Case studies can be a useful tool when trying to provide evidence of outcomes that cannot be captured by hard data alone. They can provide context to an individual case and illustrate the human aspect of any given individual journey.
Below are some case studies of Bridge members. Some are written by Bridge staff and some by the member themselves.
“It’s good to sit with my fellows, chew the cud, share our worries, woes and joys and successes. You keep grounded and know you’re not alone.“
For me, the great thing about being an alcoholic was that I was a functioning addict — all I had to do was make sure I didn’t go over my performance limit and maintain a regular and secretive supply of my chosen poison. This achieved. I could continue on my own sweet way – being selfish and self-centred, uncaring of others and their concerns, oblivious to problems I was causing in my close relationships; in denial of the many health problems caused by my heavy drinking. Just generally living on autopilot in my own little world. Then I realised what I had become.
Sobriety is a much different proposition — you find yourself now in a totally alien environment. You feel shame for past behaviour, anxiety is no longer buried; fear of social encounters makes you hide away; you feel better and suddenly the smallest thing can drag you back to square one; insecurity and doubt always in the background ready for their moment. All this, with a permanent and insistent nagging from your brain and body that all will be well if you just have a drink. Enter The Bridge.
Twenty-eight days in rehab, a couple of S2S sessions. I was in a bad way. Induction at The Bridge was my next call.
The Bridge is not a miracle cure all; you have to play your part. I needed somewhere or something — my family support was too close. The Bridge listens and can be objective.
As I began to trust and feel more comfortable, which was not a very long time, The Bridge became people – us guys and gals and the capable Bridge crew, never in your face – one sitting at the table, one maybe leaning on the radiator, perhaps making a tea for you, very relaxed all of it, or so you think. The slightest hint of a problem or scent of a worry and a crew member will find time to talk to you, if not appropriate in company, there is always somewhere private to go. On more than one occasion, I have needed help on a personal level and always received an attentive and sympathetic ear combined with practical help and action taken. One problem I’m dealing with is completely out of their sphere of expertise, but it was dealt with by research and then referral to an expert.
It’s good to sit with my fellows, chew the cud, share our worries, woes and joys and successes. You keep grounded and know you’re not alone. Group sessions, of course, go deeper, more personal, get it off your chest time. You learn and listen mostly. It gets you motivated, sometimes a realisation your journey is only just beginning but the crew is there; it helps to know that.
On a lighter note, there is some fun — we share some laughs, usually at our own expense, take the mick. We have quizzes, games and get togethers.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would have magnets in my ears — cynically I take the treatment. Reduced anxiety and better sleep — it works so not another word I spoke. Just kept it up.
I’m having my hair cut on Monday and a couple of weeks ago, I had a foot massage — what a life!
For everything, The Bridge I thank you.
“My ‘dad’ was the first man to break my nose, we had a fight of sorts when I was 13.”
“I grew up angry, I grew up scared and most of all I grew up lonely.”
A brief history of my life and how Bridge have helped me.
My earliest memories as a child involve violence. Mother always quick to slap or throw things, she remarried when I was about 7. The violence increased. She would beat us, send us to bed with the warning that when our “dad” got home from work he would beat us with his belt also. I can still remember the fear of waiting, of hearing his voice when he would come in after work. I would pray that I would die before he walked up the stairs. Sadly I didn’t. We would all get the good news with the end of his leather belt. As I got older, the violence escalated, mum using pans, sticks, whatever she could to hurt us and again the same treatment from our “dad”. This carried on for years, I was bullied at school, then beaten at home for not standing up for myself, then when I did start fighting back I was beaten for fighting. Schrodinger’s cat comes to mind. My younger brother and the eldest of my two sisters received similar treatment to an extent. We were ridiculed by parents, the family didn’t want to know or brushed it under the carpet. I thought this is what every family did, I was wrong.
My “dad” was the first man to break my nose, we had a fight of sorts when I was 13.
I grew up angry, I grew up scared and most of all I grew up lonely. I discovered drinking and smoking weed aged about 14 or so and my usage escalated from there. I couldn’t just have one or two drinks. I was the one that would drink until I found oblivion. This continued all through my life with one stage I became surprisingly successful with my own business and earning money I had only ever dreamed of. It was then I was introduced to cocaine.
Game over, I lost everything in a couple of years but continued drinking. I was unable to have a permanent relationship as I always felt a fraud if I was with a lovely lady and never understood why they would want to be with me. So no real family ties, no lasting relationship and no kids. I was determined the bad blood stops with me because I didn’t want a kid to go through what I did. Going from one doomed relationship to another. Not that I was all bad, and neither were the women I mostly dated. I guess I’m just flawed and struggle to maintain a relationship with anyone, hence my solitary and lonely life.
