This Alcohol Awareness Week we share Lesley's story. A member who has bravely highlighted her struggle with alcohol addiction and how she has turned her life around.
Lesley Whiteside hopes that by speaking out, she may be able to help others who are dependent on alcohol and don’t know where to turn.
Lesley, 62 and from Grimsby, is a regular customer to the Grimsby Health & Wellbeing Centre’s Wellness Hub. She praises the specialist equipment for helping her regain her strength after being left unable to walk following her battle with alcohol addiction.
Lesley said: “After spending three months in a hospital bed, I had to learn to walk again. When I was discharged, I spent some time in respite and received rehabilitation, but it was a good few months before I could drive again. When I could, I thought, I’ve got to try and keep myself fit somehow.
“I’d heard about power-assisted equipment, so I joined Lincs Inspire and was told they had some at the leisure centre in Grimsby. I tried them out, and the rest is history!”
For four years, Lesley has been using the seated equipment now housed in a brand-new Wellness Hub within the centre. It supports hundreds of customers with wide-ranging health conditions. Lesley is honest and open with the friends she has made at the centre; sharing her past struggles and her determination to ensure her life continues in a positive direction.
Lesley’s 20 years of dependence on alcohol stemmed from trauma relating to the death of her father. She took to alcohol to block out her emotions and managed for a long time to hide her addiction from many of the closest people in her life. It was her husband who initially reached out for help but, for Lesley and many others, the hardest step is knowing yourself that a change is needed. Lesley explained:
You have to get to a point where you say, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but until you get to that point, all the tea in China wouldn’t help you get through. You’ve got to be ready yourself. But please if you are, try and seek help. It’s the hardest step, but in the long run, you look back and wonder why you waited so long.
I wouldn’t be without him [my husband]. My kids have been great, very supportive. They still have their little niggles, where they say, ‘We told you about this five years ago,’ but I wasn’t ready to stop at the time. You’ve got to get to a certain point.
This January, it will be six years since Lesley was discharged from the hospital, and she hasn’t touched alcohol since. She wants people to realise that alcohol addiction doesn’t come with the stigma that it once did and talking about it helps.
As to Lesley’s ongoing recovery and the importance of exercise in that, she said: “I feel as though I’m getting stronger everyday coming to the leisure centre. It’s not just the exercise though, it’s my mental health as well. There are such lovely people that work at the centre, but the clientele that come in as well, we’ve all got different ailments and we all have a good laugh.
“There is never a problem, if you’re not sure on something you can always ask one of the staff and they will come and help you.
“I’m stronger mentally and physically and there is no way I want to go back to where I was, and I would say to anybody if they thought that they were drinking too much, please to get help.”
Alcohol Awareness Week (15-21 November) is a week of awareness-raising, campaigning for change, and more, coordinated by Alcohol Change UK.
For further information, including help and support, visit www.alcoholchange.org.uk