Published: 00:01, 15 November 2018
| Updated: 07:44, 15 November 2018
From the outside looking in, young Lucy Weekes had it all - a grounded, stable family, promising grades at school, and was a young girl full of potential.
Yet she was gripped by an alcohol addiction which led to her being sectioned - until she turned her life around with the help of a rehabilitation centre in Kent.
Growing up in a grounded, stable family in leafy West Sussex, this quiet but bright and articulate pupil was popular among both peers and teachers at school.
Lucy Weekes speaks about her addiction
She had a love for horses a knack for show-jumping which took her to a number of countries all around the globe. The world appeared to be her oyster.
But beneath her calm, unwavering exterior was a crippling disease that would eventually lead to sectioning, a night behind bars and the loss of custody of her two sons: alcoholism.
It began, Lucy recalls, when aged just 15, she tried to overdose on prescription tablets after a long weekend of drinking.
“I didn’t like me, I didn’t want to be in my skin, and the drink would give me confidence,” she said.
Lucy would usually drink lager - often 12 cans a day - but five or six bottles of wine was not uncommon either, and it quickly became a case of just knocking back whatever she could get her hands on.
She would drink until she blacked out, going days without eating and being violently sick in the process - a cycle that plagued the vast majority of her early adult life.
Despite giving birth to two children - now aged eight and 10 - she struggled to curb her addiction and reached a particularly low ebb while they were both still toddlers.
Lucy was sectioned after another overdose, but ran away from the hospital where she was being treated, only to be found lying on the Sussex seafront, a bottle of vodka in her hand, and cannulas still in her arms.
“I was a complete drain on the NHS’s resources and made some very bad decisions, but when you reach that stage you’re just a shell of a person,” she said.
“It sounds awful, and it sounds selfish, but I couldn’t even stop drinking for my kids.
“It’s an allergy of the mind - you’re obsessing about not drinking and you’re massively craving a drink at the same time, it’s absolute chaos.”
Lucy did, however, manage to kick the habit for two years between 2013 and 2015, and appeared to be back on track, having set up her own cleaning company.
"It sounds awful, and it sounds selfish, but I couldn't even stop drinking for my kids" - Lucy Weekes
Until one night when she poured what she thought would be an innocent glass of wine to go with a relaxing bath.
As soon as the alcohol passed her lips, her life would again spiral out of control, and she ended up spending a night in the cells for drink driving, before being whisked into court the next morning.
“That’s when I was really feeling the shame, the remorse and the guilt,” she said.
“The disease had taken a massive grip on me and my parents had to step in and look after the children. I’d surrendered. I’d given up.”
With nowhere else to go, she turned to the Kenward Trust in Yalding, near Maidstone, where she has spent five months in rehab, and is now back on her feet, living in Springfield Road, Southborough.
Now 39, Lucy is speaking out ahead of Alcohol Awareness Week, which begins on Monday, to try and encourage more sufferers to get the help they so desperately need.
“I believe I was born an alcoholic - whatever the circumstances, I was destined for this path,” she said.
“I had to be honest about who I was and Kenward for me was a place where I could do that - it’s a therapeutic form of rehab, where they give you time to sit on your own and be with yourself.”
Her children now live with their father and his new partner, but Lucy still sees them regularly, where the remarkable progress she has made is plain to see.
“I have ambitions in this field, to try and help raise awareness of this disease and what it can do,” she added.
“Hopefully the children now live a life without fear of their mum being drunk.”
According to Alcohol Concern, there are 595,131 dependent drinkers, of which only 108,696 are currently accessing treatment.
The Kenward Trust, based in Kenward Road, Yalding, helps transform the lives of more than 200 men and women each year - addressing the key issue of alcohol abuse as well as misuse of others substances and homelessness.
This year the trust is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and has recently appointed its first female chief executive, Penny Williams.
She said: “My vision is to continue the amazing work that our clinical teams do in transforming lives and creating new futures, and to develop the social enterprise opportunity for all of our residents.”
For Lucy, her rehabilitation began at Kenward House before she was able to move into supported accommodation in Southborough.
There she is supported through key working and weekly house meetings with the project manager.