This culminated 8 years ago with a bad relationship breakdown. For once not my fault surprisingly. I left and found my little house I am in now. For the first two years I kept up a facade whilst drinking to blot out the blame. Being on my own I had no one to judge my behaviour so I would drink as much as i could every day. To the point I would order food just to get the wine and beer they delivered also.
5 years ago, almost to the day I went to work, nothing out of the ordinary, set up and just started crying. Couldn’t stop. Sat in my van and cried for hours. Came home and attempted to sort my house out. As an ex soldier, I’ve lived a life of violence and mixed in some serious circles sadly. But the scariest thing I’ve ever seen was looking at my washing machine. Sounds silly right? I didn’t know what it was or what it was for. Absolutely terrified me. A friend was texting me at the time and I sent her a pic and asked her what it was. She told me to sit and have a beer and relax and to maybe call the doctor in the morning as I was suffering from stress. I remember drinking but the next thing I know it was dark and I was at the side of the train track near me when some random bloke found me and walked me home. Everything’s pretty much a blur from there for a year or two, lots of severe medication, crisis teams coming to see me everyday and drinking to oblivion as soon as I could.
It got to the point that as soon as I woke up I drank a glass of prosecco as that was all I could keep down, once that was down I’d finish the bottle, start on lager and end up on spirits till I collapsed. All the time trying to hide it from people. Out of the blue, maybe 18 months ago a lady contacted me saying she was the estranged sister of my “dad”. He had always said he was put in a kids home at a young age as his parents were horrible and he joined the army at 16 to get away from the kids home. She told me that was a lie and he had been sexually abusing her for years and ran away at 16 to join the army and never went back to Newcastle again.
My family never believed how much we were beaten or indeed how much it affected and still to this day affects me, and when I told them of this woman’s story they didn’t believe me either sadly, I confronted my so called parents and they banded together and denied any wrongdoing.
It was at this time I got to the point where every mouthful of alcohol would come back up as soon as I took it. My body was literally rejecting it all, I suddenly realised I needed help. I called the doctor, they told me to contact S2S as I needed to address my drinking before I could get any help.
When I went there, I just wanted to ease the pain until my dog died and then I would say goodbye also as I have nothing here and no family so no point in carrying on. I stopped drinking, was put on heavy meds for withdrawal and signposted to Bridge. There was no way in the world I was going to sit in on a group talk listening to ‘all woe is me’ pity party excuses of why people were there.
Had a call from Jono arranging an appointment, went down not knowing what to expect. We had a good honest chat and I probably cried a lot but I do remember him saying, if you can manage not to drink for a year, we will sit down and have a chat and you can tell me how your life has changed for the better. I thought it was just rhetoric as I had no intention of being around in a year. Over the following days I was introduced to Gerry in the gym, a decent, honest no bullshit dude that I also immediately took to. I told Johno and Gerry things I didn’t even know I had in me. For a long while I would attend every morning, use the gym, have a brew and attend relapse prevention and men’s group.
Every single morning Caroline would have a smile and a hello for me and a brief chat, which might not seem a lot, but I live alone and she would generally be the first person I would talk to in maybe 20 hours since I had left the day previously. I skeptically joined men’s group, and realised these people were not monsters but just people like me. I listened to their stories and pretty much could relate to something in each of them.
The biggest thing for me to realise on this journey is how completely honest an addict is. They would talk without fear of being judged and would be understood through the good stuff and the bad. Literally life changing experiences. I started a mixed relapse prevention course taken by Sam. Once again I was just thinking it wouldn’t help. But I will never forget an older softly spoken lady saying she had drank in the last week. Someone asked her if she knew why she had and she replied, because “I’m lonely.” That literally broke me, all my years of violence, isolation, alcohol and drug abuse summed up in the soft spoken words of a crying lady. That was real honest courage, to admit that to herself and to us. I decided I wanted to get better.
Bridge supported me with a lot of different aspects, from money and finance to wellbeing and just being a safe place I could drop in and have a brew. I finally had a place I could go to where I wouldn’t be hurt or have to fight or put up a façade. How do you quantify that with a few words?
From bridge I was signposted to Frank Bruno foundation and undertook their course and have learnt a lot about myself from them and some volunteering I did there.
A lot of what Jono would say to me didn’t really make a lot of sense at the time, but going forward in my recovery they are making sense now. Things like I have to safeguard my sobriety as that’s the most important thing in my life. Didn’t get it at first. At first I was constantly bone achingly tired all the time, he said sleep as much as you need to, rest and sleep as and when. As I had never really slept properly all my life. My most powerful mantra he said to me may seem a little silly, but he said, a man can’t get into trouble by eating biscuits on his couch. Again I didn’t get it at the time, but when I sit and have a brew with some malted milk biscuits that comes back to me so powerfully.
