Alex's story

  • Read how Alex found the right help for her drinking.

    This story might give you a feel for how a counsellor can work with you to find the right sort of help. Alex was worried about her drinking – her counsellor helped her decide to seek specialised support and gave her information about where she could find it. This story is based on a typical situation, but Alex isn’t a real person. We can’t give you a real example because we are a confidential service.

    Alex recognised that she needed help with her drinking.

    • She started taking illegal drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol when she 14.
    • She felt more confident when she had a drink, and most of her friends drank a lot too.
    • Since coming to university her drinking had got out of control.

    How things started

    When she was growing up, Alex often felt lonely and lacking in confidence. She kept her feelings hidden, because she felt embarrassed about them.

    When she was about 14, her group of friends began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Alex was a bit scared, but also excited and interested. She discovered that when she’d had a few drinks she felt more confident, instead of worrying about what people thought of her.

    When Alex came to Brookes her confidence was still low, and she worried about making new friends. She coped by drinking quite a lot when she went out with other students. It helped her feel that she was fitting in and making friends. She was soon going out almost every nights.

    Things get worse

    Alex liked the lively, confident feeling she got when she was drinking. She started drinking before she went out. When she stayed at home, she would drink while she was studying, believing that it helped her to concentrate. Late in the evening she would have more to drink, believing that it helped her to sleep.

    Soon Alex was missing lectures and finding it very hard to get up in the morning because she was hungover. She lost her part-time job because she was often late. She began to worry about money because she spent so much on alcohol. Sometimes she couldn’t remember what had happened the night before, and sometimes she woke up in unfamiliar places with people she didn’t know.

    Some of Alex’s friends encouraged her to drink, saying she was “good fun” when she was drunk. But others were worried about her and suggested she should get help.

    Seeking help

    After a week when she couldn’t remember a couple of nights out, felt really ill and had done no work, Alex booked an appointment with the Counselling Service. She felt very anxious when she came for her appointment. She thought the counsellor would either say she was wasting their time and didn’t need help, or would disapprove of her drinking. But when she realised that the counsellor wasn’t judging her, Alex relaxed and began to talk about her worries.

    Deciding what would help best

    The counsellor asked Alex about herself and about her drinking. She seemed to understand when Alex explained that she worried that if she didn’t drink she would lose her friends and go back to being shy and unconfident.

    The counsellor’s questions helped Alex acknowledge to herself that drinking so much could be dangerous. The counsellor didn’t tell Alex what to do, but she looked concerned about her, and asked how she would feel about going to the doctor or to specialist help.

    Getting specialist help

    The counsellor told Alex that she could continue with counselling at university, but that if she wanted to tackle her drinking it might be most helpful to go to a specialist service. After three counselling sessions, Alex decided that she would like to focus on her drinking. The counsellor told her about a local service called LASERS that helps people with drug or alcohol problems.

    Talking about her difficulties gave Alex the confidence to make an appointment with her GP and make contact with LASERS, where she continued with counselling.