Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tree of Hope takes root in Cardiff

The decking of the traditional fir tree is one of the highlights for young and old as part of the Christmas preparations. However, there is one Christmas tree in Cardiff which will have more significance than most this year. The Tree of Hope, located in the newly opened Stafell Fyw Caerdydd – Living Room Cardiff, is launched at 6pm on Tuesday, 20 December 2011. The tree offers an opportunity to attach a star enclosing a message of hope as a way of celebrating freedom from addiction, honouring persons successfully achieving
recovery, to dedicate rays of hope to those still struggling in their illness and those working in the field, and to commemorate lives lost to this tragic and misunderstood disease

The idea for the Tree of Hope came from a visit to a ground-breaking Philadelphia Treatment Centre by Living Room Chief Executive, Wynford Ellis Owen, as part of his Churchill Fellowship in America. The concept of the tree is to demonstrate recovery from addiction is a reality and does happen.

Bev Haberle, on behalf of Philadelphia’s Recovery Community Centre, Pro-Act, said, “It’s great to know the Tree of Hope has crossed the Atlantic as a positive beacon of what is possible if we all pull together. I would encourage as many people as possible to take a minute out of their day in the run up to the Christmas celebrations to help those who are recovering whilst also remembering those who were not so fortunate.”

Wynford Ellis Owen, added, “I was struck at the simplicity of the Tree of Hope concept when I visited the States and thought it a great idea to bring to Wales to mark our first Christmas at the Stafell Fyw Caerdydd – Living Room Cardiff.

“I hope as many people as possible will help us to be a shining beacon of hope in the darkness to those still struggling or to send a message of thanks by placing a star on our Tree of Hope.

“Everyone is welcome to join us for our celebrations on 20th December 2011, where they can collect their individual stars to place on the Living Room Tree of Hope. Visitors are also free to tour the centre, speak to people who work here and enjoy mince pies and sing Christmas carols. I would also like to personally thank Pugh's garden centre for their generosity in supplying the beautiful Christmas tree.

“To have a special message inscribed on an individual star of hope, please call Living Room Cardiff on 029 20493895 or email info@welshcouncil.org.uk by 12th December 2011.”


Stafell Fyw-Living Room Cardiff is a new charity set up by the Welsh Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs (WCAOD) and based in Richmond Road Cardiff. It aims to offer support for anyone experiencing difficulties in relation to alcohol, drugs (prescribed or illicit) or any other dependency or harmful behaviour.

The Living Room Cardiff Concept (LRC) is like no other rehabilitation service currently offered in Wales. The community based day-care Recovery Centre will provide a safe, easy access, non-judgemental space offering a range of interventions including peer-based individual and group psychosocial support.


Saturday, 19 November 2011

We've got to be prepared to loose everything

I don't think people realise how serious addiction is and that we have to be prepared to loose everything, absolutely everything, in order to recover. We don't necessarily HAVE to loose everything - but we've got to be PREPARED to do so.

Recovery has to becone THE PRIORITY in our lives. More important even than my children, my spouse, my career, my religion, my sport, my hobby, my finances....etc, etc. For if I loose my recovery I'm going to loose all those anyway. Today I'm going to committ to my recovery and do everything - absolutely everything - in order to achieve it, and to maintain it. And don't let PRIDE get in the way. Ask yourself "How important is it?" If it ain't life threatening, don't bother about it.

Rhoi'ch adferiad yn gyntaf, uwch POPETH yw'r nod er mwyn gwella o ddibyniaeth. Rhaid bod yn barod i golli POPETH er mwyn ei ddiogelu. Popeth.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


What happens when you take an impressionable teenager, propel him to the heights of national fame, applaud him for his talents as a singer, encourage him to think of himself as a latter day Keith Moon and leave him to the tender mercies of the tabloid press?

