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Kirklees Alcohol Advisory Service helping 3,000 alcoholics every year

Up To 10,000 people in Kirklees could have some form of issue with alcohol.

The Kirklees Alcohol Advisory Service (KAAS) said they are approached by around 3,000 people a year seeking help for alcohol dependency.

But chairman Norman Macleod believes there are many thousands more who, while not alcoholics, are not in control of their alcohol intake.

Mr Macleod himself is a recovering alcoholic, but now, four years after joining KAAS to get help for his dependency, he’s helping others beat alcoholism.

Statistics show that 70-80 people will access KAAS each week, with around 30 attending their meetings.

I went along to observe a recent meeting and found a room full of people at different stages in overcoming their dependency.

Newcomers are met by a group of people who, like them, need support, advice and help to overcome their addiction. They ask questions and nod understandably when people say they lapsed but are determined to stop drinking.

Some were new to the group, some had been once or twice before, some had just encountered their first lapse and some had been sober for many years. They returned not only to pass on their stories and advice but, Norman says, to remind themselves of why they quit in the first place.

And, not surprisingly, the room was filled with people from all walks of life.

The youngest was in her mid-20s while others were nearing 60.

They all lived with alcoholism – the older members of the group often for many decades before seeking help.

Norman explains: “Alcoholism is the only illness your brain will not diagnose.

“The stories are all the same. People are drinking too much alcohol and the alcohol controls them rather than them controlling the alcohol.

“But people are all individual and deal with it differently.

“We’re here to help however we can, and we can because we’ve been through it ourselves.”

Norman says many people will try to stop under pressure from their families, but in the end they must do it for themselves.

“If you are doing it for other people there is always a resentment,” he adds. “If you have an argument you can say ‘I gave it up for you’ and throw it back at them by having another drink.

“If you give up for yourself then automatically it’s for everyone else too.”

Of those who seek the support of KAAS 70% are male and 30% are female – and they’re getting younger too.

“We’ve seen a significant shift in the age range over the past two years,” Norman said. “Before then something like 12% were aged 20-35, now it’s something in the order of 30-35%.”

Asked why he believed many people do not access the support of groups like KAAS, Norman said: “It could be because of the stigma associated with alcoholism.

“The public perception of an alcoholic is someone on the street drinking, but we have people from all walks of life. The street image represents less than 1%.”

Norman says the perception of alcoholism needs to be changed.

“It’s an illness,” he said. “It’s not about how intelligent you are or what your education was.

“Some people are able to stop drinking when, they want but other’s can’t – it’s changing that which is hard.”

Norman said that 70-80% of alcoholics will lapse once they try to give up, but some need to do that to understand their problem.

“If you have a lapse you shouldn’t feel ashamed – it’s part of recovery. But if you come to a group like this you’re six times less likely not to have a re-lapse and that’s the important thing.”

One man, sober for three years, returned to the group, to share his experience with others.

Norman added: “People forget the reason they stopped in the first place. If people come from time to time, it may sound selfish to say, but they hear other people’s stories and it reminds them that they don’t want to go back.

“But in turn they can help people who are only just accepting alcoholism.”

Susan Dyson has been involved with KAAS for 15 years and was a member when it was run by its founder Dr Tabarek Hossain.

She battled her alcohol addiction and now leads the women’s group every Monday to help others who find themselves in a situation like she did.

Susan said: “Women are different – they try to be superwoman and deal with everything else first,” she said.

Mrs Dyson was referred to the group by her GP after she collapsed and experienced bouts of fainting.

She has not touched a drop for almost 15 years after attending the meetings for seven or eight years prior.

She still attends, primarily to help others, but she says it helps her too.

“You hear people’s stories and it can remind me of what I went through.

“My first time at KAAS was extremely nerve-racking – it’s a big step to make.

“I think I took my husband with me, but for some people they prefer to come alone because they don’t want their family knowing how much they drink.

“I can understand it both ways.

“Most people think they’re on their own, but we’re a group of people who do understand.

“I can remember what I went through, even thought it was so long ago.

“And I’m glad I can because I don’t want to forget why I’m where I now am.”

At her Monday meetings she’s joined by women of all ages, including some in their 20s, who are living with alcoholism.

Her advice – if you think you need help, give it a go.

A Teacher has spoken about his dependency on alcohol over the last six years.

The man, who has asked not to be named, said he would often drink a bottle of wine on a night.

He said: “There is no reason for it, but it became a habit and over time I just got used to it.

“There was no decision to start drinking, there was no decision to drink as much as I did, it seemingly crept up and there it was.”

The man said that after a year or two he realised that he needed to cut his alcohol intake.

“I knew it had to stop but doing that was easier said than done.

“How do you go to a doctor and say you have a drink problem without feeling stupid? By that I mean, the solution, the advice, is simple – stop drinking.

“But in practice that’s much harder.

“I’ve never smoked, but I imagine that would be the same.”

He went along to the KAAS meetings and over time reduced his drinking to nil.

“I feel much healthier for it,” he added.

“But it’s still there in the back of my mind.

“I imagine it is for many recovering alcoholics.”

source: Huddersfield Daily Examiner

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