In my second interview with James Deakin in June 2023, he described to me how he wanted to set up as many recovery pathways as possible at North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC). He realised that NWRC needed to ‘cover all the bases’ in relation to mutual aid. Community members were given access to the 12-Step approach, Smart Recovery groups, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Theory) at Penrhyn House (NWRC’s residence).
When they first arrive at Penrhyn House (NWRC’s residence), community members are told that they must do all the options (groups) for the first 12 weeks, so that they will be able to make an informed choice of what works best for them. People find their group, their ‘tribe’, that best suits them.
Power of the Group
In this film, James describes research conducted by John Stoner of Chester University with members of NWRC which suggests that it was not the actual mutual aid group (e.g. AA or SMART Recovery) that is important in helping people, but the fact that members are around other people who are clean and sober. After the initial 12-week period when members had to attend all the different mutual aid groups, some people were going together to both AA and SMART Recovery, despite the very different principles underlying these two types of approach.
NWRC members have to engage in 20-30 hours of organised social activities a week. This is important so that members can be around people and form strong positive, ’sober’ connections. Addiction is disconnection, recovery is connection. Right from the beginning, people are encouraged to get assimilated into a group as quickly as they can. ‘The sooner you feel part of the group, the safer you become.’
James describes people being in agony, and feeling the days are dragging, in the early stages of abstaining from drink and/or drugs. However, at some stage, there is a switch in many people’s head, so that rather than feeling ’desperate not to use’, they think that ‘life is far easier if I don’t drink or take drugs.’ Life becomes easier; it’s not a grind, or a hardship, anymore.
James would love to research the psychological processes that underlie this transition. He believes that the transition creeps up on most people. They don’t wake up suddenly one morning and say, ‘Oh, there’s no desire there anymore!’ He sees people walking around with the weight of the world on their shoulders in the early stages of their recovery journey. Three or four months later, ‘the penny has dropped’. They are happy, laughing… and ‘free’. James terms the transition, ‘the moment of emancipation’.
You can watch James describing the introduction of the various mutual aid groups in NWRC in our film Broad a Church as Possible. Here is James’s Biography:
James Deakin 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 North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC) which he started to develop in 2014. NWRC delivers a programme of meetings and recovery activity from Penrhyn House and members of NWRC contribute significantly to the local community in various ways. Their community cafe, Bwyd Da Bangor, provides the best food on High Street, Bangor.