Going forward I am now 14 months sober, the last time I was sober for more than 3 months was when I was maybe 13 or so. I have volunteered at The Frank Bruno foundation which was an amazing experience, I ended up being allowed to cook what I wanted on a Friday morning for a drop in service and to see people eating my food has given me more joy than landing the big money contracts in the past. Sadly the inevitable happened and I had to say goodbye to my boxer dog Spud after 10 years. This was the point I had allowed myself to think up to as it was my cut off point. Whilst getting my affairs in order to finally leave and get some peace a boxer rescue centre contacted me saying they had an unruly boy who has been in and out of kennels for 2 years and would I be interested in fostering him over Xmas just so he could have a break from the kennels. I said yes, my day now consists of a 5 to 6 mile walk with Rex, some housework, maybe a trip to the gym and a movie in the evenings. It’s still hard and I am not out of the woods yet, may never be, but all I can think of is one day at a time.
With what started at the bridge, who really are working on the raw coalface with all us addicts, then on to the foundation, I have set some goals, I have got some qualifications through bridge online courses. May not mean a lot to most people yet despite building a great company I left school with no qualifications because I had broken my hands fighting. So they are a massive boost for my confidence. Then my certificate from the foundation I guess I’m not as useless as once told.
This year I am going to climb a mountain and go to Wales, Scotland and Ireland as I’ve not been to any as of yet.
It may be the smallest mountain and I may be the slowest, but I will walk up a mountain this year and no one can ever take that away from me.
And the hardest step of all of it was the first one up the stairs to Bridge.
I can’t thank everyone enough for all the help, love and support shown to me.
“I knew in my head I had a problem; I didn’t know how to deal with it or where to turn. I had now taken loans and credit cards out to fund my addiction, I was selling things I had ordered from catalogues to get money.”
My journey began when I was 17 years old. I tried my first line of cocaine, it felt amazing, I was on top of the world, nothing mattered anymore, my mind was clear. Being offered cocaine on a night out or a party was great, I never willingly paid for it, it was free, how could I say no? Cocaine was never a problem for me, it was fun, until covid hit, that is when it got bad.
During covid, I was isolated, but my sister moved to the area, so we started socialising together. We enjoyed doing cocaine once a week on payday, it was something to look forward to after work. When we went in to lockdown, I had 3 days off a week, more funds became available, I wanted more cocaine, so I did. 3 days a week I would spend my day with my sister using cocaine, this would begin at 08:30am and we would continue until the evening, it felt great. Using cocaine for 3 days a week made me feel confident, talkative, nothing else mattered! It was a secret though, our partners didn’t know, so it became a panic when the evening time came, I hoped he would never find out. I just wanted more and more, but I needed more money.
This is when I began to steal money from my partner, it began with £40 and over time I was stealing £300 a time so I could buy cocaine. Stealing money gave me the ability to use cocaine every day. Using it every day, my confidence slowly drifted away, I felt different, I felt scared and paranoid. I just started to steal more. I slept alone now, I hid myself away, I didn’t even want to be around my kids. I didn’t want to admit I had a problem. I turned to people I was using with, I asked them if I had a problem, but they reassured me I didn’t. They would use my money to feed their own habit, so I think they knew I had a problem, they were lying.
I was now in active addiction. I knew in my head I had a problem; I didn’t know how to deal with it or where to turn. I had now taken loans and credit cards out to fund my addiction, I was selling things I had ordered from catalogues to get money. My mental health had taken a turn for the worst, I was paranoid, I was hallucinating, I could see and hear things that weren’t there, this progressively got worse the more I used. At one point I believed there was maggots in my mouth, it was so real, but of course they weren’t there.
At this point I started to ask myself if I had a problem as id heard that my oldest sister, had been round my family members, asking if I was addicted to cocaine as she had noticed a change in me, in my appearance, my weight, my attitude, the way I was isolating myself and not speaking to her anymore. My nose was getting bad, id lied to my husband and told him I had sinusitis, he believed me. I turned to my sister, I was so scared, I asked her to tell my husband. She came round and told him. He was stood in shock, angry, upset and annoyed that he did not recognise the signs. I promised him I wouldn’t use again.
I handed myself in to the police for fraud, as id taken the loans and credit cards out in my husbands name. No charges against me, but I had a formal interview to tell them what I had done, it was horrible. The police did a referral to social services, and I had to do a virtual drugs course, I was so angry at myself that I had let it get that far.
I accessed support during this time from the GP, who referred me to the mental health team and eventually on to Bridge.
I was so anxious the first time I came, I was worried, I hadn’t been out of the house for so long. I first had a one to one with a recovery worker. I found this brilliant, it was really, really helpful, I finally felt like I could begin to be myself, instead of this raging cocaine addict. It was good to get things off my chest, as I had kept things locked up for so long and had no one else to talk to that would understand how I was feeling. I was scared to come back, but I did, I had a meeting with a recovery worker reguarly. It took me a while to socialise with other members here, but I did eventually. They made me feel really welcome, I felt like I had been coming here for years, I don’t know what all the worry was about.
