Thursday, 29 December 2016


A message for the New Year from Living Room Cardiff In the days since his sad and untimely death, George Michael has been revealed to be not just a good, but a great man. His many acts of compassion, kindness, generosity and love, often to complete strangers were carried out anonymously. He seemed to avoid attention when he gave to others but in his passing these examples of caring and concern have become public knowledge. George Michael has died at a time when ideas of kindness, gentleness, solidarity and concern appear to be in retreat across the world; there is one other attribute he possessed which we might all do well to emulate and that is courage. In 2002, as many millions of people across the world looked on anxiously at the unstoppable march to war with Iraq, George Michael publicly spoke out against the war, knowing full well that he would be crucified by the tabloid press. He spoke out because he believed that the war was wrong and that it would end in catastrophe and history appears to have vindicated him on both counts. In the next twelve uncertain months that we will live through, we must all try to live in a spirit of compassion and courage both globally and in our everyday lives. At the Living Room Cardiff these values are central to everything that we do, compassion for the still suffering addict and courage in announcing the beliefs, ideas and values that the service encapsulates. In 2017 we will continue to research, plan and tackle the causes of compulsive gambling, we will offer comfort and support to addicts of all walks of life but also those in the clergy and the medical profession. We will focus on teaching recovery coaching to a new generation of skilled helpers to take the message of recovery and hope far and wide. We will also put a face and a name to the illness of addiction to draw it away from shame and secrecy. We will continue to challenge policy makers, brewers and retailers, casino chains, advertisers and every other branch of the addiction industry to put people before profits and to live up to the common humanity that binds us all. Uncertain times require quiet, persistent and bold action, taken in the spirit of kindness humanity and love. The great and good George Michael demonstrated this capacity for powerful positive action, combined with the utmost humility and the Living Room will do all it can to ensure these values live on.   Neges i’r Flwyddyn Newydd oddi wrth Stafell Fyw Caerdydd Yn ystod y dyddiau diwethaf, ers ei farwolaeth drist ac anamserol, datgelwyd George Michael nid yn unig fel dyn da, ond fel dyn mawr.  Cyflawnwyd ei dosturi, ei garedigrwydd, ei haelioni a’i gariad, yn aml i ddieithriaid, yn hollol ddienw. Roedd fel petai’n ceisio osgoi sylw pan oedd yn rhoi i eraill. Ond, oherwydd ei farwolaeth, mae’r enghreifftiau hyn o ofal a chonsyrn wedi dod i’r amlwg i’r cyhoedd.  Mae George Michael wedi marw ar adeg pan mae egwyddorion caredigrwydd, tynerwch, cydsafiad a chonsyrn yn ymddangos fel petaen nhw’n diflannu. Mae yna un nodwedd arall iddo efallai y dylen ni i gyd ei hefelychu a hynny yw gwroldeb. Yn 2002, wrth i filoedd lawer ar draws y byd edrych yn bryderus ar y daith na ellid ei hatal, i ryfel gydag Irac, roedd George Michael yn siarad allan yn gyhoeddus yn erbyn y rhyfel, gan wybod yn iawn y byddai’n cael ei groeshoelio gan y wasg dabloid. Roedd yn gwneud hyn oherwydd ei fod yn credu bod y rhyfel yn hollol anghywir ac y byddai’n gorffen mewn trychineb. Mae hanes yn ymddangos fel petai wedi cael ei brofi’n gywir ar y ddau achlysur. Yn ystod y deuddeng mis ansicr nesaf y byddwn ni’n gorfod byw drwyddyn nhw, rhaid i ni i gyd geisio byw mewn ysbryd o dosturi a dewrder yn fyd-eang ac yn ein bywydau ni bob dydd.  Yn Stafell Fyw Caerdydd, mae’r gwerthoedd hyn yn ganolog i bob peth rydyn ni’n ei wneud, tosturi tuag at yr adict sy’n dal i ddioddef a gwroldeb i gyhoeddi’r credoau, syniadau a’r gwerthoedd y mae’r gwasanaeth yn eu coleddu. Yn 2017, byddwn yn parhau i ymchwilio, cynllunio a delio ag achosion gamblo eithafol, byddwn yn cynnig cysur a chefnogaeth i adictiaid ym mhob maes bywyd ond hefyd i’r rhai o fewn yr eglwysi a’r proffesiwn meddygol. Byddwn yn canolbwyntio ar ddysgu hyfforddiant adfer i genhedlaeth newydd o gynorthwywyr cymwys i fynd â’r neges o adferiad a gobaith ar draws bob man. Byddwn hefyd yn rhoi wyneb ac enw i’r salwch o ddibyniaeth i sicrhau ei fod yn ddigywilydd a heb fod yn gudd. Byddwn yn parhau i herio gwneuthurwyr polisïau, bragwyr a mân werthwyr, cadwyni casino, hysbysebwyr a phob maes arall o’r diwydiant dibyniaeth i roi pobl cyn elw ac i ddilyn egwyddorion dynoliaeth gyffredin sy’n ein clymu ni oll. Mae amseroedd ansicr yn gofyn am weithredu tawel, cyson a dewr, gan ystyried yr ysbryd o garedigrwydd, dynoliaeth a chariad. Roedd y George Michael mawr a da’n dangos y gallu hwn i gymryd camau positif pwerus, ynghyd â’r gostyngeiddrwydd eithaf a bydd y Stafell Fyw’n gwneud popeth o fewn ei gallu i sicrhau bod y gwerthoedd hyn yn parhau.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016


