If you or someone you know needs help you can call FRANK at any time on 0330 123 6600 for confidential advice and information
Having come through the Christmas and New Year party season, there will be many among us who are feeling the weight of alcohol and drug use. What begins as recreation can lead to dependency and addiction, whether it be drinking or the use of drugs such as cocaine and cannabis.
If you see the signs of addiction in yourself or a friend or loved one, the help they need is available and it might be easier to access than you realise.
The first step is communication. It can be hard to acknowledge that you are struggling and equally hard to approach someone you know about problems they may be facing. It’s important to remain positive and open-minded, while bearing in mind that most people will overcome their problematic use before any serious harm is caused. If your friend or family member is happy, you can contact FRANK, or the local drug and alcohol service, on their behalf.
There is an unhelpful stereotype of the Trainspotting-style, all encompassing addiction to substances like heroin or crack cocaine but many people struggling with alcohol or so-called recreational drugs like cocaine and cannabis will be highly functioning, suffering quietly while holding down careers and other responsibilities. Nobody should assume treatment is “not for me” – professionals are there to help. If you feel you or someone you know would benefit from help, get in touch through the resources listed on this page – it could be the first step to a better, healthier and happier life.
The role of friends, colleagues, relatives and partners can be crucial in helping those struggling from addiction issues in getting the help they need to get back on their feet. Those who know someone going through addiction know the toll it can take not only on that person but on those around them, so helping them find a road to recovery can be beneficial to a wide circle of people. Treatment is always the best option for improving the quality of a person’s life, from both a health and social perspective.
The role of friends, colleagues, relatives and partners can be crucial in helping those struggling from addiction issues
Some people facing difficulties may be put off from seeking help because they’ve tried in the past and found it either hasn’t worked for them or they weren’t able to get the support they needed. But it’s important that this doesn’t stop you making contact – you might find you have a much better experience this time round, particularly as services have improved as more funding has gone into them over recent years.
At your first appointment for drug or alcohol treatment, staff will ask you about your drug or alcohol use as well as asking about your work, family and housing situation. You will then be able to mutually agree on a treatment plan – or plans – that works for you. You will be assigned a keyworker who will be on hand to support you through your treatment. Most people receive support while still living at home but specific plans could also involve a period at a medically supported unit, either as a hospital inpatient or being referred to a residential rehabilitation service.
You or someone who is worried about you, can call FRANK anytime on 0300 123 6600 or go to www.talktofrank.com/help. for free, confidential advice and information, whether that’s to talk about alcohol or drugs. They will also be able to tell you about the treatment options available to you, with a directory of adult and young people’s alcohol and drug treatment services.
You can also bypass your local GP if you feel more comfortable directly contacting your local drug and alcohol treatment service.
Your GP or practice nurse is also a good starting point to talk about problems – they will be able to help put your issues in context and provide you with options for potential treatment. Everybody’s journey will be different and help will be tailored to best suit the issues you are facing.
In addition to treatment services there are mutual aid groups that offer support from a community of people living in the community, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery UK, and for friends and family Al Anon, Families Anonymous. These volunteer-run groups play an important role in providing additional support for many people. Each group is different, so if one isn’t for you, try another.
Help is available if you are worried about alcohol or drug use. If it’s time to talk visit talktofrank.com/help
TREATMENT CHANGED MY LIFE – THE BEST DECISION I EVER MADE
Darren Lacey is 45 and lives in Dover. He sought help and now works for the treatment centre that helped him beat the alcoholism he had struggled with for years
Was your problem with drink, drugs or both?
Predominantly drink but also pub drugs during the 1990s – I was going to raves and using ecstasy.
How did it start?
From the age of 17, I worked in pubs and bars and was surrounded by drink. Growing up, I knew I was different to my brothers and the other boys at school but it wasn’t until secondary school that I
figured out I must be gay. I hid it through secondary school although I was still bullied. I discovered alcohol and it gave me confidence and made me forget who I was. In the 1990s, it was alcopops and raves, the pop music scene was huge and it felt like a community where nobody really cared and I forgot who I was.