Things were still up and down at home, I had relapsed a few times. I had social services visiting and my children were on a child in need plan, it was worrying, but I was determined to be clean and happy for my children. So, I continued to come to Bridge reguarly. One of the recovery workers would attend the child in need meetings and feedback how I was doing, the staff believed in me. Social services eventually stopped being involved, it took a while, but I got there.
Coming to bridge, everyone was in the same position, for the same reason, no one was judging me, if you sit with family and friends that don’t use, they don’t want to talk about it. It’s like a whole room full of support at bridge, its like a comfort blanket, even when members buy you a cup of coffee, it makes you feel special. In a group someone called me glamourous, and it made me feel so good.
I would be lying if I said I was completely clean after I joined bridge but going to bridge has prevented me from wanting to use, doing the groups help, I’ve even started making bracelets. I relapsed a few times.
I am 40 years old now, I have been clean for 4 weeks and 1 day, this is the longest I have ever been clean and I’m feeling good, the cravings are still there, but so long as I keep myself active, attend Bridge and thinking of all the things I could lose, I will be ok.
Guess what? I have just applied to be a volunteer. Who knew this day would come where I would be in the position that I can help people through the same experience I have had.
“Bridge saved my life and showed me a new way to live, to think and to feel. They taught me how to survive and now I know how to be well and happy.”
My name is Tracy and I am 47 years old. I suffer from bipolar, EUPD, I had anorexia as a teenager and bulimia through my adult years. I am also a recovering cocaine addict and have a history of prescription drug abuse and various suicide attempts and have been resuscitated more than once.
When I first walked into Bridge I was 6 stone and I had not long been discharged from St Mary’s Mental Health unit. It had been a month since I pumped myself full of drugs and alcohol and had crashed my car intentionally in yet another attempt to end my life. I had nothing left to offer myself or the world. I had no desire to live and no life, no purpose and no longer saw a future. I have been a patient at Campbell House for 30 years and have been in hospital on and off for years. I was physically, mentally and emotionally ruined. My support worker told me about Bridge and suggested I tried. I never even imagined what was waiting for me inside the Bridge Programme.
As soon as I walked in I was greeted with smiling faces and it was a volunteer who welcomed me and without her I would have turned around and run.
During my induction, I was scared and exhausted and had no hope. The first week as a member is like a blur to me still. I don’t remember making a decision to start my recovery and Bridge did the hard part.
I soon engaged in Relapse Prevention and Women’s Group, then started in the gym. I know I cried a lot for a good few weeks but bit by bit I found my place in the strongest support network I have ever known. Within a couple of months, I was engaging in everything Bridge could offer. I was having reflexology, acupuncture and actively using meditation in group and at home. I was taking my medication properly and had stopped using cocaine and alcohol. I was addressing my eating disorder and was able to be honest with myself, staff and other members. I was going to Bridge daily.
I had been a member of Bridge for almost a year and a half before lockdown hit and losing that daily support had such a negative impact on me that I had a few relapses and was struggling mentally. But yet again Bridge stepped up and started zoom groups every day; we had quiz days and poetry groups, relapse prevention, women’s group, weekly check in, small goals group and I did them all and was soon back in recovery and stable and strong again.
As soon as we were allowed back in the building, I told the staff I would clean and sanitise Bridge daily if it meant myself and other members could get more face-to-face groups. I never planned on becoming a volunteer, I thought you had to be in a different league to be a Bridge volunteer. How wrong was I. I was asked to fill in all the volunteer paperwork and was petrified. I didn’t think I had what it took to be any use to anyone let alone be asked to join the Bridge volunteer team.
But that’s where the next part of my recovery began. I was asked to cover in the gym once a week on a Monday and was soon a valued volunteer and was even rewarded as Volunteer of the Month.
The new responsibility and my position made me even more determined to stay clean and concentrate on my self care. I was then asked if I would be interested in becoming a Peer Mentor and did the Bridge training to start the process.
I was also doing zoom courses through various online agencies on confidence, self-awareness and was also doing workshops at Campbell House through the Recovery College.
With Bridge’s support, I started a counselling course through Adult Learning which then signposted me to a Level 2 Peer Mentoring course and I am already halfway through this.
About 6 weeks ago, the Bridge Volunteer Coordinator approached me with a new challenge. I was asked to take on the role of a Recovery Support Volunteer. I jumped at this opportunity and have been working Mondays and Fridays in this position. I have had so much positive feedback from all the staff that I had to be proud of myself. It has fed my desire to succeed and grow. I feel like I have a life, a genuine place in the world and a purpose.
I can not thank Bridge enough for seeing something in me that I never ever saw myself. They have invested so much into my recovery and more importantly they taught me how to invest in myself.
I am confident that I have what it takes to stay clean, manage my mental illness and control an eating disorder that has always controlled me.
Bridge saved my life and showed me a new way to live, to think and to feel. They taught me how to survive and now I know how to be well and happy.