In 1999, in a three square mile area of a major conurbation, armed violence fuelled by drug gang rivalries reached its peak. During that single year there were 270 firearms discharges, 43 gun-related injuries and 7 fatalities. Caught in the middle of this savagery, law enforcement services struggled to cope. On one occasion the local police headquarters was strafed by automatic gun fire, taking out the windows while the station commander sat at his desk. The city in question was not Chicago or Bogota, but Manchester – and the police commander in question was me. For those asked to deter and investigate the drug gangs of Manchester it was an extraordinary time, but strangely rarely a fearful one. When I patrolled the streets of Longsight, or led a firearms operation, it was exhilaration rather than apprehension that captured the emotions (but then I was a much younger man!). The estates of Manchester are a little quieter these days, thanks to programmes of civic regeneration and gang intervention, but there and throughout the world the war on drugs continues. Year by year the number of addicts grows, the complexity of the market develops, and the rewards associated with the trade grow ever more absurd (currently estimated at two trillion dollars per annum). Nations such as Mexico and Afghanistan are utterly undermined by the traders and the obscene violence they foster. The North Wales Police Commissioner’s recent call for a discussion on the legalisation of drugs follows many similar suggestions over the past couple of decades. Some ten years ago the North Wales Police Authority and Chief Constable came to a similar conclusion. In Colombia, a country which has suffered four decades of civil war fuelled by drug money, President Juan Manuel Santos has called for a global re-think on our approach. However, attitudes remain as polarised as ever. Across the other side of the globe, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines sanctions vigilante hit squads to eradicate the estimated three million addicts in the country. Following recent statements on drug policy from various quarters I have regularly been approached in the past few weeks for media statement on the local and national picture. I have declined to comment. In fact, this is a debate I have stayed out of for some time; not because I haven’t got any opinions but because expressing them is pointless. In Britain and in the nations capable of making a global difference there is no political appetite, at the level where decisions can be made, for a rational and evidence-based discussion. Critics, many of the highest academic credentials, are labelled feeble. Advisers are firmly put back in their box. The focus remains on creating law and then trying to enforce it. Meanwhile, the misery continues for hundreds of thousands of individuals across the UK: university towns are awash with MDMA, the streets are again flooded with heroin and our prisons are drowning in Spice. As it was for the police in South Manchester, the front line in the war against drugs can be an exciting place. The enemy is clear, the rules of engagement are rehearsed and with the chase comes the thrill. There is also the absolute certainty that by following this approach you will never be out of a job. So, at least for the time being I will refrain from entering the debate. Through CAIS I will continue the work of helping victims recover from the scourge of addiction and supporting them to lead more prosperous lives. At this season of goodwill, which for so many reasons seems misplaced in 2016, I hope that decision-makers can one day reflect that conversation costs nothing and that you don’t solve every problem by fighting a war. Merry Christmas. Clive Wolfendale CEO CAIS Ltd.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Winners & Loosers

