There’s a Place for Me: James Deakin

Last week, I posted the Recovery Voices Teaser I edited for James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) which is located in Bangor, North Wales. This film quickly became the most viewed Recovery Voices film clip. The Teaser was created from an interview that James had with his good friend Wulf Livingston, who is my co-founder of the Recovery Voices initiative.

I was really excited to recently interview James, as part of a follow-up series to Wulf’s interview. I have now edited eight films from that first Zoom interview, summaries and links of which you can find here.

I decided to show this particular clip first, in which James describes how he was incredibly intimidated by academics initially. However, he later learnt that there was no need to be intimidated—he could play an important role in the addiction recovery field. And so he has! Mark Gilman played an important role here. How many times have I heard this of Mark? He has inspired many!

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Demoralisation in a Treatment Service: Huseyin Djemil

Huseyin Djemil, Founder of Towards Recovery, has done a good deal of consultancy work over the years. Here’s an example of the sort of work he has done within the treatment system.

‘Huseyin provided a one-day training course on opiates for practitioners of a well-known treatment provider. He finished his presentation slides by lunchtime. He wondered what was he going to do for the rest of the day?

He discovered that there were no opiate groups for clients, despite the fact that 51% of them were opiate users. When he started to discuss this matter with practitioners in the afternoon, he was told that the clients didn’t want anything other than methadone. Huseyin explored with the practitioners in an innovative way whether this was actually the case. He came up with some interesting findings.’

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The Nature of Addiction: Wendy Dossett

Interviewer Wulf Livingston asks Wendy whether she is very particular about the language around addiction, in the same way as she is nuanced with language used around the word ‘recovery’. Wendy responds by saying that she was utterly powerless over her addictive behaviour. She identifies with the concept and experience of powerlessness, and is quite comfortable relating it to addiction.

Addiction is that ‘desperate need for oblivion, desperate need to change how I feel… a total lack of control.’ She has so many memories of the desperate desire not to do what she was doing, but being unable to desist, until ‘I acknowledged my own powerlessness.’

Bio: Dr Wendy Dossett is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Chester and Principal Investigator of the Higher Power Project. Wendy’s research explores religious, spiritual and secular language in addiction recovery modalities, including Twelve Step and Buddhist approaches. She’s also an activist for Visible Recovery, and she contributes to the ‘Recovery-Friendly University’ movement in the UK. She’s a person grateful to be in recovery herself.

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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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Anxiety, Craving & Insomnia: Dr. David McCartney

I am so grateful to David for sharing the story of his addiction and recovery journey with me for the Recovery Voices Initiative. This film includes the time when David first accessed help for his drinking problem.

‘David eventually asked his GP to sign him off work through stress, as he thought he could tackle his problematic drinking when avoiding work. Instead, he started drinking in the mornings, as there was no reason not to!

David confessed his problem to his GP who told him he ‘wasn’t a drinker’—he had been drinking problematically for a decade by now!! He visited a psychiatrist who diagnosed his problematic drinking and referred him to an addictions psychiatrist who in turn arranged a community detox, involving librium and various other drugs. At one stage, David was taking between 20 and 30 pills a day.

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Secret Shoppers: Huseyin Djemil

During his commissioning days, Huseyin set up a ‘Secret Shopper’ project, as he was not convinced that what he and his colleagues were being told by a contracted service provider was actually the reality. Ex-service users were trained to play a number of different roles and told to take various actions with the service. The service provider was informed that Secret Shoppers would be visiting them. The service was provided with a copy of the final report. Huseyin describes some of the experiences of the Secret Shoppers.

Please check out more of Huseyin’s Recovery Voices films.

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The King’s Shilling: James Deakin

Wulf starts a discussion about how a peer-led, independent recovery group obtains funding such that it is not working to the agenda of the funder. In the early stage of NWRC’s development, James has ‘zero trust and zero faith’ in the commissioning process in the North Wales substance misuse field. He has seen too much control and tokenism in the field, and fears that his community’s work will be undermined by the system.

He receives funding from outside the field which allows him to control the community’s housing. The building he and his colleagues acquire hosts mutual aid groups which work with members of the recovery community.

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Things That Have Helped During My Recovery Journey: Dr. Wendy Dossett

Wendy describes herself as having a general positive attitude to life and enjoying the natural world. Her relationships with people have helped her recovery journey. Thinking about how to help other people and contributing to knowledge about addiction and recovery through her training also play a significant role. Psychotherapy has helped her at different times in her life, by allowing her to delve deeper into her past trauma, and intergenerational trauma, which she believes underlie her past addictive behaviours.

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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 the 12-Step Fellowship, 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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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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Recovery Voices: James Deakin, Founder of North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC), with Wulf Livingston

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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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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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.