Published on: 20 June 2024

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A glass of fizz in hand and surrounded by bunting and balloons, Jill beamed as her family toasted her success and told her how proud she had made them.

But the drink in her glass was not the prosecco or champagne you might expect and this was no ordinary celebration.

For Jill’s husband and daughters were toasting her for staying sober for one whole year – with a glass of non-alcoholic fizz.

The 59-year-old mum-of-two has just marked this momentous achievement having given up the booze with help from Derbyshire Recovery Partnership.

“I didn’t actually think I had a problem with alcohol,” admits Jill, who lives in Dronfield. “I was drinking about a litre and a half of vodka a week, but I never drank out, it was always at home, and I really didn’t think it was a problem.”

She was encouraged to look at her drinking habits by her GP when she raised concerns about her mental health.

“My Dad was bipolar and I started to worry I was displaying some symptoms,” she said. “But when I told the GP how much I drank, I was just told that there was no way I could be referred until I tackled my drinking.

“He asked if I had ever considered reducing my alcohol intake and I said yes but I ummed and ahhed about going for help because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Jill.
Jill self-referred to the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership and on April 6, 2023, went for her first session with a keyworker.

“My drinking was down to several things,” she said. “I had family difficulties as a child and had also been through a very bad marriage break-up; both of which had caused PTSD.
“I had breast cancer and had a double mastectomy in 2015. Following this I was medically retired from my 35-year career in the civil service and found myself just mooching around with nothing to do.

“From then on, if there was any bump in the road, I would have a drink. If I was feeling down or depressed, I would open a bottle of vodka.”

Jill fell into the habit of having her first drink at around 4pm and carrying on until she fell into a drunken stupor three or four hours later. “When I was asleep, I didn’t have to face my worries,” she said.

She was already taking anti-depressants and sleeping tablets and was shocked to be told by her keyworker that the amount of alcohol she was consuming was stopping the tablets from working.

“It was only when I spoke to someone on the outside that I realised this is not how other people live,” said Jill. “I was told I’m not alcohol dependent or an alcoholic, I was drinking to forget, which is why I had to look at the reasons why I drank.”

Jill undertook a course of counselling and EMDR, or Eye Movement Desensitising and Reprocessing, which involves moving your eyes in a specific way while you process traumatic memories.

“To be honest, when EMDR was sold to me, I was sceptical. I thought, looking at lights? How’s that going to help me?!” she said. “But I had to be open to it, so I tried to go in open-minded. I literally had one session of about an hour and it really did work. I learned to reprocess the things that had happened to me and look at them differently.”

As Jill learned to live without alcohol, she realised she would need to find other things to fill her time and decided to throw herself into learning something she’d always wanted to do as a child – roller skating.

“I did a 12-week course of roller skating and I was rubbish!” laughed Jill. “I realised it wasn’t for me. But I also used to paint by numbers as a child and really enjoyed that, so I now do adult paint by numbers and I have started knitting for the special care baby unit.”

A year on, Jill has only had two sips of prosecco – one at a wedding and the other to toast her daughter’s 30th birthday.

“I’ll never be the kind of person who tells others not to drink, because it’s all personal choice,” she said. “But we live in such a drink-orientated culture. Everything is about drinking, all you see on telly is people drinking in pubs and at every celebration there’s a glass of wine.”

Living booze-free hasn’t always been easy for Jill, who says in the first few months she’d see vodka on offer at the supermarket and be tempted for a second – although she never succumbed.

“No other alcohol ever bothered me, other than the odd cold glass of beer after doing the garden,” she said. “But everything I have now is alcohol-free; in fact there’s a bottle of alcohol-free wine in my fridge right now.

“I cannot sing the praises of the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership highly enough. They are so patient and understanding, and my keyworker just “got” me from the first time I walked in. She let me talk, understood everything I was saying and I would recommend them to anyone.

“If by sharing my story I can help just one person think about what they are doing, then I would be so pleased. I could not have done it without the DRP’s help.” 

Jill’s support was provided by Derbyshire Alcohol Advice Service, one of the services under the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership umbrella. 

Service manager for DAAS Elaine Handley said she was delighted to hear Jill’s story, adding: “It is always good to hear that our clients have seen improvements and benefits from the services we offer at DRP.

“I would like to thank Jill for feeling able to share her positive experience of undertaking our substance abuse counselling and I hope this encourages people who are using substances or alcohol, and family members who may also be affected, to approach us for help and support.”

Derbyshire Recovery Partnership was recently awarded a new three-year contract by Derbyshire County Council to continue providing a drug and alcohol treatment service with the option of extending for another seven years.

Anyone wishing to access Derbyshire Recovery Partnership for support with drug or alcohol issues can call either 0845 308 4010 or 01246 206514, or email  

More information can be found at:

* Jill was interviewed by Paulette Edwards at BBC Radio Sheffield about her journey. You can listen to her via BBC Sounds here until Saturday, June 1. Her interview begins around 2hrs and 8 minutes into the show.