Winners & Losers At the Living Room Cardiff, time and again the underlying cause of addiction in our clients is a deep seated sense of worthlessness and a belief that they are ‘not good enough’. The belief is so prevalent and is no respecter of age, gender, social status or education that one might be forgiven for thinking that it is a virtually universal psychical condition in Britain. Our society could be likened to a factory for producing feelings and identities, its institutions and rules almost guarantee that a large portion of the population will constantly see themselves as failing, even when this belief guarantees that they will emotionally suffer throughout much of their lives. How does this happen and why have we contrived to treat so many people so cruelly? Nearly all of this harm is first done to children, worthlessness as a belief is first powerfully acquired at a young age, when there is no other frame of reference to challenge it. The pressures to be successful, to consume ever greater quantities of the world’s finite resources and to be loved, special or famous are drip fed to children by parents, schools and the media. A society based on illusory notions of competition and success is unlikely to educate children into any other world view than that there are winners and losers. The winners are permanently ill at ease, worried they might one day not be good enough to stay on their podiums and pedestals and the losers are educated that there is little, if any hope or role for them. In recent months the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has made various promises about a new society of opportunity for all. However, when judging the real intentions of our rulers, it is more instructive to look at what they do, than listen to what they say. The announcement this week that grammar schools will be reintroduced into Britain, with the inevitable selection via the eleven plus (or equivalent exam) should tell us all a lot about the new opportunity Britain that is on the way. Despite all available peer reviewed data showing that grammar schools do not help social mobility, the government are pressing ahead with the repeal on their ban, perhaps knowing full well that they are divisive. It is all too easy to claim that an institution creates ‘winners’, while editing the ‘losers’ from the story, but we would invite the government to look at the situation from another perspective, that of a child. Seeing a small number of children being sent to a grammar school because, by all measures they are seen as ‘better’ can be a shattering experience. The idea that children must be taught at an early age to accept winning and losing, to toughen up and stop complaining, or the long held aversion in the British tabloid press to concern for ‘self-esteem’ are all part of a toxic ideological brew that our young people are forced to drink. Creating a pecking order of the ‘special’ and the ‘rest’ is a crucial part of the construction of class in Britain and it is also a crucial part in the creation of worthlessness. It is this worthlessness that many spend their entire lives evading because it is so painful and a significant number find the solution to their pain in addiction.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Butterfly Blog Number Two

Butterfly Blog Number Two (24/06/2016) Greetings and welcome to the second edition of the butterfly blog. Developing your support network The first few weeks I have to say were about getting through each day clean and sober by whatever means possible. In times gone by when I had tried to stop I didn't change any of my other unhelpful behaviours that sat alongside the addiction. So for example I'd still lay in bed all day isolating myself and hiding away. I didn't reach out to anyone as I was convinced that I didn't deserve to be helped, supported or loved by anyone, but trying to do it on my own didn't work. We all need support in fighting the addiction demon. So this time I knew I had to be more active and put more effort into my recovery. I guess one of the reasons why I had been actively addicted for so long is because I was waiting for there to be an easy solution and eventually I had to get my head round the fact that there was no easy, quick fix. That I would have to work at getting well. A major challenge for me has been social anxiety and trusting anyone enough to let them in. My main source of support has come from all the people I have met at the Living Room Cardiff (LR), and I have spent every weekday at the LR since I stopped using skunk cannabis. I have made some great friends here, people who know the ups and downs of addiction and recovery. People who do not judge because they have gone through similar experiences. People who see the good in you at a time when the addiction has robbed you of all your self-esteem and self-love. People who will listen and understand. At first I found accepting this love and support