You Really Want Us to Tell the Truth???

More and more I have been listening to client’s stories of how they have been treated once they have braced themselves to tell the truth about how much they are drinking. Every ‘expert’ in the media proclaims that the first port of call if you have concerns about alcohol misuse is your GP. Really??? Let me just recount two of the outcomes of this brave move.

Middle class 50 year old Mother heads to the surgery, having braced herself for being honest about her bottle of wine a day problem. Knowing that she has to spill in ten minutes maximum, she has rehearsed her confession endlessly so that it is succinct and coherent.

Telling the doctor that she is not depressed just would like some help, she refers her to the drug and alcohol team, and although she will get an appointment to be reviewed, she will not be offered any counselling for possibly three months.  So be it, the patient feels relieved that some help no matter how long the wait has to be a good thing.

She attends the appointment. Following the Audit, the ‘counsellor’ asks about her children. She only has one, and he is 15 years old. Alarm bells start to ring for the client, and she asks why her son has any bearing on her drinking patterns. She is told that social services should be informed because her son is potentially at risk. From being relieved to have addressed her problem, she is in now in heightened panic and stand up to leave. Too late. The ‘counsellor’ has now decided that he is going to inform the social services, and within 5 days there is a knock at her door. The whole experience not only made her turn to alcohol again, having bravely tried to cork it, but she has this on her records.

Middle class 48 year old Mother who has been through a very unhappy marriage with one incident years before of domestic violence again braces herself to first of all discuss her anxiety problem with the GP, and then admits to perhaps drinking a little too much sometimes. Up until now her regular doctor has listened and been reasonably helpful. This is a young doctor who asks about her children. Asked why there is the mention of risk. Her children have never ever been at risk, and although the client considered her half bottle of wine a day dependent, two glasses, there was never a time when her daughters were in danger. She also panicked, refused to continue with the consultation, and 10 days later was called by social services with the outcome of having to attend a meeting some way from her home with her husband to discuss her relationship, alcohol intake and mental health.

So do you ever imagine any women who are frightened of both continuing drinking and of course successfully stopping drinking alcohol and all that entails who have so much to lose by their admission being recorded would ever intervene? Do you think they would openly discuss their unhealthy alcohol consumption with no fear and perhaps being offered prescriptive solutions that could ease them through the first few weeks?  Of course they don’t. So the outcome of this absolute truth is that it is invariably left until it has developed into a late stage dependence or another alcohol related illness, or they just kill themselves by lack of appropriate care.

Wake up to 19th century attitudes to a 21st century problem and the real facts instead of pretending that there is the remotest chance of tackling this with current ‘expert’ mainstream options.

Author: Sarah Turner

Founder of the Harrogate Sanctuary.