It’s Everywhere – Letter to MP & County Council

Many addiction services no longer have competencies in-house to deal with co-morbid mental ill-health, and mental health services frequently refuse to work with people who have a co-morbid alcohol use disorder, such that patients wanting help with the depression that they see as causing them to use alcohol, are often told they cannot be helped until they are alcohol-free. People in truly desperate states are bounced between addiction and mental health services, with many often falling through the gaps.

 So what can be done?

1.     We all need to be more aware of what we drink, and why, and at a population level increase our alcohol health literacy.

2.     We need to be aware and challenge the alcohol and advertising industries’ attempts to encourage alcohol as the only narrative in our social world.

3.     We need to encourage conversations about alcohol use as we now seem better able to do about mental ill-health.

4.     We need health professionals to recognise alcohol as a modifiable risk factor for so many mental (and physical) health disorders and have the competence to manage it.

5.     We need mental health services to reclaim alcohol use disorders as primarily a disease of the mind, and genuinely embrace person centred care.

6.     We need government to commit to the resources required to redress the balance of 10 years of funding cuts.

This may seem like a lot that needs to be implemented, which it is, but the most effective thing we can all do is make small but sustained changes to our own alcohol awareness and behaviours.

I would be more than happy to discuss this issue with the relevant department, there has to be a structure in place of prevention, and not as is currently happening, only trying to deal with the awful fall out of this ever-rising problem.

Ruth’s Blog

Reaching 50, aware that I had spent most of my adult years under the influence, at varying degrees, stopping and starting, peaking and troughing, losing so much emotionally, and financially, I needed to find an answer, and by pure serendipity, I found Harrogate Sanctuary.

It is so difficult to describe the Sanctuary Six Week Programme. There is nothing else like it, and believe me, I have tried so many times to stop drinking. Notice I use the word Stop, not Giving Up. Sarah does have a unique way of switching off any positive thoughts about alcohol, it definitely can take time, for sure there was a white knuckle period, but the availability to talk with her at times that worked around my schedule, write to her and meet up online, were always a safety net. There was zero clock watching, weirdly I found it all so relaxing and genuine. Only the first phone call for me was anxiety ridden.

There were no comparisons, no one telling me that I would be doomed if I slipped, and the most important thing for me was complete trust and confidentiality. I am not special but have a reasonably high profile job in the media, had no desire to return to rehab, which I had done twice before, and certainly couldn’t get the AA ethos, as one of the rehabs I went to used The 12 Step Programme and it did nothing to help me.

 I had partied, been the life and soul, and as my thirties came around, less and less did I feel comfortable about being in the spotlight, it was as if I was becoming the evening’s entertainment for those I socialised with. Gradually I started to make mistakes, felt embarrassed although I hid it well, in the end my drinking became a solo act. At home, one bottle a night became two. The rehabs I went to certainly dried me out, but never got to the root of my desire for booze. The first lockdown played right into my hands.

Sarah coaxed me to tell her about a very private and extremely painful trauma, that I had buried for over 29 years. I trusted her enough to spill the beans, and that was the key to my new alcohol-free lifestyle, often glorious, sometimes tough, but now I understand how I tick, can manage any urges or wistful thoughts that a glass or two wouldn’t hurt.

I continue with a maintenance programme with the Sanctuary, which has little to do with alcohol and more to do with my wellbeing. Sarah is a fixer and covers many aspects of mental health. 

She will not accept that she saves anyone, only that she gives us the tools to mend ourselves, it is a remarkable gift. She has taught me that the drinking was not because I was born to be alcoholic, dependent, whatever word you like to use, but almost forensically examining my past showed me that I did have a future that I could face without damaging myself or anyone else for that matter.