very difficult because I struggle with such a low opinion of myself, and like many of us I have issues around trusting other human beings. I hold some very unhelpful beliefs about myself and others too which create barriers to letting people in. Such as “I am unlovable”, “I am not good enough”, “I am not worthy or deserving of love and support”, and “people will hurt and abandon me” etc. But my friends at the Living Room have been so patient with me during the ups and downs of the first month. They have provided me with a perspective that has challenged my unhelpful beliefs, seeing good things in me which I could not see in myself. They have challenged me and supported me, and accepted me however I’ve been. So I believe through my experience that developing a good social support network in recovery is so very important. Don't try to cope on your own - reach out. Accepting step one of the 12 steps of AA / NA Admit and accept that you, of yourself, are powerless to overcome your addiction and that your life has become unmanageable. Over the last month I have struggled with this step. Prior to stopping, whilst still in the active addiction phase, I thought I had this idea nailed, but it turned out I may have grasped it intellectually (I knew it) but I hadn't truly got it (I hadn't truly accepted it). Over the last month I have had a few slips, usually at weekends when I am not at the LR and I have to deal with spending more time alone with myself, including all my thoughts, feelings, cravings etc. During the week I felt safer and more confident that I would not use, but there was something about the weekend that has had me really craving to get high on cannabis. Each time I have experienced one of these slips I have managed to use for an evening or a day and then flush the rest of the cannabis down the toilet, preventing a full blown relapse. But each time this happened I knew I was playing with fire – a dangerous game, but still I could not totally let go of wanting to use. I kept giving myself permission to use by telling myself lies like; a small bag won't hurt, I can manage just a little bit, I can't cope without getting high, getting high will make me feel better. Each time I slipped I tried to remain as aware as I could, and thus I was able to learn a lot from each slip. I guess that I ultimately learned that I couldn't control my use. I couldn't have one or two, no I'd be smoking constantly getting so stoned that I made myself feel physically and mentally unwell. I might get a very brief moment of relief from the way I was feeling, but the negative payback was way too great. I finally came to Admit and accept that I, of myself, am powerless to overcome my addiction and that my life had become totally unmanageable. Book of the week – The power of Now by Eckhart Tolle Quotes of the week - • Be around the light bringers, the magic makers, the world shifters, the game shakers. They challenge you, break you open, up-lift and expand you. They don't let you play small with your life. These heartbeats are your people. These people are your tribe. • It's not about perfect. It’s about effort and when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs. • NO ONE is ever too broken, too scarred, or too far-gone to create change. Never stop fighting. Never lose faith.

Saturday, 18 June 2016


All the names of people have been changed and no one else’s journey will be discussed here so as to maintain confidentiality. Greetings and welcome to the butterfly blog. This blog is about my recovery journey from the early days to … at the Living Room Cardiff. The back story I am in my forties and have been abusing drugs and alcohol since I was a teenager to escape the pain of repeated trauma experiences during this time of my life. Over the last five years I have stopped using alcohol and class A drugs, but my main problem has been the extreme and prolonged use of skunk cannabis. Skunk is a very strong form of cannabis bred specifically for its high THC content the active ingredient in cannabis that gets you high. This I am truly addicted to. I have used cannabis daily for the last 20 years. For 12 of those years I managed to hold down a job, social life and long term relationship despite my daily use, but in 2007 my relationship broke down. Then in 2008 I experienced a mental health breakdown leading to a three month admission to a psychiatric hospital. The year after I lost my job due to extended periods of sickness due to mental health problems including my addiction to cannabis. The following eight years have been devoted to getting stoned from waking up till