Jean*, 54, of Denbighshire, was given a 12-month supervised community order with a requirement to attend an alcohol course after being found guilty of drink-driving. She was also banned from driving for 28 months.
She said: “I had been driving with 104 micrograms of alcohol in 100 milliletres of breath, therefore well over the mandatory limit. I am an alcoholic. I have been so for years, but have had long stretches of sobriety, and then relapsed.
“These events occurred after a relapse, and a period of crisis drinking. I had continued to drink after being made redundant from my job, and my life once again had become unmanageable. The result was I risked others and my own life in a moment of drunken insanity.
“Having never had to deal with probation services before, I did not know what to expect. I aligned probation with punishment and I felt afraid. My first meeting with Joanne, my probation officer, was very reassuring. She explained she was there to support me and we talked over my drink-driving conviction. Her understanding and empathy, whilst still acknowledging the complete seriousness of the crime, was enormous. She saw the remorse in me. She explained she wanted to support me, offer me practical solutions to move forward, and I could access further help and guidance if I needed it. The lady in charge of the alcohol treatment course was also very helpful and understanding.”
But with addiction taking hold, Jean’s condition deteriorated and eventually she had a serious fall and was admitted to hospital. Having been threatened with eviction, and a court appearance for non-attendance of probation meetings, she was admitted to Touchstones 12 Rehabilitation Centre in Colwyn Bay.
She had met Lindsay, the local housing officer, and Steph, the alcohol liaison officer at Glan Clwyd Hospital, who both worked tirelessly for Jean to obtain a place at the centre.
There, she met Rob and the team and says the experience has been wonderful. The support she received was, and still is, huge, and the relationship between Emma, her keyworker, and probation services working together meant Jean could start to manage her order at the Colwyn Bay probation office and work with Eirian, a new probation officer.
She added: “With the safe and warm environment of Touchstones 12, help and support of the dedicated staff, and the work of probation, I have completed my order. I have been sober for nearly eleven months, and have learnt many new skills in the house. I am able to go to support groups and the house directed me to the Bay Learning Centre in Colwyn Bay, where with the help of Abby, my tutor, I am now able to move over to Llandrillo College to start a business administration course.
“I have also completed courses offered in the house, including a ten-week Barnardo’s course, where I was able to examine addiction and the effects on children and family. The three-week relapse prevention course in the house is exceptional and I am now feeling confident about my ability to cope outside the centre.
“I believe Touchstones 12 essentially saved my life. Joanne and Eirian, my probation officers, have become a huge part of my support network as I continue in rehabilitation there.”
*name changed to protect identity
A Welsh language version is available to read here.