This week we all found out when the antics of eighteen year old Frankie Cocozza led to him being dropped from X Factor, the show that he had been a contestant in.
His behaviour finally became unacceptable when it was revealed that he had taken cocaine, but for weeks there had been a slew of ever more tedious stories about his alleged excesses. True to form, Simon Cowell was quick to drop Frankie when the revelations came to light.
The Sun newspaper reported him as saying: ''Frankie's blown a wonderful opportunity. It's very sad, but he has no one to blame but himself.''

To take Simon Cowell seriously (and it is likely he doesn't care whether we do or not) we have to ignore most, if not all the context of what has occurred, he seems eager to profit from the successes of his protégés, and all too keen to abandon those who are deemed to have failed.

Firstly, Frankie Cocozza has been consuming a powerful, addictive and frequently lethal drug in massively dangerous doses with the full glare of publicity upon him for weeks on end. The fact that the drug in question is alcohol relegates it in news value to a story about youthful exuberance and harmless fun.

Secondly, the publicity machine that surrounds Frankie and other teenagers like him facilitates much of his behaviour, in order to craft a certain persona, in order to guarantee column inches in the tabloid press, in order to boost the show's ratings, in order to please advertisers, Frankie must make a spectacle of himself.

The X Factor has shown us a degree of naked mercenary greed and selfishness, not to mention monstrous hypocrisy, that few other programmes have ever managed. The moment this admittedly foolish young man has become damaged goods, he is abandoned; there was no question that Simon Cowell, Gary Barlow or anyone else on the show might have felt slightly responsible about his wellbeing at all. To do so might have accidentally apportioned some kind of culpability to the show and the culture that surrounds it, lethal in these times; one only had to look to the example of the News of The World to see what happens when an organ of celebrity culture is held accountable for something.

But the X Factor should be held accountable for failing in its care of Frankie, and there is an interesting parallel thrown up by reality TV this week.

On Saturday, Frankie arrived at the show after having had one hour's sleep. He had been on a long drinking and drug taking bender. Any addiction professional (or layman for that matter) should easily be able to see powerlessness over substances writ large in this scenario; where were the responsible adults around Frankie, where was the guidance?

On Monday night, Junior Apprentice was broadcast, where Lord Sugar reluctantly had to fire yet another hopeful looking to start a business career.
The house where the contestants in this programme were staying was undoubtedly supervised (it was a spotless mansion in an exclusive part of Chelsea or some other salubrious location, with ten teenagers inside it, the chances that they were left to their own devices are next to none existent).

In this scenario, the duty of care that the production company has towards other people's precious beloved children is fulfilled, the idea that they are human beings and worthy of some degree of concern and safety, and not simply commodities to boost advertising revenue or ratings has been implicitly understood.

Why do we have these two different approaches to young people who generate entertainment for us in the two biggest shows on TV? In case of Junior Apprentice, drinking, inappropriate sexual behaviour or drug taking would destroy the show, but in the case of the X Factor, it positively makes the show.

We are left with two wreckages before us, firstly, the wreckage of a young man's life, he has left the X Factor, badly in need of treatment, publicly shamed. Whilst he is certainly not blameless, the true extent of the show's responsibility will no doubt be conveniently ignored.

The second wreckage is that of the state of public discourse about drugs and alcohol, once again a magic, invisible line has been drawn between the two, hiving drink off as a special exempt class of substance, not really a drug per se.

The effect of this is to help mythologise drinking for a whole new generation, and Frankie has unwittingly done this, propagating an unspoken but tacit message: "Don't do coke kids, but drinking is fine."

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Some handy hints on how to recover

I was asked if there was anything practical one could do, apart from pray, to turn ones will and ones life over to the care of God (Step 3 in AA’s programme of recovery). Well, yes there is.

First you count to 10 – and don’t do anything rash. This gives you time to respond (to be responsible) as opposed to react.

Then you look for something positive lurking underneath whatever’s happened – no matter how hopeless, bleak or desperate that something may be. When you look for something positive you’ll ALWAYS find it. And once you’ve found it you’re found the key to your problem. You’ll be living in the solution.

Thus you’ve found a practical way of turning your will and your life over to the care of God without you understanding him. The above encapsulates the 1st three steps of AA’s programme of recovery.

Simples! Click!