going to bed. It has been a 24/7 occupation. I was either getting stoned, stoned or sleeping it off. I estimate that I have spent in the region of £25,000 over the last eight years on skunk. So the addiction has cost me dearly: my relationship, my career, my financial security, my social life and my physical health and sanity. I gave up everything I held dear for the addiction, including my morals. It’s fair to say that skunk has totally ruled and ruined my world for a very long time. Living Room Cardiff I heard about the Living Room from my GP who had been encouraging me to seek help for my addiction for a long time. For many years the denial was so great that I didn’t see the true extent of my problem, which now looking back seems like madness. At first I found it hard to fully engage. I had weekly 1:1 sessions with a lovely counsellor but I didn’t always turn up for them. I wouldn’t attend group therapy at first because I felt so anxious in group situations. So this is how I went for the first 19 months, dipping my toe into the recovery world. I managed to cut down my consumption during this time from nearly £700 a month to around £280. A real achievement for me. Then almost a month ago I hit my rock bottom and stopped completely. Rock bottom My rock bottom was prompted by a true realisation of what I was doing to my mum in order to maintain my addiction. Unbeknown to her I had been spending the money she had been giving me to pay my mortgage on skunk. I had felt terrible about this for a long time but the addiction was so strong that I hadn’t been able to stop myself behaving in this way. It wasn’t until my mum became the victim of a mail order draw scam that it truly hit home. I hated the scammers for doing this to my mum and I felt enraged at the company responsible, but then I had the realisation that what I had been doing was just the same, that I had also been scamming her all along. This lead to me feeling very suicidal to the point where I was planning my method. Suicidal thoughts and feeling are not new to me I have had to cope with them since the age of 13. The thing that had always kept me alive was the thought of what my suicide would do to family and friends, especially my mum. But now I didn’t care, I believed they’d be better off without me. I shared this with my brilliant peer support worker, others at the Living Room and my GP who all supported me brilliantly. I felt it was stop using or die time, so that’s what I did I stopped. I ceased to use skunk from the 19th May 2016 (bar three short lived slips). The blog I have been invited to write a blog for the Living Room about my recovery journey. Each week I’ll update the blog to keep you all update on this voyage into the unknown. So welcome aboard my recovery bus. I hope you’ll find riding alongside me interesting and maybe even useful.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Living Room Cardiff's Annual Lecture

Press Release 11.4.16 Annual Lecture discusses role of Recovery in a Social Justice context The 8th Living Room Annual Lecture will take place for the first time outside Cardiff on Tuesday 17th May. Held at the University of Wales Trinity St David’s Halliwell Centre in Carmarthen, Recovery as an issue of Social Justice will be delivered by David Best, Professor of Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University. The event begins at 6pm. David Best is qualified as a psychologist and criminologist, and has worked in both research and policy areas for around 20 years. He has worked and studied at Strathclyde University (Glasgow), the Institute of Psychiatry, London School of Economics, the University of Birmingham, The University of the West of Scotland and Monash University, and has held research policy roles at the Police Complaints Authority and the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse. He is the author of two previous books on addiction recovery and currently working on a third, and is the author of around 150 peer reviewed journal papers. His main area of interest is around pathways to recovery and the role of social networks in promoting wellbeing. Wynford Ellis Owen, Chief Executive, Living Room Cardiff, said, “To have secured David Best as our guest speaker this year is a big coup. His views on social justice in an addiction context are compelling. Addiction can strike anyone, but the harm of this situation is felt most keenly in poorer communities. “In this lecture, Professor Best will argue that recovery is about a personal journey of growth and change but one that is embedded in social networks and societal responses. He