I learned you can beat addiction and you can find a way through even the darkest places. I will work my hardest to try and help Bridge show other members the way forward. If I can show just one person what Bridge has done for me then I’ll do whatever it takes. Bridge is my family and I owe my success to them.
“He used to carry matches around with him everywhere he went in order to burn his arms and hands…”
This member has been struggling with his mental health for around 20 years and was admitted to Berrywood on 26/12/19 following a suicide attempt. He has used Bridge for a number of years but didn’t engage with any of the activities other than meditation. He would often drop in and sit in the café without engaging with other members.
After being discharged from Berrywood, I encouraged him to try some other activities and he attended men’s group a few times prior to the pandemic which he enjoyed. I have also been working with him throughout the pandemic by ringing him regularly and meeting him for walks. He has struggled with his mental health and is still experiencing suicidal ideation but has not acted on these thoughts. Instead, he has reached out for help from either myself, the mental health hub or the crisis café when he feels that he may act on these thoughts. In addition to this, he reports that he hasn’t self-harmed for 18 months now. He used to carry matches around with him everywhere he went in order to burn his arms and hands but no longer does this.
While Bridge was able to open last year, this member took every opportunity to attend groups and tried activities that he would have previously said no to such as the photography walks and desert island discs. He thoroughly enjoyed them and the routine had a huge impact on his wellbeing. He has previously told me that this along with our regular contact has saved his life.
Recently, Bridge agreed to loan him a tablet alongside ETE sessions as he is computer illiterate and doesn’t know how to use a mobile phone. He has been using these sessions to attend our online relapse prevention group. He has been making good progress with being able to use the tablet and when he is able to use it on his own, we will look to support him with getting some internet at home.
He also engages regularly with a local depression support group and now receives calls from Happy at Home weekly having been referred by the mental health hub.
“I was afraid to answer the phone due to how it affected me mentally. I was no longer seeing my child because of what I had been doing, and he is my life.”
I was a user of NPS’s, particularly Spice – Pandora’s box and Exodus. I used with people I worked with at weekends but eventually I used every day. This lasted 18 months. I lost everything – my partner and child, my home, and my job. I suffered with hallucinations, psychotic thoughts, weight loss. I was afraid to answer the phone due to how it affected me mentally. I was no longer seeing my child because of what I had been doing, and he is my life. I made a decision to stop and was able to do this by shutting myself away for 4 days.
I was homeless and had to rely on the friends and family that had remained in my life for somewhere to stay. I was isolated and needed to meet people. I attempted to go to Bridge three times. On the first two occasions I struggled and could not do it. On the third I built up enough courage to do so. I’m glad I did.
I sought help with my housing situation by visiting the housing drop in. Julia helped me with this and made a referral to PHaSE Housing, supported housing for people with substance misuse issues, provided by Bridge. I was interviewed for this and was successful with my application. A month after my induction I was now housed through PHaSE and supported to manage my tenancy, provided help to set up my utilities, bills etc.
Most importantly I now had somewhere for my son to visit and to stay.
I had been keeping myself busy at Bridge, trying new activities, meeting new people. They were not as scary as I thought they would be, and it was comforting to be around people who had similar experiences with addiction that I did, and were trying to get themselves clean/sober. It was good to speak with people and to talk freely without feeling judged. I particularly enjoyed using the gym, football and acupuncture (something I did not think I would!)
I applied to become a volunteer at Bridge. Initially just a couple of hours a week, eventually leading to full – time. I like to help others and felt like I wanted to give back to Bridge for all the help I have received from them. I attended the mentoring course held at Bridge, which I enjoyed. I would speak with members, particularly those just starting at Bridge, as I remember how difficult it can be to start this journey. I volunteered at the ETE sessions (Education, Training and Employment) and enjoyed helping people looking into courses, searching for employment etc. Through this I was able to refer a number of members to a service who provide courses to people, which made me feel good. A role within their company came available recently, which I applied for and was successful for, starting a full- time job.
7 months after my induction, I am still clean.
I have a fantastic relationship with my son and see him regularly.
I have a home.
I have full- time employment.
I have built good, supportive relationships, and those with family members have improved as they have seen my progress.
I have responsibilities.
I feel trusted.
I am contributing to society.
I feel like a better person.
There is hope for people like me.
“Due to Nick’s mental health difficulties, he would often cry during our calls and make reference to suicide because he was unhappy with his life.”
How did they first present?
The first call I made to Nick was on the 18th of March 2020, where he first presented as reluctant to talk to anybody. He told me he lived alone with his cat and goes long periods of time not seeing anybody and therefore often expressed that he felt lonely. He does not have much family close by or any friends and It became clear after a few phone calls that he was heavily drinking, although at the time he would deny this. Due to this member’s drinking, he has atrophy to the brain resulting in irreversible, severe memory difficulties often leaving him confused as to what he is doing and unsure of who he is talking to on the phone mid-conversation, made worse when drinking. At one point, Nick attempted to read out his bank card details to me due to forgetting what we were speaking about. I stopped Nick from doing this, but this is just one example of how bad this member struggled.
