‘This service has helped saved our lives’

113898-5401 QAH ALCOHOL ABUSE (PM) MRW 2/11/2011''// all pix at The Specialist Alcohol Nurse Service at Queen Alexandra Hospital - MRW // ''(left to right)  John Toner (31), Brian Killen (64), Alcohol Specialist Nurse - Charlotte Heslop (33) and Lee Newman (36) ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113898-5401)
113898-5401 QAH ALCOHOL ABUSE (PM) MRW 2/11/2011''// all pix at The Specialist Alcohol Nurse Service at Queen Alexandra Hospital - MRW // ''(left to right) John Toner (31), Brian Killen (64), Alcohol Specialist Nurse - Charlotte Heslop (33) and Lee Newman (36) ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (113898-5401)
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By the age of 13, Lee Newman already knew he was an alcoholic.

What started off as experimental drinking when he was 11 quickly turned into a dangerous habit.

When he didn’t drink, Lee would experience shakes and wobbles.

His addiction had taken over his life and he knew enough was enough.

Last year he was one of the first patients to sign up to a new specialist service available at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham, which helps people to stop drinking.

Lee, 39, of Southampton Road, Fareham, says the Alcohol Specialist Nurse Service, which is led by sister and team leader Sue Atkins, has helped save his life.

He said: ‘I have been coming here for a while now and have been working with Sue and the team.

‘I was one of the first patients to use the service.

‘She told me to write down a list of all the things I dislike about myself and I put down being an alcoholic.

‘I have to do everything in my willpower to make things work.’

Lee had started drinking when he was just 11 years old.

He said: ‘I knew I was an alcoholic by the age of 13.

‘I always had money as I kept a job. This allowed me to drink two bottles of vodka a day.

‘I’d spent most of my life drinking and I decided I needed to knock it on the head.

‘About five years ago I had tried to give up and just went cold turkey.

‘But I started to detox and I had a lot of seizures.

‘I didn’t really know what I was doing and went back on the alcohol.

‘Reducing my intake would have been a better idea, but I didn’t know any better and just did what I thought was best.

‘I just didn’t know what I was doing with my life – then I met Sue.’

The specialist team take in referrals from clinics, GPs and the hospital itself.

Options are given to each patient so they know what help is available to help them get off the drink, which in turn can reduce alcohol-related visits into the hospital.

People can choose to be treated in hospital, within the community, or to take no action.

Lead nurse Sue said: ‘We give people advice and they can make their own decision.

‘What we are trying to do is prevent admissions into hospital because of alcohol, and break that cycle.

‘We are not here to judge people, but only to help them.’

Since the service was launched in September last year, it has seen more than 1,000 people.

‘The team gives total dedication and it’s a miracle they can help us,’ added Lee.

‘I think the team is fabulous and they don’t get recognised enough for the tough job they do.

‘If you think about how many peoples’ lives they’ve saved, they are like God.

‘They don’t judge you, they are just there to treat you.

‘Without alcohol I would wake up each morning in turmoil.

‘I would have the shakes and the wobbles if I didn’t have a drink.

‘That has changed now had I have been off alcohol now for five months.’

Brian Killen, of Elm Park Road, Havant, is also being treated by the team.

The 64-year-old said: ‘I moved down from Scotland seven years ago to be closer to my family.

‘I had been happily married and was off the drink for 15 years, but then my marriage went sour and I got divorced.

‘I worked as a plasterer and would go out for drinks on a Friday night after work with the rest of them.

‘But the difference was they would all turn up to work on Monday morning again.

‘I wouldn’t go in until the following Wednesday and it was because of alcohol.

‘I had managed to get off it for a year, but then I was like a man possessed. There was no reason why I was doing it, I just wanted alcohol.’

Brian said he was drinking up to two bottles of vodka a day and strong lager, which caused him to hallucinate.

Since seeing the specialist alcohol team, Brian has been alcohol-free for six months.

Fellow service user John Toner, 31, thinks alcohol is too cheap and accessible.

John, of Spenlow Close, Buckland, started drinking in his teens.

He said: ‘I had my first drink in my teens and it became an issue when I was 22.

‘I could have nine or 10 litres of cider a day.

‘I was working, and where people had food for their lunch, I would be drinking cans of alcohol.

‘It’s so cheap – you can pick up alcohol for as little as £2.

‘I think this needs to be changed.’