This year’s Christmas message is not one I have wanted to write. I have put it off until today.
On the 10th of November my mother died of a gastro intestinal bleed caused by excessive alcohol intake.
As I write this I am worried about the inappropriate shame my loved ones might feel reading this. I am worried about how they feel about me talking about it. My mother’s alcoholism was what inspired me to go to my first recovery meeting and I would not be a person in recovery had I not sought help for her.
It was at that very first meeting looking for help for my mum that I identified with the people in the room claiming to be alcoholics where the thought entered my head that I may well be one too if what they were sharing was anything to go by.
I continued to go to meetings in the days ahead and pretty soon the identification from the people in the meetings about how they thought and how they felt was undeniable. I was soon to understand that the substance did not matter, whether it was alcohol or other drugs, gambling, shopping or sex or any other myriad of compulsive behaviours that were ultimately about removing myself from reality. I could clearly see that I had the condition they spoke so eloquently and honestly about and that I was now hanging out with people who were actively working at being in a solution. I knew I had stumbled across something very special, I knew I was being given an opportunity to break the cycle. I grabbed it like only the dying and desperate can.
In 2018 again, we have seen another record rise in the number of alcohol & drug-related deaths that have devastated families across the UK. This year and for many families like mine this will be their first Christmas without a loved one. Truly our hearts go out to everyone who has lost a love one to addiction.
Reiterating what we said last year we must take note that as these deaths continue to rise that a significant percentage of those who have died are among those who have never been in treatment and ask ourselves why this is. 4 out of 5 people who are alcohol dependent are not in treatment at all. Significant cuts to treatment funding (some as high as 60%), inaccessible services and services that are just not attractive are all contributing factors. People are not being given a choice of harm reduction interventions and pathways to recovery when/if they do eventually seek help. Like depression this is an illness that will convince you don’t have it. In a review of the literature around barriers to treatment that we did this year, the top reason people do not seek help is “denial; Imagine having an illness that is killing you that tells you, you’re not that bad, you don’t have it.
We must tenaciously continue to advocate for change; change in how we perceive addiction, change in how we treat the condition and change in how we care for those who are suffering.
FAVOR UK will continue to advocate for people in addiction to get non-judgmental help and advice that will reduce the risk of them further harming themselves and others. What most people don’t know is that there are many pathways to recovery and all are a cause for celebration. This year we have made significant strides in making sure that recovery is visible in our communities and in the lives of people who most desperately need our hope. We have shared our stories, offered our experience and passed on our strength where we have had the opportunity to do so.
It would not be appropriate for me to not comment on my mother’s death, this massive life event, considering the circumstances and the nature of the work I do. Since her death I have been reflecting. I can’t be certain that this line of work would have interested me had my mother found recovery. I am certain that the continued progression of her addiction and the lack of understanding and care that she received drove me to advocate first locally, and then on national scale. In the end I was not able to help my mum but we know our collective work has and will continue to help many others. I know if were not for my mother’s addiction I would not be a person in recovery today. I will always be grateful to my mum for that and many other blessings & values she gave to me.
We will be going into the new year doing our best to create more opportunities to be Faces and Voices of Recovery. We hope you will join us all in September 2019 in Middlesbrough for the 11th UK Recovery Walk – until then stay safe and take care of yourself and each other !
Anne Maria Doherty Ward
27/8/48 – 10/11/18
Love always mum – Annemarie xxx
FAVOR | Charity Number SC043961