Not only does Nick have a poor memory but he lacks in mobility due to damage done to his knee quite some time ago, the pain has escalated over time and causes him great difficulty, so he is prescribed painkillers from his GP because of it. Alongside the confusion, physical disability and the loneliness, Nick also experiences agoraphobia, depression, and general anxiety, often making it difficult for him to leave the house and feeling on the verge of a panic attack. Nick only leaves the house once a week on a Monday to go to a Tesco Express to do his weekly shop, something that has happened for the entire duration of our calls together. Due to Nick’s mental health difficulties, he would often cry during our calls and make reference to suicide because he was unhappy with his life. It was apparent that this member had been neglecting himself as he would tell me he had not eaten for several days because he did not have any food, or that he has not had a bath/shower for ten years (when he first moved into his flat) because he cannot access hot water without boiling the kettle.
What support did they require?
After speaking with Nick for the first time, it was clear to me that he did not have capacity and was very much in need of support. He seemed to need support in terms of his mental health, mobility, needing food, his living situation as he struggles walking up and down the stairs to get to/leave his flat, hygiene and general support in every-day tasks as well as the fact he was in denial about his drinking problem.
What support did you provide?
To support Nick, I have made many phone calls to his GP on his behalf to get him medication reviews, doctors’ appointments and even to get advice on how I can better support Nick with his memory difficulties. I have expressed my concern relating to his mental health, self-neglect and his mobility problems, the core things they can potentially help Nick with.
Following on from the call, I made a referral to social services for Nick due to my concerns of him struggling in all aspects and in my view, because he needed additional support. Unfortunately, the first referral was closed almost immediately by social services due to them feeling they could not help Nick’s situation. Not long after this I was contacted by a police officer (Nick gave him my number), who expressed concerns for Nick’s safety due to him calling the police in the early hours of the morning for somebody to talk to. The police officer attended Nick’s address and saw clear signs of self-neglect, mentioning that the house was smelly, dirty, unhygienic, and stated he did not have any food in the house or even a working fridge. From this point, I referred Nick to social services again, alongside the police officer making a PPM referral.
During periods where Nick had not eaten because of not having any food in his house, I made multiple referrals to the Daylight Centre to help him alongside providing him details to The Mental Health Hub and the Community Resilience Hub, which he utilised on at least one occasion in what felt like a time of crisis to him. I often help Nick write lists and ask him to put them in obvious places to remind him of important appointments/events, so he does not have to rely on his memory which seems to really help him. Examples of this is when waiting for a call from his GP, I will help him write a list of his health problems he has told me about that he would like to discuss so he does not forget anything, as well as when receiving a visit from social services, a list of things he would like support with. Not only this but there was a period where Nick could never remember if he had taken his medication or not, so I encouraged him to write a medication diary including the date/time he had taken it so he could check.
Other support included offering guidance on how to shop at low cost, to ensure he has enough food for the week and providing him with taxi company phone numbers to get him to a blood test recently following a doctor’s appointment he had, which I arranged for him due to him having pain in his back, numbness in his feet and dizziness when standing. Nick felt he could not make this appointment himself because he was scared there was something seriously wrong with him, so I did this for him with consent.
What was the achievement?
The support provided to Nick yielded many positive results and changes. Since speaking to Nick’s GP, I was able to gather enough information which allowed me to understand how best to support Nick which resulted in referrals being made. The second referral to social services has proven to be effective, as well as writing a list of needs to present to his social worker on his first visit because this resulted in Nick receiving regular home visits from social services, phone calls and additional support from them. This includes having somebody else to talk to (they referred him to Glamis Hall, so he occasionally receives a call from them, this helps with the loneliness). Social services are going to create a plan with Nick to move him into more accessible accommodation (a ground floor flat) given his mobility issues which will also solve the problem of not having any hot water. This is going to be greatly beneficial for Nick, because it prevents him from experiencing additional pain walking up and down the stairs and it will allow him to have better hygiene and live more comfortably, these plans are currently being put in place.
Due to arranging doctors’ appointments and medication reviews for Nick, he is now being given the right medication to address his mental health needs and the pain he suffers with his bad back and knee injury, which has resulted in a positive mood change. They have added an additional medication for his anxiety and to help with his sleeping. Nick now presents as being happy most of the time and no longer makes reference to self-harm or suicide which is the complete opposite to how he was when we first started speaking. He no longer tends to cry in our phone calls together which used to occur every time we spoke. Nick also now has regular contact with a mental health nurse which he finds helpful. Since his mental health has improved, Nick has been able to go out and do his weekly shop feeling much safer, whereas before, his agoraphobia would make him feel as if he were going to have a panic attack because he felt anxious and unsafe. Not only this but when we speak now, Nick often presents as being sober and coherent, it is only occasionally where he is not, whereas in the beginning, every time I spoke to him, he would be intoxicated, and this would be across various days of the week. Nick recently admitted to sometimes drinking on a Monday but then not for the rest of the week.
