“I think Britain has a huge drink problem,” Alastair Campbell, former Director of Communications and Strategy for Tony Blair, recently told Jesus Life. “I think there’s a real danger that all the focus is on binge drinking and people causing trouble in city centres. I’m not saying that isn’t a problem, but I think the bigger problem is the middle class professionals who are addicted to alcohol.
“As a country I don’t think we have accepted that so many people, particularly middle-class people, are addicted to drink. They’re not so visible – they are often at home – they don’t come out drunk.”
Dominic Finch-Noyes, 58, a member of the Jesus Fellowship, runs a group at Northampton Jesus Centre for people who with serious alcohol issues called “Stay Dry, Be Free”. Dominic has experienced firsthand the painful slide into alcoholism.
“My father was a wine merchant,” explains Dominic; “I grew up in a drinking environment. I went into the wine trade, too, and had my own business. Until my late 30s I was a borderline alcoholic.
“In the late 80s and early 90s I had been very successful business-wise. But the early 90s financial crisis caused interest rates to rise quickly. Being a small business man, my company overdraft suddenly cost me much more; customers stopped paying; cash-flow dried up. I had a young family and a mortgage and started drinking incessantly to cope with the stress.
“My wife, Susan, was a Christian (I wasn’t). She had the courage to believe that things would eventually get sorted. She coped until she couldn’t cope anymore, but eventually told me I had to live somewhere else.
“I tried as hard as I could, for four years, to give up drinking – unsuccessfully. I wanted more than anything to stop. I managed to get into residential rehab, but was chucked out for drinking (worse than ever) and hitched to near our house in Huntingdon, where I lived rough. One morning, I waited till the kids were at school, knocked on the door and asked my wife for a cup of tea. I went into the downstairs toilet and saw myself in the shaving mirror and the enormity of my helplessness hit me; I looked like a twitchy scarecrow. I realised I just couldn’t fix this. At that point, for the first time in my life, I started crying out to God.”
Dominic’s wife had heard about the Jesus Fellowship and rang asking for help. Two weeks later, Dominic went to stay at Honeycomb, a Jesus Fellowship house in Northamptonshire.
Dominic continues: “I was ill with alcohol, underweight and weak. I spent June and July 1994 working on the Jesus Fellowship’s farm. I got physically well and at the same time I found new life; I was born again. Later I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I did drink a couple more times, but six months later I had my last drink. That was in January 1995.”
“My wife visited me and made friends, too. I lived at Honeycomb for six months and Susan was so happy with what she found that she had the confidence to agree to sell our house in Huntingdon. In 1995, my family all moved into Honeycomb with me and we stayed for six or seven months before moving to our own new home.
“My family was back together again. They’ve forgiven me for the pain I caused them and I have a new church family too. Jesus continues to give me the strength to stay dry and to help others to do the same.”
Alastair Campbell describes his “big crash”, back in the 1980s – the day he ended up in hospital when drinking and depression triggered a breakdown – as “the best day of my life and the worst day of my life; it was the best because I survived and sorted myself out”.
He added, “I think part of the problem with all mental illness, and I include alcoholism in that category, is that there’s still so much stigma and taboo attached to it that people are generally reluctant to open up. The most important thing, I think, is to bring it more out into the open. If you’re reluctant to open up, you don’t find the services that might be able to help you.
“I know from experience that the first step you have to take is to admit your problem. My worry is that for some people there is no rock bottom, before death.
“It’s only because of what I gained through the experience that I have been able to do what I have done since. It’s helped me prioritise and accept things that are important which before I had pushed away.”
Dominic identified relationships as key to his recovery: “I had never met Christian men I could relate to before. Now I met guys of my age, people I could connect with. I realised there was a masculine, virile, radical faith available. I’d never appreciated this – and it was for me.”
“Stay Dry, Be Free”, the alcohol support group Dominic and others run, aims to be a secure, trusting environment for people to share honestly how they have coped with their addiction during the last week.
“The group has to be a safe place,” Dominic explains. “People can look at us and say, ‘If they can do it – people who have hit rock bottom – I can. The group is inclusive – people of any faith or none are welcome. However, we do say, ‘This is the Jesus Centre; sometimes we may pray – but we will not shove it down your throat. We may also discuss our experience from a spiritual dimension.’ There is no programme, no professionals and sometimes we just sit around and have a discussion.”
Paul, a member of the group, put it like this: “A car that has had a head on smash can take months, even years, to repair and that is the same with us. We have to learn to cope with the guilt, the regrets. People need to not just know about forgiveness; they need to experience it.”
What Is An Alcoholic?
Someone who is dependent on or addicted to alcohol.
