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Dean's Story - "A few beers on the way home turned into all-nighters"

The eldest of three children, Dean grew up in North London where his childhood was scarred by his father’s alcoholism. He regularly came to the defence of his mother, when his father turned violent.

Growing up with drink

Dean also helped his mum to bring up his younger brother and sister. The terrible irony of his young life was that he began drinking at 14 as a respite from a home life, which had been poisoned by alcohol. Just to get out of the house, Dean would meet with his mates who all had drinking habits, and he happily joined in. Not for a moment did he believe that he would become like the man who had, largely, driven him to drink.

Already alienated at school, where he felt helpless academically, Dean increasingly played truant. He was expelled five months before he was due to leave and entered the world of work with no qualifications. Jobs in the building industry gave him a promising start, but just like his fellow workers, every lunchtime found Dean in a pub and practically every evening too.

His partner at that time suggested that some evenings should be spent indoors, so that they could both reduce their consumption. It was then that he discovered there was a serious problem. Dean had barely sat down in front of the television, without a drink, when he announced he was going to the off licence to buy some beers. His addiction was now official.

Losing everything to addiction

Dean’s life became a repeating pattern of lost jobs through drunkenness or absenteeism, bad behaviour towards family and friends and violent altercations with the police. He needed a drink as soon as he was awake: beer, whisky or brandy was the way he started every single day. “A few beers on the way home from work turned into all-nighters,” he recalls.

The drink-fuelled arguments with his partner made home life a tragic echo of Dean’s own childhood. He moved in and out of the family home, becoming a constant disruptive factor in the lives of his three daughters. Severe debt and hospitalisation also became routine. A persistent back injury and depression led to an addiction to painkillers and sleeping tablets, worsening his condition to the point where a doctor gave him only months to live, unless he stopped drinking.

Kenward House

The combination of alcohol and narcotics dependency had led to Dean becoming a recluse. He was now living with his Mum; scared to leave the house because of the panic attacks that happened when he stepped outside the door. But one day, whilst sat at home and reaching for another drink, Dean made a decision out of nowhere. “I knew I’d soon be dead if I didn’t find help to get me off the drink,” he says, “so I made an appointment with a detox centre.”

During the detox period, Kenward House was recommended as the best residential recovery project for his particular needs. Dean arrived at the House three weeks before Christmas 2011.

“My head was all over the place when I got to Kenward. I couldn’t really work out what was going on and I was crying with bewilderment. After five days unable to sleep, my body suddenly turned to jelly and I was able to switch off for a desperately needed rest.

"Once I got used to being in new surroundings, I found that the combination of 12-step work, counselling, therapy and key working made me feel incredibly positive about recovery. The staff explained everything clearly to me, so there weren’t too many shocks to the system, except when I heard I would have to tell my life story in front of the group!”

The road to recovery

The act of revealing all to virtual strangers is one of the most difficult, yet most rewarding things a resident will have to do whilst at Kenward House. It helped Dean realise that group work would be crucial to his recovery and he forced himself into meetings in spite of feeling physically tired much of the time.

The professional expertise and compassion of Kenward’s staff brought Dean to the full realisation of what his addiction had done to others, as well as himself. His Mum, partner, children and friends had suffered from his behaviour, and the plans he had made throughout his life had come to nothing because all his time and money had been consumed by alcohol.

Dean is now working towards an English qualification at college as well as an IT qualification at Kenward’s second stage project, the Malthouse. He is now in regular contact with his children, and in the remarkable position of having a second chance to make plans with his life that will not be thwarted by addiction.