Brave Patsy helps others battle booze

The sitting room of Patsy Taylor’s Anglesey cottage is decorated from top to toe with pictures of her three children.

There is no doubt when she talks about Elizabeth, 25, Megan, 22 and 15-year-old James that she is a very proud and loving mum.

But a year ago, it was her children who took her to hospital in an effort to end Patsy’s 10-year battle with prolonged periods of heavy binge drinking.

Patsy, 53, from Llainfair PG, has not touched a drop of booze for more than a year after her very sobering visit to hospital made her realise the damage her alcohol addiction was causing.

She said: “I was in hospital with another woman who was younger than me and I remember feeling so sorry for her. She was so yellow, you could see it in the whites of her eyes, she was just so poorly and sad and I feel sure she couldn’t have had long left.

“She told me how she had been in and out of hospital for many years and all she could think about was how she was going to get another drink.

“All I could think about was getting better and being with my children and I think this was a turning point for me.”

So committed has she become to her recovery, that she now volunteers for the support group which helped kick start her battle to beat the booze.

She spends every spare hour she has working for the Anglesey and Gwynedd Recovery Organisation (AGRO) where she is already a board member, helps run the organisation’s Bangor support group and has gained a qualification in peer mentoring. Her aim is to become a fully qualified support worker who can help those fighting alcohol and drug misuse problems.

Patsy, who would consume a full bottle of vodka in one sitting at her lowest points, said: “I can’t begin to explain what it feels like not to be drinking anymore. The anger, bitterness and guilt I felt has just lifted and disappeared and I feel like I am starting a whole new life.

“I absolutely love working for AGRO. It has given me such purpose and so manygoals to strive for and I just can’t wait to get stuck in all the time. It is making me so happy to have something in my life which is so positive and if I can help others in the process then all the better.”

AGRO was set up just over a year ago and offers 24 hour phone support to the people it helps. A range of activities, such as gardening, walking and art classes, are organised in an effort to take people away from their problems and distract them from battling against their addiction.

The fledgling organisation, which receives virtually no funding, is gaining advice and support from WINSENT (Wales Ireland Network for Social Entrepreneurship). The aim of the £1.3 million project is to support social enterprises which help reduce poverty and social inequality and breathe new life into communities across Anglesey.

WINSENT is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the
Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A).

AGRO co-founder, Huw Harries, a drug and alcohol support worker who has battled his own drink problem in the past, said the input from WINSENT was invaluable.

He said: “I am currently working two jobs to help fund AGRO and WINSENT is guiding
us through the process of becoming a social enterprise which should help us access vital pots of funding.

“None of us at AGRO have ever been through this process before and we want to do it properly to get the most out of what we are trying to do. That is why it is so important to be able to talk to the people at WINSENT and for them to use their experience and knowledge to guide us through it.”

Sue Haygarth, of Consultancy Coop based in Wales, is working with Anglesey  county council in delivering WINSENT for social enterprises in the county.

Her colleague Dr Martin Price has been assisting AGRO and he said: “AGRO is already doing such terrific work in Anglesey and you can tell by hearing the stories from the people it is helping that it can simply be a lifeline to people who, in many cases, are not the only ones suffering because their families and friends are going through it with them too.

“To ensure the future survival of this fantastic service, we are helping AGRO form as a social enterprise which should in turn open up many more funding doors for them.”

Patsy doesn’t hold back when she remembers the person which the demon drink would turn her into.

She said: “I just didn’t care about anything and you are so selfish. I would be crying all the time because you end up feeling so depressed and it is terrible, just really, really terrible.

“I would lock myself in the house and refuse to go out. I wouldn’t answer the phone and the worst thing was, it would cause so much worry to my children and then I would feel guilty about that and use it as an excuse to start drinking again. It is a very vicious situation to be in.

“I was just out of control.”

On one occasion, her youngest child, James, a promising footballer, called the police because he was so concerned about his mother and didn’t know what else to do to help her.

Patsy said: “James had to go and stay with a friend for a few months until I got myself straightened out.”

“I knew I had to get better and that is when my recovery started. It is a difficult path to go down and you will only succeed if you really, really want to do it. It has to come from within you, not because anyone else is telling you that you have to get better.”

Even when faced with social events such as her daughter’s summer wedding or her friend’s 40th birthday, Patsy has been able to control her urge to drink which she believes is a sign that this time her recovery is long term.

She said: “I still love getting dressed up and going out and I suppose I am a naturally outgoing and sociable person but I can honestly say that not being able to drink hasn’t spoilt things at all. When we were out the other night for my friend’s birthday, everyone was watching what they were spending on the meal because they wanted to keep their money for their drinking later on and I got
stuck into the loveliest piece of fillet steak you can imagine and it was gorgeous!”

Patsy tried other support groups in the past but openly admits she sometimes turned up to the meetings intoxicated.

She believes the difference with AGRO is the varied activities which are organised for people with drink and drug problems to get stuck into. It is a chance for participants to take their mind away from their addiction and their struggle to escape its grasp.

Patsy said: “I helped out on the allotment, I have been to art classes, even just going out for a walk with someone would help get you out, get some fresh air in your lungs and distract you from the problems you are facing.”

Her friend and colleague, Huw, said: “She is like a little girl opening a present at Christmas and it is terrific to see her so happy.

“When she came to us, her life was in a mess but she has been very brave and with the support of AGRO she has got herself to where she is now.

“I think she is looking forward to helping others and putting something back and she is a valuable asset to us. Many people with the sorts of problems we deal with feel much easier talking to someone who has been there themselves. Someone who knows what they are going through and knows there can be a different way.”

To find out more about WINSENT go to or email Sue Haygarth at

For more details about AGRO go to or call 07549 956002.


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