Since Nick attended his blood test regarding his health difficulties, he has presented as less worried as he now knows he does not have something seriously wrong with him like he thought he did, which he said used to be always on his mind. Since the support Nick has received by multiple services, he has made many positive, recognisable changes as a person which has resulted in him drinking less and often not at all, allowing him to be more coherent and less confused.
The food parcels received have enabled Nick to eat proper food, whereas before if all he had was severely mouldy bread, he would eat that to get by/because he was so hungry.
How did they feel about this? And the support provided?
Nick has always been incredibly grateful about the support he has received from Bridge and other services, Bridge seems to be the first service he turns to if he is having a bad day and needs support because he knows he will receive it, whether it is just somebody to talk to cure his loneliness or making a referral to another service for additional support. This is shown by the fact that when the police officer attended his address, the first contact number he thought of was a Bridge contact number, or when he has injured himself, he will think to contact Bridge before a doctor. Nick could not even remember my name to begin with but now Bridge is a service he relies on.
Some comments Nick has made throughout our time working together over the last 12 months which I have recorded in my case notes are:
“Talking to you has cheered me up”.
“Speaking to you has changed my whole mood”.
“You’re doing wonders for me” – When speaking about a time he would only drink on a Monday.
“You have been so kind to me; I’m actually choking up at how kind you’ve been to me”.
“Thank you for everything Jess, I appreciate everything you do for me”.
“As long as you’re at the end of the phone, I don’t feel so alone”.
“I appreciate all your help at the moment”.
“You’ve got to take 70% of the credit for how I am” – Comment mentioned when reflecting on the progress he has made.
“I do really appreciate your input into my life, seriously you’re doing a very good job”.
“You are my lifeline”.
“You may not know it, but you are really helping me”.
Nick referred to us all at Bridge as being “unsung heroes” and said, “I can’t praise you all enough”.
What position are they in now?
As a result of all the support received, Nick has previously reported to have cut down his drinking, is eating better (through periods of depression he had a loss of appetite) and is sleeping better.
From a phone call I had with Nick today, where I got consent from him to use his name and consent to present his case, when receiving support, he said “it’s nice to hear from a friendly voice, I appreciate it”. When discussing how he was when we first started working together, he said “I was in quite a dark place then, I do feel more positive now and I’m not drinking” which he agreed is helping his mindset and helps him feel less confused.
Nick mentioned he has received general support from me, help with food parcels and has found “just knowing that you’re there” helpful.
“A circular route will always lead you back to the place where you started.”
MAPS AND COMPASSES
Recovery, more often than not, is a long and difficult journey. The most intrepid traveller might be tempted to go it alone but it’s better to have an experienced guide or, at the very least, a good map and a decent compass.
He looked me squarely in the eyes and asked me why. It was a simple question, but the answer was complex. I wasn’t feeling very well that day and the complexity frightened me. So I shrugged and examined my fingernails. But he wouldn’t let the matter drop. He pushed for that complex answer. Doctors can be like that. So I cleared my throat and returned his stare.
“You mean why did I raise that glass to my lips? You want to know what made me relapse?”
“I had no map, I had no compass.”
“Map? Compass? I don’t understand.”
“No, you don’t.”
At that point he did avert his gaze. But only briefly. “So, can you tell me why?”
I shifted in my seat and looked out of the window. I focussed on a roof top across the street. It was raining. But I began to talk despite the rain.
“I’m grateful for the detox. Really, I am. But on its own it was never going to be enough. It was never going to be anything other than a start. And a start is of absolutely no use if you don’t know in which direction the end lies. No map, no compass, no idea of my destination. A circular route will always lead you back to the place where you started.”
“So you went out and bought a bottle of Whisky? You poured yourself a drink?”
“Tell me what you were thinking.”
That one was easy. I remembered it clearly.
“I saw that amber poison and swished it around in my glass. Then I smelt it. It smelled of sweet release. But God, or one of his minions, sat on my left shoulder while the devil himself sat on my right. One said yes as the other screamed no. They are heavy souls and it’s difficult to carry them around all day and all night. They are a burden and they never shut up. And they tire me. I really was so very tired.”
“So you drank?”
“So the devil won?”
“You’re presuming that one is right and the other is wrong.”
“You misunderstand me. I want rid of the pair of them. Their arguments are futile and meaningless. I need them to be quiet. I just want…”
I faltered. The words got stuck in my throat.
“You just want a map and a compass?”
Any service is only as good as the philosophy that underpins its purpose and motives.
One of the things that most impressed me about Bridge, when I first chanced upon them, was a declaration of their belief that any one particular approach to recovery is no better, or worse, than another.
There would be no doctrine. No force feeding. Recovery is the responsibility of the individual that seeks it.
It seemed to me that Bridge was endeavouring to provide an environment that was conducive to recovery, but the choices remained mine. There was no judgement, there were no demands. There were no promises but there were suggestions and encouragement. There was tea without sympathy, there was hope without concrete expectation. There was a belief that recovery is as important, if not more important, than treatment. I’m convinced that one can’t work without the other.
I suppose that Bridge gave me a map and a compass. I studied the map and circled my desired destination. It was only a start, but it was a start with a realistic potential outcome. And I guess that was all I had ever needed.
I still haven’t reached my destination. To be honest, I don’t care if I never do. I’m simply enjoying the journey. Some days the sun shines, some days it rains. But no one sits on my shoulders anymore.
“His drinking led to him being unable to control both his bladder and bowel movements.”
This member was referred to Bridge in November 2020 due to his issues with alcohol.
He was attending the pub daily as soon as they were open. He would drink 6 pints and then buy more cans of lager to drink at home. He was averaging 90 cans a week. This made him extremely vulnerable to others and was being financially abused as ‘associates’ were having their drinks bought by him. Bank statements showed the financial difficulty this was placing him in. His drinking led to him being unable to control both his bladder and bowel movements.
His drinking was having an impact on his relationships with both his children and his siblings.
This member was living in shared accommodation which was not suitable for his recovery. It was established that he was not claiming housing benefit, for which he was able to claim, and had been using his pension and savings to pay for his accommodation. An application was made for housing benefit. Staff were able to scan and send all the paperwork to the local housing benefit department. Due to the covid restrictions, there was a delay with this claim. However, staff supported the member to contact them and the claim was accepted and housing benefit put in place.
The member had an open Keyways application (housing application) Staff contacted the Keyways department to discuss this application and informed them of our support and how a move would be beneficial to this person’s recovery. He has now been offered a bungalow, which he is due to move into imminently and we are in the process of applying for funding for white goods.
His self – care has improved and is showering and shaving daily, when previously he would not do this. His sister has arranged for a carer to visit twice a week to ensure he manages these daily tasks – which has helped.
Plans have been put in place to reduce the amount of alcohol the member is consuming. He has now reduced from 90 cans a week to 2 glasses of wine a day which are ‘weakened’ by putting in lemonade. Relapse prevention techniques are being put in place for when the pubs are able to reopen. The member’s aim is to be able to continue to drink alcohol socially but to manageable levels and so that he cannot be taken advantage of financially.
The member’s relationship has improved as a result of his reduction in alcohol use.
He is now regularly speaking with his son who lives in USA on the telephone, which he is really pleased about. His relationship with his sister is really positive and she is supporting him also.
His sister has been in contact with staff and thanks us for the support we have given to her brother. She has informed me of the positive changes he has made.
Member has really engaged and praises the work of Bridge, he will often make comments on how great we are and doesn’t know what he would do without us. Member will often just call for a chat as he lives alone. He will say that he is also welcomed with a kind voice which boosts his mood and is looking forward to being able to attend after the lockdown.
“Prior to joining Bridge I know that if faced with this situation then I would have had a drink and would possibly have ‘given up’.”
I first attended Bridge in January 2019. I was drinking one and a half litres of whisky a day and this was costing me over £60 a week. I did not know what to expect when I first came to Bridge but had a pre- conceived idea. When I arrived I freaked out about it as I did not think that the other members were like me and thought that I would not attend again.
Staff made contact with me to see how I was getting on and made suggestions for different activities I could join in. I came back and started attending the meditation and acupuncture sessions. I was also booked into reflexology. I found these sessions to be really beneficial to me and Julie really has healing hands!
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2019 and had a breast removed. This was a really tough time for me but through attending these groups and talking with my support worker and other staff, I was able to get through this. Prior to joining Bridge I know that if faced with this situation then I would have had a drink and would possibly have ‘given up’. At times throughout the last 2 years I have had those thoughts about drink but have strategies in place to stop them developing further. This includes being able to call staff. I know that they will listen to me and support me through my struggles and I am able to overcome these feelings and this is reassuring.
The support and sessions that Bridge have provided during the pandemic has been amazing. I was able to come in for a face to face appointment when I really needed it. They really went above and beyond my expectations as most services were not operating in the same way. When reflexology and meditation restarted, I was able to come in for these sessions. There are lots of zoom sessions that we can attend and this is incredible.
My use has been hard on my family but I am now 2 years abstinent and my relationships are positive.
I have got to know other members during this time by staying longer and spending time in the café with them. I look back at my pre- conceived ideas and I feel appalled at myself. I have made some great friendships and have all the support I need. I really miss interacting with other members and having a laugh with staff and members, and look forward to returning to some ‘normality’.