will say that other people – sponsors, family, friends, and partners – have a huge role to play but we have to understated the role society (and all of us) has in allowing people to change and become reintegrated. The conclusion will be that if we do this, society is strengthened through the inclusion of a group of people who can be ‘better than well’. “The annual lecture programme is going from strength to strength and will be of interest to anyone involved in the addiction and substance misuse field and recovery orientated services in Wales. “The Annual Lecture also marks the start of an exciting strategic partnership between Living Room Cardiff and University of Wales Trinity St David. As part of a new course, three modules will be delivered through work based learning at the University from October 2016. The course will target small businesses, the student population - particularly those studying psychology, counselling, social work/care, medicine, nursing or probation - and the recovery community itself.“ Clive Wolfendale, CEO of CAIS, the parent company of Living Room Cardiff, added, "At a time when society needs grounded and cost-effective methods of supporting those who are disadvantaged or facing other life challenges, we explore Recovery as a means of creating a lasting and self-sustaining pathway for individuals who find themselves disenfranchised and at odds with society. We explore the way back". Anybody wishing to attend the lecture, which is free of charge, should contact Living Room Cardiff on 029 2049 3895
or email: ENDS For further information please contact Rhodri Ellis Owen at Cambrensis Communications on 029 20 257075 or

Darlith Flynyddol Stafell Fyw Caerdydd

Datganiad i’r Wasg 11.4.16 Darlith Flynyddol yn trafod rôl Adferiad mewn cyd-destun Cyfiawnder Cymdeithasol Cynhelir yr wythfed ddarlith flynyddol yr Ystafell Fyw am y tro cyntaf y tu allan i Gaerdydd ar ddydd Mawrth 17 o Fai. Bydd yn cael ei chynnal yng Nghanolfan Halliwell Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant yng Nghaerfyrddin. Adfer Fel Mater o Gyfiawnder Cymdeithasol fydd teitl y ddarlith ac yn cael ei gyflwyno gan David Best, Athro Troseddeg ym Mhrifysgol Sheffield Hallam. Bydd y digwyddiad yn dechrau am 6pm. Mae David Best yn gymwys fel seicolegydd a troseddegwr, ac mae wedi gweithio ym meysydd ymchwil a pholisi am dros 20 mlynedd. Mae wedi gweithio ac astudio ym Mhrifysgol Strathclyde (Glasgow), y Sefydliad Seiciatreg, Ysgol Economeg Llundain, Prifysgol Birmingham, Prifysgol Gorllewin yr Alban a Phrifysgol Monash, ac mae wedi dal swyddi polisi ymchwil yn yr Awdurdod Cwyno Heddlu ac Asiantaeth Driniaeth Genedlaethol ar gyfer Camddefnyddio Sylweddau. Ef yw awdur dau lyfr blaenorol ar adferiad dibyniaeth ac ar hyn o bryd yn gweithio ar y drydedd, ac mae'n awdur o tua 150 o bapurau cyfnodolyn a adolygir gan gymheiriaid. Mae ei brif faes o ddiddordeb yn ymwneud â llwybrau at Adferiad a rôl rhwydweithiau cymdeithasol wrth hyrwyddo lles. Dywedodd Wynford Ellis Owen, Prif Weithredwr, Stafell Fyw Caerdydd, "Mae medru sicrhau David Best fel ein siaradwr gwadd eleni yn gamp fawr. Mae ei farn ar gyfiawnder cymdeithasol mewn cyd-destun dibyniaeth yn rymus. Gall ddibyniaeth daro unrhyw un, ond mae'r niwed yn y sefyllfa hon yn cael yr effaith fwyaf mewn cymunedau tlotach. "Yn y ddarlith hon, bydd yr Athro Best yn dadlau bod adferiad yn ymwneud â thaith bersonol o dwf a newid ond un sydd wedi'i wreiddio mewn rhwydweithiau cymdeithasol ac ymatebion cymdeithasol. Bydd yn dweud bod gan bobl eraill - noddwyr, teulu, ffrindiau, a phartneriaid - rôl enfawr i'w chwarae, ond mae'n rhaid i ni werthfawrogi rôl y gymdeithas (a phob un ohonom) i ganiatáu pobl i newid ac ail integreiddio. Y casgliad yw, os ydym yn gwneud hyn, bydd y gymdeithas yn cael ei chryfhau trwy gynnwys grŵp o bobl a all fod yn 'well nag yn dda'. "Mae'r rhaglen ddarlith flynyddol yn mynd o nerth i nerth a bydd o ddiddordeb i unrhyw un sy'n ymwneud yn y maes camddefnyddio dibyniaeth a sylweddau a gwasanaethau sy'n canolbwyntio ar adferiad yng Nghymru. "Mae'r Ddarlith Flynyddol hefyd yn nodi dechrau ar bartneriaeth strategol gyffrous rhwng Stafell Fyw Caerdydd a Phrifysgol Cymru y Drindod Dewi Sant. Fel rhan o gwrs newydd, bydd tri modiwl yn cael ei gyflwyno trwy ddysgu yn y gwaith yn y Brifysgol o fis Hydref 2016. Bydd y cwrs yn targedu busnesau bach, y boblogaeth o fyfyrwyr - yn enwedig y rhai sy'n astudio seicoleg, cwnsela, gwaith cymdeithasol / gofal, meddygaeth, nyrsio neu wasanaeth prawf - a'r gymuned adfer ei hun ". Ychwanegodd Clive Wolfendale, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol CAIS, rhiant gwmni Stafell Fyw Caerdydd, "Ar adeg pan fo anghenion cymdeithas wedi’i seilio ar ddulliau cost-effeithiol o gefnogi'r rhai sydd dan anfantais neu wynebu heriau bywyd eraill, rydym yn archwilio Adferiad fel modd o greu llwybr parhaol a hunangynhaliol ar gyfer unigolion sy'n cael eu hunain wedi'u difreinio ac yn groes i gymdeithas. Rydym yn edrych ar y ffordd yn ôl. " Dylai unrhyw un sy'n dymuno mynychu'r ddarlith, sydd yn rhad ac am ddim, gysylltu â Stafell Fyw Caerdydd ar 029 2049 3895 neu e-bost: DIWEDD Am ragor o wybodaeth cysylltwch â Rhodri Ellis Owen, Cambrensis Communications ar 029 20 257075 neu

