Visiting UK Recovery Friends, Part 6 (Angie and Andy Evason)

Whilst on Gower, I caught up with my old best schoolmate in Melton Mowbray, Jeff Zorko, along with this wife Marian and daughter Rosie. Jeff and I spent a number of years working in jobs in different places around the world, only to find we both ended up living on Gower. They have known my three youngest children since each of them were born. Jeff became an invaluable Trustee on our charity Wired International Ltd, which funded Wired In activities. I am very grateful for the charity work he did then and the long-lasting friendship I have had with him and his family.

One of our meetings on this visit occurred over dinner at my former local pub, The King Arthur in Reynoldston. After dinner, we were joined by two former West Glamorgan Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse (WGCADA) staff members, Angie and Andy Evason. As I have previously described, WGCADA was where I first began to learn about the nature of drug addiction treatment and interact closely with staff members and service users.

Angie worked with Esther Mead in reception at WGCADA. These special women played a critical role in the initial connection of people seeking help from the treatment agency. Knowing how much courage it had taken for some people with a substance use problem to approach the agency, Esther and Angie knew the importance of giving them a warm welcome, and ensuring they felt wanted and cared for from day one. They had to instil hope, and reassurance to clients that they had made the right decision in coming to WGCADA. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of a ‘warm welcome.’

Angie and Esther spent a lot of time with clients (in-house and on the phone), giving them the chance to offload and share before, during, and after treatment. They were very much part of the therapeutic process operating in WGCADA. They also had to deal with the frustrations of clients who were on the waiting list to join one of WGCADA’s services. The demand for help from people with substance use problems far exceeded the resources that WGCADA had been provided with by the system.

My two boys Sam and Ben used to love visiting Angie and Esther and seeing other friends like Dave Watkins and Keith Morgan. Ben’s school was a few buildings away from WGCADA and the boys and I often popped in to see our good friends.

Andy Evason was Deputy CEO of WGCADA when I first started visiting the agency and we spent a good deal of time together. He left the agency for new pastures during the time I was still interacting withy the organisation.

Andy was also a coach for a local young boys football team, Murton Rovers. Andy asked if Wired In (WIRED as it was then) would be interested in sponsoring the team and I agreed. It gave me a great pleasure watching the boys playing their matches with the letters (one of our websites) on the back of their team jerseys. It was certainly a rather different sponsorship.

It was wonderful seeing Andy and Angie again all those years later in September 2022. We shared some great memories and had a good laugh. Our time together reminded me how important friendships, are and how special reunions are with close friends. Time does not take away the closeness of quality friendships.

About six months ago, I realised that I still had film of the WGCADA Christmas party in 2002 on my old video camera. I edited the raw material and posted the film on YouTube. Andy talks briefly on the film at the beginning, whilst Angie makes a very brief appearance. Becky Hancock, my first Wired In colleague, and her mother Cheryl also appear, as do my two boys, Ben and Sam. Young Sam falls for, and with, a girl (4’30”) and this scene is followed by film of Andy talking with commissioner Martin Riley, who played a significant role in supporting WGCADA (and their staff), including arranging for funding.

The film features Keith Morgan’s band the WGCADA Warblers. The band comprised Keith (guitarist in blue shirt on left) and the late Lawrence Mylan (guitarist in Reebok jumper on right), as well as a number of agency clients, and some volunteers. Keith developed the band as a ‘therapeutic approach’ to help people on their recovery journey from drug and/or alcohol addiction. His guitar lessons, and the concerts he organised, were greatly valued by the agency clients. Sadly, I was not able to get together with close friend Keith on this trip, but will do next time I am back.

I leave you with photos from my farewell in December 2008, taken not long before I moved to Western Australia. My WGCADA friends and Wired In team attended the farewell. I miss them all.

The first three on the left of the top photo below are Cheryl Hancock, Becky Hancock, Dave Watkins and the person far right is Keith Morgan. Angie is in the middle of the front row with Esther on her left. Angie and I are in the second photograph.