Sober October: “Now I’m enjoying life, every day is quite a miracle”

Health / Thu 12th Oct 2023 at 07:29am

THIS Sober October, one of the first patients admitted to our new drug and alcohol detox service in Chelmsford has spoken of the life-changing experience.

Catherine was referred to our inpatient service, the first of its kind in the east of England, when she realised she had reached the end of the line and needed help.

“Over the years I found alcohol helped me with social anxiety. But the more I drank, the more isolated I became to the point I found I was physically addicted,” said Catherine.

“Everything took a back seat to alcohol. This service gave me a lifeline. I realised this was my opportunity and it was a relief that someone was going to look after me.”

The detox service, based on a mental health inpatient ward at The Crystal Centre in Chelmsford, enables adults living with addiction to detox with the support of specialist doctors, nurses, psychologists and occupational therapists. 

Commissioned by Essex County Council, the service, based on Topaz ward, works alongside drug and alcohol support services across the region to help patients living with addiction alongside other physical or mental health conditions. 

Patients are supported through every step of the detox process and have the opportunity to take part in ward-based occupational therapy, psychological therapy and art therapy groups provided for all patients on the ward. 

Catherine said: “I was anxious and scared, I didn’t know what to expect. But I was humbled by how many kind people there were in this environment.

“I thought I’d be spending all my time in my room but I chose to come into the communal area – there was a lot of laughter, fun and warmth that I hadn’t expected at all.”

Referrals are accepted for patients across the eastern region via GPs and drug and alcohol support services. The service also works with Alcoholics Anonymous support groups, who visit patients on the ward regularly and referring agencies remain in contact with patients to provide support throughout the detox process.

Hayley Earle, Inpatient Detox Manager at EPUT, said: “There was a lot of discussion about the best place for a detox service and it was felt a mental health unit could work really well.

“People use substances and drink alcohol for many reasons. It’s a coping strategy and unfortunately dependency can come along with it.

“The service works so well because people come here through their own choice and they understand the commitment they have to make.

“Being on a mental health ward with patients who may also have substance misuse issues means you find people really form a real bond here.”

Following discharge, patients are referred to community-based drug and alcohol rehabilitation services for further support to continue their recovery, with the aim of achieving long-term stability and reducing likelihood of relapse.

Catherine said: “After being on the ward I went into rehab, six days a week for eight-and-a-half weeks. I had to do the hard work on myself and address my demons and the power of addiction. It was tough but an incredible experience.

“Now I’m enjoying life, every day is quite a miracle – a few months ago I would never have dreamt that was possible.”

Emma Tulip-Betts, specialist wellbeing and public health officer at Essex County Council, said: “Topaz is the first provision of its kind in the eastern region, offering dedicated support to patients who have complex issues with substances and co-existing mental and physical health concerns.  

“The specialist inpatient team works closely with community teams across the region to support patients through their detox and recovery, ensuring the best possible outcomes. This is a fantastic resource and we hope that it continues to thrive and support those who need it.” 

Councillor Jane Fleming, Deputy Cabinet Member for Health, Adult Social Care and ICS Integration at Essex County Council, added: “This new detox service commissioned by the council has the power to help adults living with addiction turn their lives around for the better.

“Thanks to the hard work of EPUT, we are proud to have it here in Essex and make a real difference for patients, and their families, across the East of England.”

A short video about the service and Catherine’s experience is available to view at https://youtu.be/EkWACSx3Z6M.

Anyone living with drug or alcohol addiction interested in the detox service should speak with their GP in the first instance.

There is more information about the service at https://eput.nhs.uk/our-services/inpatient-detox-service/

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