Sunday, 24 January 2016


Angie Bowie's Tears When it was announced this week that the rock legend David Bowie had sadly died, one of the few people not to hear immediately was his former wife Angie. She was taking part in Celebrity Big Brother and was informed by the show’s producers who decided to film her reaction. Unbeknownst to her, this moment of sadness and grief was shown to the public without her consent in a bid to offer bored watchers a moment of titillation. Following the 9/11 attacks, the writer and activist Arundhati Roy described grief as the most intimate and private of experiences and the exploitation of the grief of others was one of the most brutal and violating things a state could do. At the time she was referring to the manipulation of the grief a nation felt after the destruction of the twin towers in order to make a case for the Iraq war, but the sentiment is also applicable to the treatment of Angie Bowie. To take the most private and intimate of moments and to transform it into entertainment takes a particular mentality, one that is shaped by prevailing ideas within our society. Apologists for the reality TV format might state that a contestant on a reality TV show deserves everything they get, but this is to suggest that there are no higher moral imperatives in our society than those of the transaction and the contract. ‘She was quick enough to take their money’ is the immediate counter argument that springs to mind, but that commits us all to the idea that once someone has been paid for something or once someone becomes famous it is morally acceptable to mete out any form of degradation or punishment. It becomes ok to suggest that in our society based on transactions and acquisition of the material, that they have been bought wholesale and have no further proprietorial rights over their appearance or treatment in the public eye. We also come to the conclusion that all things can be purchased, even someone’s private moment of grief and society can sneer at the folly of the individual for signing on the dotted line in the first place. When we come to believe that all things are saleable, can be turned into commodities and the only thing that limits new business opportunities is the scope of human imagination, we also become so fully enslaved by the ideology of free market capitalism that all other human considerations become blotted out by its shadow and we drift into a world that is by turns absurd and cruel. As with all ideologies that become monolithic such as communism or nationalism, a belief system that puts the pursuit of material gain above all things, that enshrines it as the supreme and sole truth will eventually devour itself but cause untold damage in the mean time. In the field of addiction treatment that we at the Living Room Cardiff work in, the chaos wrought by our prevailing myths and narratives is clear to see. Addicts dependent on drinking, drugs, sex and gambling have fallen prey to their addictions often because they are the only way of coping with the demands placed on them by a society obsessed with competition and a very narrow definition of the idea of success. Schools, parents, politicians and broadcasters help to shape a worldview for children that defines success and worth in monetary and competitive terms. When this unfulfilling and spiritually un-nurturing version of life is imposed on children they frequently seek forms of escape from it, including the annihilation of addiction and the flight from being authentic (authenticity being a trait that is frequently punished). This narrowly defined world view produces the types of people that can sell and market moments of grief because they represent ‘good business’ and it also produces people who become dependent on drugs and other damaging behaviours because they crave a world where they can be authentic and instead are presented one where superficiality, two dimensional living and an absurd approach to material possessions prevails.


