Tackling misuse of alcohol in NI

IOAThanks to £3.6m in funding from the Big Lottery Fund four projects will work across Northern Ireland to target some of most difficult and hardest to reach people and families across the province.

Funding has gone to: Addiction NI, who have been awarded £667,511 to work with employers to look at alcohol related issues in the workplace; First Housing Aid and Support Services, who have been awarded £939,200 to work with homeless people with alcohol problems; ASCERT who received £999,662 to look at Parental Alcohol Misuse; and Opportunity Youth who received £999,323, to work with prisoners with alcohol problems who are about to be released.

One person who benefited from the support of First Housing Aid is Martin, 32, from Omagh. He explains how a few years ago he had everything – his own business, a fiancée, a home, a car and great prospects with a wedding on the horizon and then it all came crashing down and he lost it all when his problem with alcohol resurfaced.

“I am living proof that addiction can destroy lives and it is not just those down and out street drinkers who are spiralling out of control – it can happen to anyone at any time.

“My problems with drink started when I was about 25. I drank socially with friends and that seemed to be the norm but I started drinking more than normal and it started to impact my everyday life. I was missing work and friends and family were noticing that it was becoming too important to me.

“I lost my job in 2007 and decided then it was time to get help. I went to a detox programme in Omagh and it saved me.

“After I had finished the programme I decided to start my life over and moved to the South of Ireland. Slowly I built up a new business, I was in a relationship and I had my own home.

“I was happy and had money to spare and plenty of material things. I thought I was cured and that my problem with alcohol had been magically fixed.

“What I didn’t realise was this is an illness that stays with you and one you have to work at every day.

“I got cocky and thought I could handle a drink so one Saturday night I had a few pints. That was the beginning of the end of me as it slowly crept up on me again to the point where my relationship broke down just before the wedding and I started to lose work as I couldn’t function without alcohol.

Rock bottom came after Christmas last year when I realised I had lost everything and that I was sick – very sick and I didn’t want to be sick any more.

I went back to my family in Omagh. I had nothing – I had lost everything and the lower I went the more I drank to numb the pain.

I didn’t want to face the reality of where my life had reached. I was walking about with shoes with holes in them and the ironic thing was they had been expensive shoes I had bought as a treat to celebrate that I was a year sober.

I went for help in Ramona House in Omagh where I went on a detox and counselling programme. I also got accommodation through the Addiction Treatment Unit. I started opening up and talking about my illness instead of running away from it.

With small steps I started to get my life back together again. I did a Steps Back to Work programme and started going to college.”

To find out more on projects funded, please visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/global-content/press-releases/northern-ireland/130813_ni_ioa_alcohol-misuse-across-northern-ireland

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