When did it become a problem?
It’s difficult to pinpoint the time when it turned into a dependency or addiction. With alcohol consumption, a tolerance builds up. By my early 20s, I was drinking every day. It got to the point when I turned 30 in 2008 that I was waking up and drinking in the morning to get going then drinking all through work. Very few non-alcoholic drinks were going through me. I was drinking half a bottle of neat vodka when I woke up, then 15 pints of lager and the rest of the vodka throughout the day.
My relationship with my family was fraught, I’d lost all sense of who I was. I’d gone to my GP about my alcohol use but there was no investigation, no talking therapies and that confirmed to me the stigma around my sexuality and addictions. It was a very difficult time.
My mum had tried to help. I’m a self-confessed mummy’s boy and I love my mum to bits; the stuff I put her through, the worry and stress, nobody should put their mother through that.
What made you finally seek help?
It was my 40th birthday and I’d been hospitalised and was having a real crisis. Once I was discharged I got a train to a Forward Trust treatment centre in Dover, who my consultant had mentioned could help me. It was scary walking in that door for the first time but it was the best decision of my life.
The man on reception greeted me with a big, friendly smile. I sat in the waiting room – I didn’t have an appointment, anyone can walk in at any time – and a member of staff came down for an assessment. I spilled my guts out – years of anger, frustration, guilt, everything. I knew I had to be honest.
It was the first time in my adult life that I felt listened to and not judged. He was so kind and I thought ‘maybe I’ve made the right decision’. He was in recovery himself – maybe there was hope for me.
He recommended I start a weekly alcohol pathway programme. I did a six week programme, learning about the effects of alcohol on the system, the basics around why we were drinking. Then they offered me a ‘day rehab’ – you go home to your own bed each night – so I moved back in with my mum aged 40.
That programme changed my life. Just having that group of 10 people from all different walks of life – police, solicitors, pub workers, cleaners, shelf stackers … we’re all still in touch now.
How did the treatment centre help you?
They were so adaptable. You start working on a 12 Step programme but that didn’t resonate so they adapted it for me. They put me onto something called ‘smart-based CBT’ to change my neural pathways and it clicked with me straight away. They’re very client focused – not ‘one size fits all’. Everyone’s pathway is completely different. And if one way doesn’t work, try another.
That 13 week course sounds short but it’s intense. It’s an introduction to leading a life of abstinence. They encourage you to go to smart recovery meetings, they have follow-on peer support, online meetings every day, face-to-face, outings to go to the beach for fish and chips. It’s a safe community. If you have a wobble one day you can put in a message, and someone will call or meet you for a coffee. They realise down days can be dangerous so peer support is huge.
What are your tips for those in recovery?
When I work with my clients, I say you have to be open and honest, hide nothing, No one is going to be judging you, there’s no stigma. It’s a hard, hard journey but it’s a walk in the park compared to my life before. And mum is so proud. I speak to her every day, we do video chats, she chats to my colleagues and I can see now the joy in her face. She was recently diagnosed with cancer and it’s nice that I can be there for her and she doesn’t have to worry about me, she can focus on getting better. That’s the biggest gift.
And how do you tell someone they need help?
If you’re worried about someone, do an online meeting of a recovery group – turn the camera and mic off if you like – and listen to people talking about how they dealt with it and what they did. Find out what services are available locally and give them a call. Reach out to a local treatment centre online – they’ll answer any questions and if they’re in your area, make a referral and get someone to give you a call. If they’re not in your area, they can help find another organisation to give you advice.
How are you now?
I’m living a happy and fulfilled life at 45 and my mum is beaming with pride. I’ve found myself happy in a job I love – I can’t believe I’m doing this. I never thought I could get to this point. I feel no stigma any more about my sexuality – listening to other people’s stories makes me realise I’m not alone.
I’m still a work in progress but the best thing is the self-acceptance and happiness I now have in myself. I’m healthy and about to run my third marathon. And I’m now helping others. I’ve found my voice.