BY TOBY PORTER
The first of a national network of affordable, accessible, self-pay alcohol and drug treatment centres opens in July.
Help Me Stop, in Acton, treats patients out of normal working hours – so they can carry on with their jobs.
The “dayhab” programme is adapted from an intensive outpatient model from Los Angeles, where the Twin Town dayhab centre, boasts 76 per cent of clients are sober nine months later.
A five-week, 160-hour programme at Help Me Stop follows the World Health Organisation’s guidelines for addiction treatment, and combines cognitive behavioural and person-centred therapy with a 12-Step approach.
The centre will be open early mornings, late evenings and weekends, so rather than having to take time off for treatment, recovery can fit around a client’s daily life.
The 160-hour treatment programme can be taken over a period of five to 10 weeks, and the timetable is flexible and tailored to each individual.
Treatment is delivered by experienced British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) therapists, all of whom are in long-term recovery themselves.
It costs £2,500. Chip Somers, Help Me Stop’s clinical adviser, is a psychotherapist and addiction specialist who has worked with a number of high-profile clients.
He said: “Current treatment options open to those with alcohol or drug problems are woefully limited.
“Local authority services are virtually non-existent, while vastly expensive residential rehab facilities are out of reach for most.
“It’s shocking that less than three per cent of people seeking help for alcohol or drug issues currently receive the treatment they need.
“Help Me Stop will change all that. Our affordable and flexible dayhab programme is the first of its kind in the UK. “Not everyone can afford to put their lives on hold for weeks at a time to go to rehab.
“The beauty of dayhab is that it’s designed to fit around daily life. People can stay at home, look after their children, or continue to work or study while receiving treatment
This is rehab in the real world – accessible to all.” Tim Smith, chief executive and founder of Help Me Stop, said: “Collaboration is a hugely important part of our philosophy.
“Early conversations with professionals suggest demand for treatment overwhelmingly outstrips supply, and our aim is to provide an easily accessible facility that can work in close co-operation with other professional services.
“Far too many people are in desperate need of help but simply don’t know where to turn.”
Head of treatment and founder Vernon Hartshorne, who drank regularly from the age of 12 to 36, has been sober for nearly 19 years.
He left school unable to read and write, but is now a qualified addiction therapist and writes regularly on addiction issues. He remembers his mother coming down one Christmas expecting him and his sister to be sneaking a look at their presents.
“Instead I was swigging out of quarter bottle of rum with my sister,” he said. “We were both screwing up our faces because we didn’t like the taste but continued to drink. I reckon I born with a predisposition to become an alcoholic.
“I left school unable to read and write but with a first-class degree in self-destruction. I was on the liquid gold by the age of 12.
Cider was like an internal anaesthetic, melting away my fears and my rage. I never went to the bar and ordered a pint of self pity or snorted a line of anger and self-disgust. I hated everyone and everything, especially rich people.
As I believed that I did not have the ticket to be happy because I didn’t speak in a posh voice.”
Help Me Stop officially launches in West London this July, but is already taking referrals, offering assessments and running pre-treatment therapy groups.
More sites will open across London and the South East of England over the next two years.
‘I would drink to blackout’
Gail Parminter is head of marketing and communications at Help Me Stop. She’s been sober for 10 years.
“I have four sons and I drank throughout their childhood.
Outwardly I was in denial that I had a problem.
“I put my drinking down to stress and told myself I deserved a bottle-and-a-half of wine a night.
I managed to look like everything was okay. I would often drink to blackout and wouldn’t remember the latter part of the evening – sometimes didn’t know if I’d made dinner or not.
I would often drink and drive to pick up boys from evening activities, and when my drinking got really bad, I just avoided planning anything after 7pm as I knew I’d be drunk.
I was almost certainly over the limit from the night before on the school run most mornings. Then one of my sons, aged 15 at the time, videoed me coming in from a neighbour’s barbecue.
He showed it to me the following morning. My dress was ripped, I was a mess and I was telling the boys to f**ck off. I knew I had to stop.
“I tried so many things – I asked to be hypnotised to drink just one bottle of wine a night and acupuncture – twiddle a needle in my wrist instead of drinking.
“It would have been hard to find £25,000 for residential treatment.
I worked as well as being the main child carer, so if I could have fitted treatment around work and childcare I would have jumped at it.
“And the cost could’ve gone on a couple of credit cards.
“I eventually stopped drinking by attending a 12-Step fellowship, and it worked for me. But intensive treatment could have helped me sooner – I was looking for solutions for years but couldn’t find anything suitable.
That’s why I’m so pleased to be working with Help Me Stop – we can provide a much-needed service, not just to women, but to anyone who needs a treatment programme that’s affordable, effective and fits around their daily life.”
Head of treatment and founder Vernon Hartshorne said: “I’ve learned to value myself beyond measure and now I feel like the richest man alive – getting sober taught me that money might buy pleasure but it can never buy joy.
“I’ve learned to live a life of gratitude. If you share a pain it can be halved if you share a pleasure it can be doubled I would much prefer to share my pleasures.”