Kent calls for a Dry January

Personal stories about the potentially devastating effects of drinking too much are being highlighted as Kent County Council encourages residents to sign up to Dry January.

As the national Alcohol Concern campaign swings into action, latest figures show there were 24,833 alcohol related admissions in Kent in 2014/15, this is a 25% increase in five years.

42-year-old Simone Obee from Gravesend stopped drinking on her 40th birthday after a “light bulb” moment brought on by periods of binge drinking which meant she lost a baby and couldn’t have a family. “I wasn’t working and suffered from depression, anxiety and boredom being on my own while my husband worked,” she explains. “I would drink three of four times a week, going to the pub and starting off with a few glasses of wine before moving onto shots or vodka and coke. I wasn’t worrying about the consequences although there were times when I would wake up with cuts and bruises and worry how I got home.”

58-year-old Jerry Stevens from Tonbridge realised he needed to change when his relationship broke down. He said: “Alcohol is a cheat – it pretends to be your friend but it actually destroys your life. It came to a head after one particular night of drinking when I did something that I regret and basically it completely devastated my home life and family. The episode was such a shock that I stopped drinking immediately and sought help.”

Both Simone and Jerry received help from CRI which is commissioned by Kent county Council to deliver support services for people with alcohol and drug issues in Kent.

Simone adds: “There are huge amounts of support out there but the first step is realising what is happening and whatever inspires you to make a change and take action is a good thing. Campaigns like Dry January are a good start because if you can cut it out for a month then you can realise what a difference it makes to your life. It’s like living in a tunnel vision and I feel that life has opened up again for me now.”

KCC Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark urged drinkers to sign up to the national alcohol Concern campaign: “Sadly the number of hospitals admissions due to alcohol related harm have risen over the past five years and while many enjoy drinking alcohol sensibly and within recommended guidelines, there are an alarming number of people drinking at dangerous levels. It is vital that they recognise this and take early action because alcohol related harm is largely preventable.

KCC has launched a new online tool which encourages Kent residents to ‘Know Your Score’, giving potentially life-saving advice from key health professionals direct to their desktop www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore

Jerry adds: “Looking back, my biggest regret was that I didn’t seek help sooner. I always felt that I could stop drinking tomorrow but then there would be a stressful day at work so I felt I deserved a treat. My journey has been a lot about understanding that life can be more about freedom from alcohol, rather than forcing myself to abstain from it.”

KCC commissions support services across Kent including CRI in west Kent and spokesman Steve Fearns said: “The CRI Project West Kent Recovery Service provides support and above all hope for people who are struggling with alcohol problems.  People have the opportunity to get the help they need from professionals to achieve their goal of recovery from alcohol misuse.  At CRI they can meet other people like Simone who have been in similar situations which gives the motivation and inspiration they need to deal with the damage that alcohol can cause individuals and families across West Kent.”

Dry January is Alcohol Concern’s annual campaign (since 2012) challenging people to go booze free for 31 days. It is aimed at the social drinker, encouraging them to give up alcohol for a month - it is not a medical detox programme

Tom Smith, Director of Campaigns at Alcohol Concern, said: “All over Britain people will relax with a drink after a stressful day, or even at lunch, without realising the harm it can do to their health. Over December we all tend to drink much more than normal without realising it. Having a month off from booze helps people realise wine o’clock is often more of a habit than a pleasure.

“Dry January is an incredible opportunity to reassess our relationship with alcohol, as well as gaining some great health benefits such as; lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improved sleep, losing weight, feeling more energised.”

For more information about signing up for Dry January, go to www.dryjanuary.org.uk