FOR Julie Bleasdale, drinking was an ordinary part of life.
The odd glass of wine with friends was something she did not even question, but slowly and silently her habit took control of her life until one day that odd glass had become at least a bottle every night.
Now the mum-of-six has become the 450th graduate of a pioneering drug and alcohol rehabilitation service.
Her friends were forced to intervene in August last year when she suffered a mental breakdown. She could not remember where she was and began to speak gibberish, so her loved ones took the heartbreaking decision to call the police, who took her to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
Doctors at the Morningside psychiatric facility suggested she take part in the Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme (LEAP) – something which Julie credits with transforming her life.
She said: “I had suffered with stress and depression and found I was drinking a bit too much and bingeing a lot. I was taking antidepressants as well.
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“I never felt I was a good enough mum, I had terribly low self-esteem and I would hide the way I was feeling from everyone. I would be run ragged taking the kids on trips, trying to be a perfect mum.
“Then I would binge drink and feel immense shame and guilt, pushing my self-esteem lower and lower, and turning to alcohol again.
“When I was drunk I was like a toddler – any sense of danger would disappear. I’d climb over balconies and disappear with strangers.
“I knew I was doing my body damage and eventually I did end up in hospital.”
Her earlier attempts to stop drinking had failed but Julie found her feet during the LEAP programme, which she graduated from on Thursday.
The ground-breaking programme offers clinical, medical and therapeutic care to around 20 patients at a time from its base at the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Morningside.
Run in partnership with the city council, participants were housed in supported living during the 12-week programme while attending group therapy and one-on-one sessions.
Julie said: “We all recognise that we come from different backgrounds and have very different views on life but we all share the same thinking and behavioural patterns.
“I have never felt as positive or optimistic in my life before as I do at this point. One of the most important things I have learned is to ask for help and support. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I hate appearing vulnerable.”
Julie now hopes to help others struggling with addiction by becoming a peer support worker and going back to college to study counselling.
Dr David McCartney, clinical lead of LEAP at NHS Lothian, said: “Today is a really special day for Julie and her family as it marks a key point in her recovery.”