BRITAIN AND DRINKING In 2015 there was a seemingly endless series of mass shootings in the USA, each more horrifying than the rest. Onlookers in Britain shook their heads in disbelief as each atrocity was reported. Before the smell of cordite had left the air, the US gun lobby defended the easy availability of assault weapons and high paid lobbyists earned their keep placing the blame elsewhere. In Britain, we felt with some sense of justification, we are safe to walk down the streets without being at risk of gun violence. However, much of the British public exists in a fantasy world of its own, created for it by lobbyists, corporate media outlets and corrupted newspaper columnists who will trot out any fraud if the money is right. At the heart of that fantasy is the nation’s love affair with alcohol, a romance that has striking similarities with America’s love affair with guns. Behind both the American firearms industry and Britain’s drinks industry are powerful vested interests that lobby their respective elected officials, ensuring that the interests of business are served over the interests of the public. A recent study carried out by Professor Nick Sheron of Southampton University, co-founder of the Alcohol Health Alliance has revealed that nearly two thirds of the profits of the UK alcohol industry come from drinks sales to problem and dependent drinkers. The story that the drinks lobby likes to trot out at such times is that drinking is about choice, responsibility and enabling adults to decide for themselves what is good for them. The majority of alcohol, however, is sold to people who have no choice, for whom addiction and dependency are daily realities. The Guardian newspaper calculated that this figure amounted to £23.7 billion pounds annually, but that costs the NHS £3.5 billion a year treating everything from liver disease to the consequences of alcohol-fueled violence. As the drinks industry does not contribute a penny towards the massive social harm it does and pays nothing to the NHS, this £3.5 billion could easily be seen as a public subsidy. Each year there are a million hospital admissions from alcohol, an increase of 100 percent in a decade and the number of alcohol related violent offences in 2015 was estimated by the Office of National Statistics as 704,000. In Britain, just as in America, those who can shout the loudest scramble to head off any criticism of their corporate friends. For example when the Chief Medical Officer recently announced that there was no safe level of drinking and the health benefits of red wine were largely a myth, Nigel Farage demanded some kind of mass public protest against the ‘nanny state’. His brand of beer and cigs populism is irresponsible - at best, it encourages drinkers to ignore the scientific research that shows the real risks of even moderate drinking. He frames the discussion as one of individual liberty and a struggle against faceless bureaucracy. However, this posturing is largely immaterial compared to the beliefs and fantasies of an entire nation. Even though the research carried out by Professor Sheron and the announcements made by the Chief Medical Officer are based on solid peer reviewed research, the stories we as a nation choose to tell about alcohol are far more compelling. In our national love affair with alcohol, drinking and being drunk have gradually been elevated to some kind of right, a freedom that no one can take away. Its harm is ignored, denied or rationalised away and those that succumb to addiction are marginalised. It is the alcoholics, however, that offer the rest of the nation an uncomfortable glimpse of the truth and ensure that no matter what we must continue with a national charade. In America, President Obama has decided finally to use executive action to push through gun control legislation, but in Britain our political class, in full possession of the facts, have decided that it’s business as usual.