Recovering alcoholics are playing an important role in helping others beat the bottle.
The Hunts Post was invited to the Huntingdon office of Inclusion, the alcohol treatment provider for Cambridgeshire since April.
There we met two men, known as recovery champions, who have been voluntarily using their experience of turning their lives around to give hope to those still struggling with a drink problem.
One is a retired professional, whose circumstances will be familiar to many. He did a stressful job and would unwind with a drink. “It got to the point of having a drink each evening,” he said. “My wife stopped but I didn’t.”
He went from social drinker to functioning alcoholic but then things started to fall apart. “Criminal justice got involved because of drink driving and I got banned. Thank God I didn’t hit anyone.
“When you’re in Sainsbury’s buying red wine at 8am you’re not doing it for fun anymore.”
His health deteriorated and he ended up in hospital with a heart problem. He was also depressed. But that all started to change when he discovered a recovery clinic. “I haven’t looked back,” he said. “It gave me a purpose.” After completing a training course, he now spends 25-30 hours a week working with alcoholics, a word that still makes him wince. The other recovery champion had a very different story. He started drinking aged 12 and was injecting drugs by 15. “I was in and out of prison. My first sentence was when I was 17 - four years for robbery and possession of firearms. I served 11 years altogether, on and off. Every crime I committed was all about drugs.
“For most of my life I haven’t really worked that much. I’ve been on benefits, which I thought was owed to me rather than being a privilege, which is how I feel now.”
While still officially a client receiving treatment, his new-found self-confidence has seen him speak in front of 200 people at a conference. Both men credit their recovery champion training for helping them to see life differently and give them a focus. And in turn, their insight into the issues associated with alcohol misuse provides hope and inspiration to others going though similar, either through one-to-ones or group sessions.
Using that experience was one of the focuses of the new alcohol treatment service, said Susie Talbot, who commissioned the service for Cambridgeshire County Council.
Another is providing support for families of those with an alcohol problem. Inclusion has a family and friends service including support groups and counselling for anyone concerned about someone’s drinking.
There is also an emphasis on early intervention and Inclusion has been involved in training GPs, as well as other professionals such as headteachers and nurses, to spot the signs of alcohol abuse before people spiral out of control.
INFORMATION: For more about the walk-in service, when no appointment is necessary, call 0300 5550101. Anyone affected by someone else’s drinking can call the same number to find out more about help available across Cambridgeshire.