Harrogate's 'secret' alcoholism in spotlight

Alcoholism is Harrogate's hidden problem but it can be tackled.
Alcoholism is Harrogate's hidden problem but it can be tackled.

Harrogate’s hidden drink problem is in the spotlight as volunteers in the local AA fellowship aim to challenge misconceptions as part of Alcohol Awareness Week.

How big the extent of lives blighted by alcohol is locally is hinted at by the number of Alcoholic Anonymous meetings held on a weekly basis in the Harrogate area - 16.
But a spokesperson for Harrogate AA said she hoped the national awareness week, which runs to Sunday, would clear up public misconceptions about the issue.
The spokesperson said: “There’s a lot going on under the surface. Whether they realise it or not, everyone in Harrogate will know someone who is effected by alcoholism.
“People usually think an AA meeting is full of drunks off park benches but it isn’t like that in Harrogate. It’s ordinary people, professionals, and middle class housewives, young and old.”
A recovering alcoholic herself, the spokesperson said the biggest benefit of coming to AA meetings is they are run by people like herself.
“People who come to the AA are at rock bottom. Drink problems can leave a trail of broken marriages and lost jobs , as well as health problems.
“But there’s no hierarchy at the AA. We’re not professionals, we’ve been through the same thing.
“We’re here to help each other. Only an alcholic can understand another alcoholic. It is a genuine fellowship.”
Another Harrogate-based recovering alcoholic, a 58-year-old man who had a successful business and, what he describes as, a “good upbringing”, said the organisation had turned his life around.
“I called the AA Helpline in an act of complete desperation. I couldn’t live without alcohol - or with it.
“I just couldn’t seem to stop or even control my drinking.”
“As well as whether the 12 step recovery programme would work for me, I also had many fears and reservations about what sober living would be like.
“But I’ve not picked up a drink for 29 years now and I’ve managed to deal with the normal things of life like births, deaths, and everything in between in complete sobriety.
“I was compulsively out of control for the last 10 years of my drinking but AA’s fellowship has been unconditionally supportive throughout all my sober years.”
There are no fees for AA membership. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking and to stay sober from then on.
More details are available at www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk