Pioneering rehab programme treats 450th patient

A PIONEERING Lothian-based drug and alcohol detox and rehabilitation service is celebrating after treating its 450th patient.

Edinburgh resident Julie Bleasdale, 40, marked 12 weeks sober today (Thursday 14 May) after successfully completing the Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme​, known as LEAP.

The ground-breaking programme offers clinical, medical and therapeutic help to those who want to get clean from its base at the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Morningside.

Julie, a mother of six who was referred to the programme when her addiction impacted badly on her mental health, said: “I had no idea that addiction was a disease or that I was suffering from a condition. 

“I’d drink at least a bottle of wine every night and I would try to stop but couldn’t stay stopped. Then the drinking would escalate and I’d blame it on stress, or work or being a single parent. 

“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 and days out, 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.”

Earlier this year, things came to a head when Julie’s friends were forced to contact police after her behaviour became more worrying.

“I ended up having a mental health breakdown”, Julie remembers. “A full day would feel like a few minutes and I couldn’t account for where I’d been or what I’d been doing. I would be talking gibberish and not making any sense. My friends became increasingly concerned and one night, they phoned the police, who took me to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.” 

Doctors at the hospital, which provides psychiatric and mental health services, advised Julie that it was likely she was suffering from the effects of addiction.

Julie, who is now keen to carve out a career in addiction services, said it came as a shock: “I always thought I had mental health issues. It’s been a revelation to come to LEAP and learn all about addiction as a disease.” 

Around 20 patients at different stages of recovery take part in the three month LEAP programme at one time. As well as providing medical care and therapy, patients are encouraged to support each other and are also assisted with housing, education and training.

Julie officially graduated from the programme at a special ceremony surrounded by friends and loved ones. 

Dr. David McCartney, clinical lead of LEAP, NHS Lothian said: “Today is a really special day for Julie and her family as it marks a key point in her recovery. LEAP is a challenging and intensive programme aimed at those with the motivation to become substance-free. 

“It’s not an easy route but we believe part of our success is down to our partnership with the City of Edinburgh Council and the charity Transition, and also due to the after-care programme we offer which involves peer-support groups and counselling over two years.”