What Are Alcohol’s Withdrawal Symptons?
When alcoholics abstain from drink their experiences include: sweating, nausea, shaking, diarrhoea, rapid heartbeat and seizures (which
can be life threatening). Psychological symptoms include stress, anxiety and depression.
What Are the Side Effects of Alcohol-dependency?
- Physical problems include: insomnia, infertility, memory loss, liver disease, high blood pressure, stroke, coronary heart disease and obesity.
- Psychological problems include: anxiety, depression and suicidal feelings.
- Personal problems include: loss or disruption of relationships, loss of employment, financial difficulties.
- Social problems can include crime such as violence or theft.
- Safety problems include accidents at work, at home, and on the road.
Meet friends, get creative and have lots of fun along the way at the Scrap & Yap Papercraft club!
This article is reproduced by kind permission of ‘Quick cards made Easy‘ magazine, where it recently featured as club of the month.
Set up in 2007, the Scrap & Yap Papercraft club soon made a name for itself as a great place to get together for a friendly craft session. Susan Finch Noyes, who started the club with her friend, Sarah, explains: “We wanted to meet like-minded people and share our skills and stash. We started as a scrapbooking group, but found more and more people wanted to make cards. Now we mainly focus on card making, with some scrapbooking mixed in!”
The club meet on the last Friday of each month from 10.30am-1pm and there are anything between six and 15 members at each session. It costs £2 to attend, which includes all materials. “Every session, myself or Sarah will demonstrate a technique like stamping, quilling and embossing, or we’ll make a card based on a theme like men’s cards or animals. Then it’s eyes down and off we go! Often we use Quick Cards as inspiration – we recently had a go at making the 3D fold-out flower cards from Issue 90, which we really enjoyed,” says Susan.
Through their shared love of craft, members have become firm friends. “Occasionally, we’ll have a meal together after the meeting. Friendships have flourished outside the club, too. Margaret, a member who lives on a narrowboat and knows a lot about being tidy in a small space, has bravely taken on the task of helping Sarah become tidier!” Susan laughs. “Margaret is now fondly known as the bedroom inspector and visits Sarah once a week to encourage her!”
The club also welcomes new members with open arms, as Susan explains: “One of the best things is watching beginners develop and gain confidence. One member, Jill, recently finished a scrapbook album for her daughter who’s getting married, and another, Linda, made an album for her daughter who has Cerebral Palsy. New members quickly settle in because the club is very friendly and relaxed, and everyone is so welcoming.”
Find out more: If you’d like to join the Scrap & Yap Papercraft club, call Susan on 07772901535 or Sarah on 07833 737851 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jayne Elliott, NJC volunteer coordinator and team leader writes.
One of the services we run is ‘Listening Ear’. This service is open to anyone who walks in regardless of faith or non-faith who needs someone to talk to.
It’s amazing that in this social networking, media obsessed society, with many ways to communicate with the outside world that people still feel there is no one who will really listen to them or who they can talk to about the things that are really worrying them.
Your Space, our Women’s only drop in session on a Thursday afternoon also operates as a listening service. The women who’ve come to talk recently shared concerns about their lack of meaningful relationships, abusive pasts, struggles with depression, anxiety, mental illness and their health. Some of them struggle with faith and their relationship with God, seeing Him as an angry authority figure, who they can never please, rather than as a loving heavenly Father who loves and accepts them and wants a relationship with them. This may well be a reflection of their relationships with their fathers, step fathers or partners.
It is always an immense privilege and often very humbling when someone shares their story with you. Often where they start isn’t where they finish and you have to listen right to the end to uncover the real issues they want to talk about.
Sam (not her real name) came in very agitated and concerned about her mental health, feeling very depressed and anxious and on the surface concerned about a doctors’ appointment. But by the end of our conversation she opened up about her loneliness, which had led her into pornography and masturbation and the feelings of guilt this left her with that kept her from coming to God to ask Him to help her. We were able to share together and pray for God to deal with her emotional needs that were at the root of her habit.
Do you have to have been through the same experience as the person? No, you just have to be willing to give up some time to listen.
Do you have to have an answer to their situation? No, most people just need to talk. Sometimes they find the answer within themselves; others are keen to receive prayer.
Does God come and wave a magic wand and sort all their problems out? If He did we’d have people queuing around the building to get prayed for! Prayer does sometimes work like that. But essentially what we ask the person to do is to invite God into the situation and ask Him to bring wisdom, peace, healing, or whatever the person feels they need. Then we hand the situation over to God for Him to work.
And He does.
Our Listening Ear service is available Mon- Fri 10-4pm
Your Space women’s only drop in is available every Thursday afternoon 1.30-3pm in the Step Up lounge