Marcus Fair and Wulf reflect on a variety of issues including: why the vast majority of money is spent on helping people ‘get off’ drugs compared to helping them ‘stay off’; the need to put more power into the hands of the experts, the people with lived experience; the role of the Chief Constable of North Wales, Simon Shaw, in facilitating recovery; and future plans for Eternal Media. You can check out Marcus’s Smack App as well.
One thing that Marcus loves about Wales is that he feels so well connected. Birmingham and Bangor are the same distance from Wrexham, but the latter feels much closer due to connectivity and friendship. He believes that the field needs more connectivity and less duplication, particularly amongst treatment services.
Wulf asks Marcus what works well in recovery, what else do we need to create more ‘What Next?’ spaces, and where do recovery communities sit alongside the major government and third sector treatment services? He stresses that recovery-based initiatives are still ‘small fry’ compared to treatment services.
Marcus says that he only has Eternal Media as an example, but they’ve had to do it for themselves. Eternal ‘was conceived on a prison bunk bed, and it was only for the good fortune of not dying from heroin and crack injecting and overdosing that I was able to meet amazing people…’
Marcus lists people who have played a role in his recovery and in the development of Eternal Media in one way or other. He emphasises that these people actually care. Wulf says that James Deakin’s story (with North Wales Recovery Communities) is very similar to Marcus’s. James had a ‘fag-packet’ idea somewhere and half a dozen people support him to bring it together.’
Marcus thinks we need to get more power into the hands of the experts, the people with lived experience of the problems and solutions. More opportunities need to be put in the hands of people who want to create something. He talks about JP down in Staffordshire who is in the same position that Marcus was in eight years ago and is trying to create a filmmaking initiative. Marcus’s team are supporting him remotely.
Marcus wants to create Eternal Media hubs and see more recovery spaces around the country. More money is needed, a rebalancing of funds so that a lesser proportion is spent on treatment and more on recovery-related initiatives.
As Wulf points out, if you ask the people with lived experience, they’ll tell you ‘the staying off is harder than the getting off’… and yet 90% of money is spent on people getting off. Marcus questions the sense of spending £30-40,000 on someone’s treatment, and then offering them nothing after that, so they are left floundering. They often go back to their addiction. Marcus ends by saying, ‘When you find passionate people, you’ve got to support them.’
Wulf emphasises an important difference between a standard treatment service, like a methadone clinic, which can be easily replicated around the country, and recovery communities which are fostered around a small number of people’s interests and passions. You can’t easily replicate the same recovery community around the country, as different groups of people will have different interests and passions. You can have lots of recovery communities, but one may be an ice hockey community, another a filmmaking community, and yet another a food community. It seems hard for the system to understand the nature of recovery communities.
Marcus refers to Simon Shaw, the Chief Constable of North Wales Police and a person who played a significant role in the development of Eternal Media. He is a humanitarian, but he also has a business head. He was spending tens of millions of pounds each year on addiction-related crime and he could see that once people found recovery it didn’t cost anything. In Marcus’s case, when he got clean, Eternal Media put a hundred grand into recovery in North Wales. Wulf points out that it was a double saving, as Marcus was probably costing society a hundred grand a year through his addiction and crime.
Marcus is glad that Wulf mentions his addiction as he has an app that tells him how much he has saved whilst in recovery. He set the app up on the basis of his average habit of around £300 a day for heroin and crack. He has been clean for 3,289 days and that has saved £986,600. That’s just what his continued habit would have cost (in part financed by his crime), and does not consider the costs to society of his crime, prison stays, police time, etc.
Marcus describes his ‘instigator of change’—he had come to the end of the road. ‘My high was overdose. It was a cocktail of heroin and crack in a needle into a vein so thick that it came out like a worm and if I wasn’t going into epileptic fit, my eyes in the back of my head, I’d been ripped off. And it was constant overdose, and I died a couple of times, and there wasn’t anywhere to go from there.’
He says that he’s just been lucky with the most amazing people who have helped him get clean and get off the streets, get into recovery, and then stay in recovery. Wulf points out that more people need to acknowledge how lucky they’ve been. He points out how so many people talk about ‘Us’ and “Them’, but in reality it’s not about ’Us’ and ‘Them’—there’s quite a lot of luck in life. Luck whether we lived or died, whether we used drugs or not, or went to prison or not for using drugs, etc. Wulf has had friends who have died on mountains, whereas he fell 1,000 feet and lived. All these things in society that are used to differentiate people—like those who have achieved and those who haven’t—miss the role of luck.
Marcus agrees that there is luck, and then at some point whatever you do sometimes becomes very attractive to other people. Eternal Media is not just about making recovery very visible, it is about making it an attractive option for people. People see what Eternal are doing and want to be associated with it and help. The organisation has been lucky, but they’ve put in a lot of legwork in. Wulf emphasises the more that people see what is going on at Eternal Media and North Wales Recovery Communities (NWRC), the more they are attracted to them.
Eternal Media are developing a variety of things for the future, including the new building space and gardens, purchasing lots of tents for filmmaking retreats, and starting a variety of new projects. They are committed to doing a number of recovery-related activities, like the 100 mile walk with NWRC, for free. Marcus points out that they are doing amazing things, but they need more help. Funding is always an issue. Wulf hopes that this film interview will help in some way.
Wulf says, ‘I just want thank you for everything… I just love what you are doing, it’s just brilliant… it’s a great privilege to just watch, be with, and intersect from time to time. I just love it.’ Marcus points out that Wulf was there even before he started recovery and he will always be welcome. Wulf emphasises that the last twenty years in North Wales have been amazing. He can’t think of a better space to have been in and see things flourish.
‘It’s what they say, Wulf, if all else fails, try Wales,’ Marcus replies.