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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 June, 2003, 23:38 GMT 00:38 UK
'Drinking took my kids away'
Drink
Alcohol can be powerfully addictive
A new report says that 3.8 million people in England and Wales are dependent on alcohol.

However, the charity Turning Point says the government has failed to invest properly in alcohol services, and that as a result many people are having to wait for badly needed care.

BBC News Online's Richard Warry spoke to one woman who has struggled to save herself from the ravages of alcohol addiction.


Linda started drinking heavily at the age of 17.

The problem built up gradually, until the point that, by her own admission, she was drinking "anything and everything".

A single parent and a student studying for a degree, she found the pressure to juggle the different aspects of her life intense.

Alcohol helped her relax - but it also made her life increasingly chaotic.

She used to drink after the children had gone to bed. Eventually, the problem got so out of hand that she became a street drinker.

"The drinking just took over and I could not longer maintain any kind of balance in my life," she said.

"I would try to control it, but I always drank to excess."

The worst thing you can feel about yourself is that you have failed as a mother
Seven years ago she went to see her doctor for help - a step that Linda describes as a "massive decision".

"I was at least admitting there was no way I could control my use of alcohol by myself."

Linda was referred to her Community Alcohol Team for assessment, but had to wait six months for an initial appointment.

Relapse

Eventually, she was put on a programme of home detoxification. However, she soon relapsed and as a result lost her place on the programme.

After six months of heavy drinking, Linda asked if she could rejoin the programme. She was refused.

Linda tried to tackle the problem herself and managed to stop drinking for four months.

However, her addiction proved to be too strong and she relapsed.

After a fortnight of constant drinking, Linda was rushed to hospital for an emergency detoxification on a psychiatric ward.

"When I gave up drinking, I totally meant that I would never drink again.

"But the lack of any kind of support meant that when I did relapse I had nobody telling me that people do relapse and that I could still pick myself up.

"I went back down to the bottom. It felt like failure again on a massive scale.

"It is not something you can talk to the next door neighbour about. You are very much alone, and I felt totally isolated."

Social services

After a few months of being sober, a three-day drinking binge put Linda back in hospital.

On her release she continued to drink. At this point, her children took action, asking local shopkeepers not to serve their mother if she went into their shop to buy alcohol.

Increasingly desperate for help, Linda took the extreme measure of having her children fostered because she felt herself to be an unfit mother.

"I was unable to maintain the house or feed them," she said. "I just could not cope anymore.

"My life was totally dominated by being able to drink. I was just on a downward spiral. All I could see was that there was no future in the way I was going.

"I decided the only thing to do was to try to save the children, so I phoned up social services and asked them if they could find somebody to bring them up properly."

It was a gut-wrenching thing to do.

"The worst thing you can feel about yourself is that you have failed as a mother."

Rehabilitation

Linda's Community Alcohol Team recognised her condition was sufficiently serious to warrant rehabilitation.

People said there could be problems when we were reunited, but we were all so happy to be back together as a family
Finally, 18 months after her initial contact with her GP, Linda underwent a six-month residential rehabilitation.

To be around other people who had gone through the same thing was a source of immense comfort.

"It made me feel as though I was worthwhile, that it was OK to be me and to have the problems that I have had," she said.

Receiving proper care at last, Linda thrived. She has now relocated to a new town and, most importantly of all, she has been reunited with her children who live with her once again.

"To get them back was brilliant - just to know that your kids are in beds with clean sheets and sleeping safely.

"People said there could be problems when we were reunited, but we were all so happy to be back together as a family."




SEE ALSO:
Alcohol abuse 'rife and ignored'
11 Jun 03  |  Health
Millions hooked on alcohol
04 Mar 03  |  Health


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