Alcohol recovery voices across Wigan and Leigh

“The hardest part is walking through the door – but once you’re here, you don’t look back.” As national ONS data released today shows that alcohol-related death statistics across the UK have reached the highest number on record, local people come together to share an important message: if you’re experiencing challenges with alcohol, you are not alone.

Matt walked through the doors of WithYou and BAC O’Connor in 2022. He was heavily dependent on alcohol and would start drinking from the moment he woke up. Matt was referred to their community rehabilitation programme, which is based at Greenslate Community Farm, and he’s not looked back since. He says:

“It’s a terrifying thought living without alcohol if you’re dependent on it. But with the right support and the right people around you, it’s something you can tackle. It is possible, because I’ve done it.”

“Before I came here, I was in such a state and was so reliant on alcohol that if I didn’t drink, I’d sweat and shake. I honestly believe that coming to WithYou and BAC O’Connor’s doors saved my life.”

Now a volunteer at Greenslate, Matt uses his engineering skills to fix the farm’s electrical equipment. Speaking about his recovery journey, Matt says:

“My life is completely different now, there are so many positives. 18 months ago, I wouldn’t have been able to use a screwdriver because my hands were shaking so badly. But my life’s completely turned around. I have a purpose.”

Today’s data release shows that in 2022, there were 10,048 deaths (16.6 per 100,000 people) from alcohol-specific causes registered in the UK, and that deaths among women have increased by 37% since 2019.

Clare and Grace attend BAC O’Connor and WithYou’s women only-prehab programme, which is based at Standish Equestrian Centre. The prehab runs three days a week, from 10am-2pm. Clare says that because of this, she doesn’t have to pick between prioritising her alcohol recovery and her home life; she can attend the sessions, maintain her job, and still be there for her son before and after school.

A trained facilitator and therapist lead the 12-week course, which aims to empower women by providing them with information and tools to support their mental health and wellbeing, relapse prevention, and goal setting. Grace says that alongside these things, it’s the sense of community and belonging that has made such a difference to her alcohol recovery journey:

“It’s made me realise it’s not just me. I get so much strength from hearing other people’s stories. We’re not afraid to show our emotions and we feel safe enough to do that here. Our traumas have all been different, but they’ve brought us to the same place. Without this group, I think I’d still be plodding along on my own, and there’s a good chance that I could have relapsed. Now, even though I can’t stop triggers from happening, I’ve learnt the tools that will help me to deal with them.“

Reflecting on the difference that the women-only prehab service has had on her alcohol consumption, Clare says: “In such a short space of time, being here has changed my life. I’m back at work, I’ve got better friendships, I have a better relationship with my mum, and most importantly, I’m there for my son. I love my life now, because I’ve finally got a life.”

Both Clare and Grace encourage anyone who is worried about how much alcohol they are drinking to reach out for support. Grace*says: “The hardest part is walking through the door – but once you’re here, you don’t look back.”

After giving birth to her first child, Charlotte experienced challenges with her mental health, and so started mixing large amounts of alcohol with cocaine. She was referred to WithYou and BAC O’Connor, and like Matt, attended the community rehabilitation programme at Greenslate Community Farm. She says:

“Mixing alcohol and cocaine made me feel on top of the world. But then I started drinking to the extreme, and I didn’t realise at the time just how dangerous it was, as when alcohol and cocaine are taken together, a toxic chemical in your body is created.

“At the time, my life was chaos and destruction. I knew I shouldn’t be doing what I was, but I didn’t know how to stop it. In the end, my mum had to look after my kids.

“Completing the programme at Greenslate has given me a different perspective on life. The doors to WithYou and BAC O’Connor are always open to anyone experiencing challenges with alcohol. The team here is amazing – because of them, I get to be a mum. I have friends, and I have a future. With them by your side, you will never be alone again.”