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Tim's story

When his wine drinking got out of hand, Tim knew he had to do something about it

Tim went from drinking a couple of glasses to a couple of bottles of wine a night after health issues turned his life upside down. A chance encounter with LiveWell made him rethink his drinking and change his relationship with alcohol.

My drinking started as peer pressure when I was younger, in my 20s and 30s. Your mates were drinking so you did. It was weakness really and habit. You’d get in from work and have a swig of something, share a bottle of wine with my partner. They drank routinely, so I did.

I stopped drinking spirits 15 years ago because it was too easy. I would drink whisky with ice and lemonade, and it went down so smoothly, it wasn’t like drinking at all. Once you add a mixer it tastes like a soft drink. I would have four or five without even thinking about it and never measured the quantity of whisky which is 40% alcohol.

I started getting pains in my kidneys and knew I needed to stop so I moved on to just drinking wine. I have always been pretty healthy and played rugby until I was in my 40s. I used to smoke but gave up about 15 years ago.

Then I discovered I had prostate cancer and have been battling that the last couple of years and then, on top of that, I suddenly lost the ability to get up and down stairs or open jam jars – I had no strength in my arms or legs. An MRI scan revealed I had had severe spinal sclerosis and needed two spinal ops on my neck and back which meant I had to learn to walk again.

I was going to hospital every 10 days for physio and hydrotherapy and also taking chemotherapy pills. I could not concentrate because of the medication and had to stop work. I was a business analyst working for a transport group and the job involved some driving and I found I just couldn’t cope with it anymore. But that meant I lost all the interaction and routine that goes with having a job. I had worked all my life, so it was a big change.

That was the beginning of the drinking getting worse. When I no longer had to get up early and drive, the quantity increased. I was at home alone – my wife died 13 years ago – and alcohol was like a friend. It was company, enjoyable, something I looked forward to and part of my routine. I would pour a glass of wine while I cooked, then a bit more, then one with supper. It really started totting up without me even thinking about it.

"Within a few months I went from drinking three or four glasses to a couple bottles of night. I would wake up the next day feeling dehydrated and with a headache"

Then one day I had an appointment at hospital and there was a LiveWell Dorset stand in the foyer with a young man and woman manning it. I looked at the banners by their display and looked at them and decided to head over and sit down for a chat. It was a pure spur of the moment thing. I just suddenly felt I really needed to talk to someone about my drinking.  I could not believe I was doing this as I am a very private person. I am so glad I did though. They were so kind and gentle and non-judgemental.

They offered to follow-up with some help, and I had email asking for some information about me and what I would like to get help with and what did I want to get out of it - a simple process – and I ended up being offered coaching. When I made that move and went to talk to LiveWell it was the start of recognising I needed help.

My father always said if something is worrying you and you can do something about it, do it, if not, stop thinking about it. I thought I couldn’t do anything about my cancer but, actually, I could. I did something about my drinking which is going to have a big impact on my overall health. I am helping my body cope with everything that has been thrown at it.

 "I thought coaching might be difficult but talking to my coach Susan was easy, because it wasn’t face-to-face, so not awkward, and it is so much easier to talk to someone impartial, a stranger, than it is to admit things like this to friends."

The most interesting thing about coaching is the honesty. You must be honest, to your coach and to yourself, otherwise what’s the point? You want an opinion, but it needs to be honest – and you’ll get that from LiveWell. One day I hit a brick wall and opened a few bottles. I felt like I had let Susan down.

I had been feeling better and popped some wine on my internet shop – I remember the familiar jingle of bottles as the delivery arrived. I thought I could control my drinking, but the truth is I can’t. We are all human and getting back on track and trying again is the most important thing. My coach helped me see that.

I simply had to stop drinking and not buy alcohol. The result was an instant improvement in my health – I was getting better sleep, waking up feeling hungry instead of hungover and feeling really alive. I had this sudden surge of wellbeing.

"Whenever I am tempted, I have my coach in my mind, I don’t want to disappoint her. I just don’t have alcohol in the house. There is a wine cooler that is looking a bit sorry for itself, but otherwise it’s all going well."

Recently some friends came round with a bottle, and I had a few glasses to be sociable. But I have found that now and again, one-off is Ok. If I don’t buy or keep wine in the house I can cope really well.

Livewell has been a life-changer for me. If I had carried on drinking it would have killed me. Talking to LiveWell is like a hare jumping out in front of your headlights. It makes you stop and think. Every contact I have had from LiveWell has made me feel part of a family – and I really mean that from my heart. They totally put me at ease about asking for help and made me feel incredibly valued and welcome.

Men don’t like talking about themselves or their health, but I have talked more to my coach, Susan, about my health and wellbeing in this past year than I ever have to any of my friends or family. I’d say don’t be embarrassed and ashamed  to seek help - you should be proud of yourself for doing just that.

Want to drink less?

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How does this work?

The tailored approach LiveWell Dorset uses to come up with solutions to the things that are stopping us achieving our goals, is based upon work done by University College London developing the COM-B model of behaviour change. In this model, all behaviour is influenced by understanding a person’s capability to change, their opportunity to change and their motivation to change. By understanding which of these is the biggest barrier to change, we can tailor support accordingly. This model of behaviour change is at the centre of the support we offer, online and in person.

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