If you are worried about a family member or friend, or think you may be dependent on drugs or alcohol, support could be just one phone call away.

Ben Bristow, from Reading, realised he had a problem with drinking and had tried to get help in his 30s. He became serious about confronting his issues with alcohol when he was 40; with the help of his GP. 

Now aged 47, Ben has been sober for three years and eight months
Ben (HM Government)

Now aged 47, Ben has been sober for three years and eight months and has completely changed his life after seeking help. 

“I was a bit of a nightmare, getting drunk all the time. I wasn’t arrested or fighting or anything like that. I was just a pain in the backside, so I’m very lucky my family supported me,” he says. 

It all changed for Ben when his girlfriend left him. “We had a big bust-up and she told me I was a very heavy drinker. I broke my hand after punching a wall and ended up in hospital. 

“My GP was informed – when I went to my check-ups, we spoke about my drinking and he directed me to a local drug and alcohol recovery centre,” he explains. 

Any health professional, including your GP or practice nurse, can help you to access the free expert services closest to you. 

With the help of his key worker and by going to SMART recovery sessions Ben managed to reduce his drinking then, at the same time as the centre was taken over by the service provider Change Grow Live, he reached a turning point. 

“I thought ‘I’ve lost too much, too many friends and too many jobs’. I’ve had quite a few long-term relationships and most of those have been destroyed through my drinking. And that’s what’s changed. I was like, ‘I have got to get my life back together’.” 

Ben says the future is a lot brighter for him. He goes out on walks, enjoying nature and life and now volunteers three days a week at the centre, and hopes to become a key worker in the future. 

“I wouldn’t have got sober without their help, and I wanted to give back what I’d learned to help other people in similar situations.” 

He’s candid about his journey to recovery and the work it has taken to become sober: “You cannot, I believe, recover without being honest with yourself and those around you. You’ve got to realise where you’ve gone wrong. Be very honest with yourself.” 

The centre that helped Ben is just one example of the many great treatment services run by different providers. If you are worried about yourself or someone else not only is getting help vital, it’s also free and it works. 

How to get support 

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing problems with using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to know that treatment is available, treatment works, and you can access it easily. 

  • Call FRANK anytime on 0300 123 6600 for confidential advice and information, including how to access treatment services; you can also check out talktofrank.com/help (link to https://www.talktofrank.com/get-help) 

  • Your GP is also a good place to start if you or someone you care about wants to get help. They can discuss your problems with you and get you into treatment. If you’re not comfortable talking to a GP, you can approach your local drug and alcohol treatment service yourself without a referral, or a friend or family member can contact the local service on your behalf. You can find details of treatment services on your local authority’s website. 

  • In addition to treatment services, there are mutual aid groups that offer support from a community of people in recovery. These include Alcoholics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and SMART Recovery UK – and for families and friends Al Anon and Families Anonymous. 

  • Drug and alcohol problems can be a hard subject to discuss, especially if you think your friend or relative has a problem. Try to stay open-minded and remember that, with the right help and support, most people overcome problematic use before any serious harm is caused. 

You can call FRANK anytime on 0300 123 6600 for confidential advice and information. Find out more at talktofrank.com/help