I’m a mother of four – I’ve got three daughters and a son, and I’ve also got a granddaughter and a grandson. Basically, they’re the centre of my life… central to everything I think and do, really. I think I’m reasonably intelligent and articulate… I also think I’m kind, empathetic, and caring… well, in my opinion, anyway!
I do strive to be non-judgemental, but I suppose I’m like everybody else in that respect because it’s not always easy. But I think I’ve brought my children up to have good values… which is a great achievement to me. I like arts and crafts, gardening. I absolutely love reading… and I like chatting actually, as well.
I went to Drink Wise, Age Well because my family began to see that I had a bit of a problem with drinking… basically, I think, partly because – there were a lot of other things – but I’d just moved over to Sheffield for work which was a big thing, and also I was in a relationship, but then that finished. So I was living on my own in Sheffield and didn’t really know anyone. But anyway… my family encouraged me to get some help and it was one of the best things I ever did – because of all the support you get and realising I didn’t need to feel ashamed anymore… and it was a safe place to speak of any problems I had. And also… it helped enormously, actually, to listen to other people – the problems that they face and how they dealt with them.
Drinking was becoming a problem – basically, my kids had noticed that if they phoned me at night I’d be all over the place. It wasn’t as huge a problem as some people have, but I was drinking too much, I was drinking every night, sitting on my own, thinking ‘oh why am I here?’ sort of thing, you know. At the most I’d maybe drink one and a half bottles of wine – but I’d be legless after that…
I’ve not given up drinking but I’ve cut it down. I’ll have some days now when I don’t have a drink, where I don’t even want a drink. I’m getting to the point now where I actually think to myself ‘I don’t even like the taste of it’… although that’s not to say it will stop me drinking – it’s not about what it tastes like, is it? It’s how it makes you feel – it takes that edge off things doesn’t it? But, yeah, I’ve been a lot better since coming here.
When I first went to the SMART Group, I was really unsure about it and wondered what on earth it was all about. But I had a worker at first, and I was having one to ones with her nearly every week, and she was brilliant – she really, really encouraged me… and she was really, really nice. This SMART group was just getting off the ground, and it was her who suggested I go to it. And when I first went there were only a couple of people there… it was a bit difficult at first because it was such a small group. But, anyway, I went for a while because I was off work then – I’d had a bit of a nerve do – Then I went back to work, so I couldn’t go then as it was in the middle of the day. But before I retired I went part-time working three days a week so I managed to get to the group again. And when I went back there were a lot more people, not as many as there are now, but still quite a lot more people going than before, which I did find better. If the group is really small, it’s like there’s nowhere to hide, but with a bigger group you can go along and if you don’t want to say anything you don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to contribute.
We do an introduction thing at the start of the group, you say your name because quite often there’s someone there who’s not been before. And then you can say what you want to say, really. You know… ‘I’ve had a good week’ or ‘I’ve had a bit of a downer so I’ve been drinking’. A lot of people are abstinent so they can say ‘I’ve not had a drink for so long’ and encourage people. But you don’t need to say anything at all. If you don’t want to say anything you don’t have to say anything, you can just sit and listen to somebody else.
Basically, we just have a sort of conversation. We don’t talk across each other… but if someone’s talking about something we can say ‘oh I know what you mean’… it’s really, really good.
As we go round the table when we first go in there’s a ﬂip chart and we can write down anything we particularly want to talk about. We’ve also got a SMART handbook. It’s got all sorts of advice in it, and worksheets which can help you – there’s one which is a kind of cost benefit analysis – it helps you work out what the costs and benefits of drinking and not drinking are. It’s good to work through. And also the book helps with things… like if you’ve got a craving and you want a drink – there are ways to deal with it. There’s lots of different things you can try. And, you know, your craving doesn’t last forever. If you can delay it for so long, you get to the point where you’re not bothered anymore.
My advice to other people would be, don’t be afraid to ask for help – and that’s really difficult to do because… I mean, originally I didn’t ask for help – it was my kids who said, ‘Mum, you know you need to try and get some help with this…’ And they got the phone number for SASS, and I went through them and that was how I got to Drink Wise, Age Well. But, you know, if you’re really down or you’re in that grip of something, it’s the worst thing in the world to try and pick a phone up. No matter how much anyone says to you ‘if you need anything, ring me’, you just will not do it. You just can’t bear to do it, can you? It’s a big barrier – but if you can be brave and actually do it, I think it’s worth it in the end. Maybe you need to ask the right people for help.
In Drink Wise, Age Well you’re not afraid to say anything – you know that whatever you say it’s not going to go any further. I never spoke about my problems at work because I thought I’d be judged, but you’ve not got that here. I was so ashamed of myself, that I’d got myself to this point, that I’d let myself get like this. But after I’d been going a while I thought ‘Actually, I don’t need to feel ashamed, it’s just life…’ – sometimes things just happen, you know?