleague Wulf Livingston, in particular the discussions around the 12-Step Fellowship. Her research has provided some important insights into the 12-Step Fellowship. The film below follows on from an earlier one of Wendy’s that I have posted, The Nature of Addiction, where she describes acknowledging her own powerlessness over her addiction.

Wendy describes powerlessness as being a central concept in 12-step fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). It is argued that if control of substance use is beyond your own willpower, then there has to be some other power that is going to bring about abstinence. For example, step 1 states ‘We admitted we were powerless over alcohol…’, whilst step 2 states ‘Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.’

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Inspired by Natalie’s Story

Two years ago, I was interviewed by Huseyin Djemil for the Towards Recovery Journeys Podcast. Towards Recovery is a recovery community in Henley-on-Thames that Huseyin founded back in 2012. I edited this interview into 12 film clips and last week I posted them into the Recovery Voices section of this website. Here is one of the edited films which relates to Natalie, the young lady I first met back in 2000 and who inspired me to start writing stories about recovery.

David describes meeting ‘Natalie’, a former heroin addict, in his early days of working in the field. He reads a section of her Story that is posted on the his Recovery Stories website.

‘There were about fifteen people in my first group session, one of whom was an ex-heroin user who had been clean for about 16 years. She came over to talk to me and I was in awe. She had done exactly what I was doing and she had gotten through it. From that moment on, I didn’t feel so alone. She had done exactly what I was doing and she had gotten through it. It was a Light Bulb Moment.’

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Gifts of Knowledge That Recovering People Can Bestow: Bill White

‘Recovery Rising is the professional memoirs of William (Bill) L White who, over the span of five decades, evolved through several diverse roles to emerge as the addiction fields preeminent historian and one of its most visionary voices and prolific writers.’

The contains so many pearls of wisdom, and is an essential read for anyone interested in addiction recovery. Here are a few pearls, including a verylarge one. [NB. I have broken up Bill’s longest paragraph to make it easier to read online.]

‘The most obvious gifts of knowledge that recovering people can bestow on our communities are our stories—stories that unveil the experience of addiction, stories that communicate the reality and hope of full recovery, and stories detailing how such recovery can be initiated and sustained. Five ideas about recovery need to be inculcated within communities across America.

  1. Addiction recovery is a reality—it is everywhere.
  2. There are many paths to recovery.
  3. Recovery flourishes in supportive communities.
  4. Recovery is a voluntary process.
  5. Recovering and recovered people are part of the solution; recovery gives back what addiction has taken.

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An Exciting 24 Hours, Recovery-Wise

Yes, I had an exciting 24-hour period during the week, recovery-wise. A couple of weeks ago I contacted Alexandra Magson of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) after she liked a Facebook post I made about a film clip on this website of NWRC’s Founder, James Deakin. She said she would be coming to Perth in two weeks. I assumed she was going to visit Perth, in Scotland, but she said no, she would be in Western Australia. We agreed to meet.

The weather forecast was awful, with a predicted thunderstorm, and rain most of the day. I picked Alex up at 10.00 and we headed to Kings Park. The rain disappeared and the sun shone for a while we walked around the park, admired the beautiful views, and talked recovery-related matters. We then  drove to Cottesloe beach and again the rain held off. We even had two strolls, one before and one after an excellent lunch.

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My Second Recovery Voices Interview With Wulf Livingston

In a second interview with my co-founder of Recovery Voices, Wulf Livingston describes the national addiction recovery movement which grew up in the UK between 2008-12, and then how this initiative faded at a national level over later years. What we see today in terms of recovery is very different to what occurred at this earlier time.

Wulf goes on to talk about the development of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor, North Wales, one of a number of exciting recovery community initiatives dotted around the UK, and its Founder, James Deakin. Wulf has been closely associated with James and NWRC since its development. I loved hearing about various aspects of the development and current status of this really exciting recovery initiative.

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My Second Interview With James Deakin of North Wales Recovery Communities

My second interview with James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC), took place on 16 June 2023. It involved Perth, Western Australia, linking up with Bangor, North Wales, on Zoom, with a seven-hour time difference. I edited 11 films from the interview, totalling just under 58 minutes.

We covered a range of topics relating to the functioning of NWRC. These topics included NWRC trying to create as many recovery pathways as possible, involving various mutual aid groups holding meetings at NWRC’s Penrhyn House; the power of ‘the group’ in helping individuals; the importance of being committed to, and engaged with, the various activities offered by NWRC; the importance of service to the community and further afield (with examples, including a project in Kenya); education; and dealing with trauma and its impact.

I’m fascinated and excited by what is going on at NWRC. I hope our films involving NWRC—33 Voices Films totalling over three hours of film—illustrate what can be achieved with a peer-led recovery service, and provide insights into the nature of recovery.

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Interview With My Recovery Voices Colleague, Wulf Livingston

In an interview with my Recovery Voices colleague Wulf Livingston, he talks about his early hedonistic drug and alcohol use, life as a successful chef, and qualification as a social worker. He then worked with the drug and alcohol charity Lifeline, the drug treatment charity CAIS in North Wales, and the Probation Service.

Wulf later joined academia, eventually becoming Professor of Alcohol Studies at Glyndwr University in Wrexham. He believes what really makes a difference to people’s lives is what occurs beyond the addiction treatment phase.

I am enthralled by Wulf’s passion for social justice, his knowledge about what is needed to help more people recover from addiction, and his commitment to helping create positive societal change. The interview was edited into 16 short films, totally just under 80 minutes. Here is one of those films:

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What’s the Magic at Towards Recovery?: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin says the magic at Towards Recovery is the connection. Members of Towards Recovery have connectedness and a shared sense of purpose. They support other people’s autonomy and agency. It’s about ‘… being visible, being connected, having a relationship.’ 25 March 2023.

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.