Alcoholism in Harrogate: Tackling a 'living hell'

Members of the Harrogate fellowship of support group Alcoholics Anonymous.
Members of the Harrogate fellowship of support group Alcoholics Anonymous.

Times may have changed for many issues which were once regarded as taboo in public - even in Harrogate - but there’s one condition which is still not talked about openly - alcoholism.

Neither Harrogate, in particular, nor North Yorkshire, in general, are immune to this sometimes ‘invisible’ problem.

In the current Alcohol Awareness Week which runs until Sunday, figures from Public Health England show North Yorkshire has 5,340 people suffering from alcoholism.

The visible face of alcohol problems in the county is crime and disorder offences and the demand on the NHS.

Such is the scale of the problem, bodies including North Yorkshire County Council, Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire Police have come together in partnership to work on The North Yorkshire alcohol strategy.

But figures from Public Health England show only one in five people in North Yorkshire with alcohol dependency are getting treatment.

Alcohol Awareness week has prompted a flurry of activity to highlight a problem which many sufferers themselves often do not recognise.

North Yorkshire Horizons, a charity which offers a range of free, confidential and non-judgemental services for individuals and their families affected by drugs or alcohol, has launched a new social media campaign via hashtag #InspiredChange.

Meanwhile, local Alcoholics Anonymous groups, including those in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon, have been highlighting alcohol problems and ‘going public’ with what they can offer.

The local AA fellowship has put the Harrogate Advertiser in touch with real-life recovering alcoholics in Harrogate; whose personal stories show the battle can be won.

Real stories of Harrogate people

‘Desmond’ is now alcohol-free and looking forward to his 13th year of sobriety on November 28.

He said: “A day did not go by when I did not consider carefully how I was going to get alcohol.

“During this period I was a solicitor working for esteemed law firms and when it became clear that my problems were going to be questioned I would just find another law firm and take up partnership with them.

“I suppose I was what I wrongly called a functioning alcoholic but the truth was I was not functioning at all

“It got to the point where I was regularly vomiting blood after binge sessions and would end up in hospital.

“But I considered myself far too clever and thought I could sort it out by myself.

“Committing to AA - eventually - and accepting my condition saved me.”


‘Janet’ lost her children, her home and her health after taking up alcohol from a young age to give herself confidence.

She said: “Eventually every minute was a living hell and a constant battle to survive another day.
"My life was out of control and I was days away from death but still I could not understand how this had happened to me.

“After numerous failed attempts with GP’s, councillors and alcohol services, I began what would be my most successful detox programme to date and walked through the doors of Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Here I was shown unconditional love. After some months of continuous AA meetings working the 12 steps, I started to get back everything that had been stripped away.

“Today I have my children back, a home and I am a respectable member of society.

I am very proud to say I am eight years, six months and one day sober.”


Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Harrogate area

Monday: Ripon - Living Sober.
Tuesday: Knaresborough - Recovery.
Wednesday: Harrogate - 4 meetings.
Thursday: Harrogate - How It Works.
Friday: Harrogate - 3 meetings.
Saturday: Ripon - The Saturday Morning Speaker Group.
Harrogate - 3 meetings.
Sunday: Harrogate - 2 meetings.

Alcoholics Anonymous - National Helpline: 0800-9177650

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