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.

Wynford Ellis Owen came over to Cowbridge, where I was living at the time after leaving Gower, and we immediately got along well. In 2010, he gained a Churchill Fellowship to travel around America looking at alternative peer-based recovery approaches. He visited Phil Valentine in Hartford, Connecticut, Roland Lamb in Philadelphia, and John Shinholser in Virginia, along with other leading recovery advocates. Bill White helped Wynford arrange his visits. I remember watching many informative YouTube films of his visits and reading a well-written report of his enthralling experiences. Wynford was CEO of the Welsh Council in Alcohol and Other Drugs (WCAOD) at the time.

His experiences during the Churchill Fellowship helped Wynford set up Living Room Cardiff (Stafell Fyw Caerdydd), a community-based recovery centre in the Welsh capital. I loved visiting this centre. The atmosphere there was very special and there was no doubt Wynford and his colleagues were helping lots of people find recovery.

During my trips to the UK, I took one, two or three of my youngest children to stay with Wynford and Meira in Creigiau and we would sometimes visit The Living Room. I remember vividly Natasha, Sam and I visiting the Centre for the New Years Party in 2013, joining in with the fun and games. Please check out the relevant blog on Recovery Stories which contains a New Year’s message from Wynford and a brilliant promotional film for The Living Room.

Also, please check out the following two YouTube Films. Firstly, The Living Room song (which just brought a few tears to my eyes) and secondly, Wynford and Philip Rainford receiving awards from Roland Lamb, Director of the Philadelphia Office of Addiction Services and leading US recovery advocate, during their Churchill Fellowship visits in 2010.

Wynford is over 30 years in recovery; his book No Room To Live: a journey from addiction to recovery is a great read.

When Wynford retired as CEO at the Living Room Cardiff, I wondered if he would really retire from the field. No way!  He now acts as a Specialist Counselling Consultant for Cynnal, the specialist counselling for clergy, and for Enfys, which provides ongoing, bi-lingual, psychological support and after care for all qualified doctors in Wales with addiction difficulties. He also organises and runs retreats which are mainly populated by people from these services, although others are welcome to attend. Wynford is also helping Adferiad Recovery, the organisation that now runs Living Room Cardiff, to become 12-Step informed.

I had a great time at Wynford and Meira’s in September 2022. They are two such special people and have been a great support for me personally. They have always been so welcoming to my three youngest children. Wynford was also a Trustee for the charity I set up for our Wired In work, Wired International Ltd.

You can check out an interview that Bill White did with Wynford here.

Wynford and Meira will celebrate their Golden Wedding Anniversary next year. My wonderful friend Meira is a real heroine, having stood by her husband through his years of alcoholism. As Wynford pointed out in his book, ‘… she had been an involuntary participant in the whole insane merry-go-round of my active alcoholism and had suffered dreadfully as a result of my irrational behaviour.’ I can’t explain how good it feels when I visit and see how happy they are together.

The picture below, taken in January 2014, shows Wynford and Meira with my two youngest, Sam and Natasha.