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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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.

On Being ‘Ballsy’: James Deakin

I’ve been busy recently editing film from the second interview I had with James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor. I’m so impressed by what is happening at NWRC.

Whilst editing, I remembered I wanted to post a blog on James’s film where he discusses being ‘ballsy’. In my humble opinion, you need a chunk of ‘ballsiness’ to get some things done in the recovery field and climb over the barriers that the system sometimes puts in the way.

James is often accused of being an ‘ego-merchant’. He think there’s a fine line between ‘being ego’ and ‘being ballsy’. He believe he is the latter. He says to his community members, ‘I’m not afraid to fail. I’m afraid of not trying.’ David points out that we need people who are ‘ballsy’ in the recovery field.

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James Deakin’s Recovery Voices Teaser

I’m really pleased to post the second of our Recovery Voices Teasers, that of James Deakin, the Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) in Bangor, North Wales. Having edited the film of my colleague Wulf Livingston’s ‘s interview of James, and then interviewed James myself, I’m really impressed by him and what he and his colleagues have achieved at NWRC.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit with Wulf to NWRC’s Penrhyn House and to their restaurant/cafe Bwyd Da Bangor (Good Food Bangor) in September last year. I had a really good breakfast at the latter. Sadly, James was out of town. I look forward to meeting him on my next visit. For now, we’ll be chatting on Zoom.

James 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 NWRC, which he founded in 2014.

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Dr. David McCartney’s Recovery Voices Teaser

I am thrilled to release the first of our Recovery Voices Teasers, that of Dr. David McCartney, the Founder of Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP).

I have known David since around 2007 and we continued to meet every time I was in Edinburgh, where my eldest daughter Annalie was doing her medical training in the early days. I loved visiting LEAP and spending time with the patients and staff. It was so good to be there last year, after a number of years away.

I edited my interview with David into a series of 15 films (totalling 76 minutes) which are posted on YouTube. These films cover the development of David’s drinking problem and an unsuccessful attempt at sobriety, the latter involving 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 talks about setting up LEAP and about facilitating recovery in the community.

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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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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.

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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Bill White’s Talk in London, 2009

Film from William L White’s talk at an addiction recovery conference on 18 March 2009 in London organised by Action on Addiction and Wired In. Six clips focus on recovery advocacy, recovery communities, recovery management and treatment. 

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Phil Valentine’s Blog

One of my favourite bloggers has been Phil Valentine, Executive Director of the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR), who has used his blog to share lessons he has learned in his recovery and in his professional roles. An introduction to Phil and his blog, links to nine of my favourite posts from Phil’s blog, as well as to the “CCAR Recovery Matters!” Podcast run by Phil and his wife Sandy.

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A Recovery Community History: CCAR, The First Twenty Years

I’ve been following the work of Phil Valentine and his colleagues at the Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery for some years. They have been doing some great things and, in my humble opinion, have been leading the way with a number of their initiatives. Here’s a film celebrating their first twenty years.

‘Long-term members of a pioneering organisation in the development of recovery communitites tell the inspiring and moving story of CCAR, the Connecticut Community for Addiction (CCAR). ‘CCAR is a centralized resource in CT for all things recovery. Whether you are contemplating a life in recovery, are new to recovery or are in long-term recovery, CCAR is here to help you to navigate the recovery community, by connecting you with others in recovery and providing access to area support services. Since 1998 we have worked to make this reality – the CCAR 20 Strong documentary tells this story.’ CCAR 4recovery, 16 April 2020. [32’32”]

The Role of Community: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin Djemil of Towards Recovery, a recovery community based in Henley, England, recently started a Lent Blog. Here is the Day 3 blog post which describes the role of community in facilitating recovery.

‘At Towards Recovery, we offer a simple “in” for people seeking to initiate recovery. We run a regular recovery café and provide “touch points” for people to engage with us e.g., like the recovery café, which is in-person and online, various programmes and courses, clubs (like Strava, books, films, talks), a podcast about recovery journeys and a book of reflections and daily invitations.

All of these “touch points” make recovery visible to those that might be seeking help and are unsure how to go about it, and are unclear about what help might look like. Making recovery visible allows people to see it and decide whether they want to connect to it, and with us.

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David Higham: Life After Prison

If you haven’t seen this moving film that focuses on David Higham in our Films section of the website, then please check it out. David had been in and out of prison since the age of 16 and was a drug user for more than 25 years. He went on to create and develop The Well Communities, an inspiring recovery community located in Cumbria and North Lancashire.

‘The Well is a vibrant community of people. Together, we support each other and we believe wholeheartedly that recovery is possible for anyone. By valuing and investing in the people who use our services, we’re able to show a different side to addiction. A side which sees members start their lives afresh with new friends, stronger family links and better prospects.’ UNILAB. 21 August 2017. [6’08”]

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Building a Recovery Community in the UK with Calliese Conner: CCAR 4recovery

Phil and Sandy Valentine of CCAR (Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery) interview Calliese Conner in Episode 109 of their Recovery Matters Podcast. What a fantastic conversation between three beautiful people. Find out more about Calliese and the work she does alongside her mother Naetha Uren with their Recovery Coach Academy UK.

‘Calliese Conner shares her journey to becoming a recovery coach and building a recovery community in the UK. She reflects on her experience with the Recovery Coach Academy and her passion for bringing more recovery resources to her community. Also discussed is the importance of treating people as resources and the impact of language and relationships in the recovery process. CCAR 4recovery, 22 February 2023.’

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What is ‘Towards Recovery’: Huseyin Djemil

Some of you may remember the podcast I did with Huseyin Djemil for his Journeys Podcast – making recovery from addiction visible. Huseyin developed the Towards Recovery community back in 2012.   This Recovery Community helps ‘people to connect with others and re-connect with themselves and the world around them. With support, and over time, our aim is to help people make sustainable changes and to create a life of their own choosing.’

Embarrassingly, I only recently came across the YouTube film, made in December 2015, in which Huseyin:

‘… talks about Towards Recovery – what is a Recovery Cafe and how the Cafe in Henley came to be a safe space for people in recovery. He talks about people finding help, housing, jobs and bringing them face to face with services – ultimately proving that people in recovery from addiction don’t just survive but can thrive and become real community assets.’

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What is Towards Recovery?: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin Djemil talks about Towards Recovery – what is a Recovery Cafe and how the Cafe in Henley came to be a safe space for people in recovery. He talks about people finding help, housing, jobs and bringing them face to face with services – ultimately proving that people in recovery from addiction don’t just survive but can thrive and become real community assets. 22 December 2015. [9’36”] You can find other films from this conference here.

Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 10 (Dr. David McCartney & LEAP)

After visiting Ian and Irene MacDonald, I headed back to my usual base when I am visiting the UK, the Beech House Hotel in Reading. It’s a wonderful family-run hotel that I have been staying in for over a decade whilst I visit my three youngest children. The next morning, I delivered my hire car back to the main office, and then headed to Heathrow airport to catch a flight to Edinburgh.

I was soon on my way to my favourite UK city where I would be meeting some of my favourite people, the staff and patients at Lothians and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP), led by my close friend Dr David McCartney. I first visited LEAP in 2007, at a time when my eldest daughter Annalie was a medical student at the university. For some years, even after I moved to Australia, I would spend the day talking with staff and patients. My discussions with David and his Clinical Lead Eddy Conroy were enjoyable, thought-provoking, and inspiring.

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Visiting UK Recovery Friends: Part 7 (Wulf Livingston)

On Friday 23 September, I left Gower and headed to Tregarth in North Wales, via Aberystwyth and Dolgellau (where one of my ancestors was born), to stay with Wulf Livingston and his lovely wife Melanie. As I had such a tight schedule, I was due to stay there only one day, but my cousin Emma (my next visit) had just tested positive for Covid, so I ended up staying two days with Wulf and Mel.

I hadn’t seen Wulf in person for nearly 20 years, although we’ve been conversing on Facetime for the last year or so. I first met Wulf in 2000 when Becky Hancock and I were conducting the Drug and Alcohol Treatment Fund (DATF) evaluation in Wales. The local evaluator for North Wales, Annie Stonebridge, used to organise our meetings when we visited the region, and always arranged for us to meet Wulf, as we got on so well and we were learning so much from him. Wulf was Community Services Manager for the treatment service CAIS at the time. I was always impressed that he used go out and meet service users in their homes or other places of their choice, rather than have them come to visit in the formal surrounds of the treatment service, which was the general practice in the field.

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Visiting UK Recovery Friends, Part 3 (Wynford Ellis Owen)

After visiting my eldest daughter Annalie and family in Manchester, and seeing recovery advocates Kevan Martin and Mark Gilman, I headed down to Reading. The next day, my youngest daughter Natasha and I flew to Rome for a week to visit one of my best friends at City of London Polytechnic (where I did my Psychology degree in the first half of the 1970s) Saifullah Syed and his lovely wife Francoise. There, I also met Jeff Simpson, one of my other best mates from the Poly, someone I hadn’t seen for 45 years!

After Rome, I visited my eldest son Ben in Southampton for a couple of days and then hired a car in Reading to travel to and around Wales. First stop was Creigiau, where I stayed for the weekend with Wynford Ellis Owen and his wonderful wife Meira.

I first met Wynford in 2007 through my role as External Examiner for the Foundation Degree on Addictions Counselling run by Action on Addiction and the Division for Lifelong Learning at the University of Bath. Tim Leighton of Action on Addiction, who was in charge of the Foundation Degree course, asked if I would supervise the degree project of one of the students who lived not far from me in South Wales.

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