In Brighton and Hove there is an average of two alcohol-related deaths each week. To mark alcohol awareness week senior reporter Flora Thompson speaks to a mother and a teacher whose lives were ripped apart by their dependency on drink but are now recovering thanks to support services.

LAST year more than 600 people were treated for alcohol addiction in the city.

In total, 671 people were helped to overcome their dependency in 2014/15 and 317 of those left treatment and began to successfully recover.

Research by the drug and alcohol action team at Brighton and Hove City Council also shows that among men "unsafe" levels of drinking is more common in older age groups, whereas it is most common for middle aged women.

Younger women are more likely than younger men to drink above recommended limits.

In the last ten years the proportion of men who drink heavily has fallen by nine per cent but for women it has remained the same at 17 per cent.

In 2012 a council report estimated 24 per cent of adults in the city were drinking the amount of alcohol classed as "increasing or higher risk levels" - men who typically drink between 22 or more units a week and women who drink more than 15 units a week.

It said the number of people had "fallen significantly" since 2003 but remains higher than 1992 levels.

"Among men, unsafe drinking is more common in older age groups, whereas in women it peaks in middle age. Younger women are more likely than younger men to drink above recommended limits," according to the report.

Heavy drinking was no longer associated with deprivation in the city, it said.

Those who rented houses from a housing association or local authority, or religious people, were less likely to be drinking high amounts of alcohol.

A unit is the equivalent of a 25ml single measure of 40 per cent strength whisky, a third of a pint of five to six per cent beer or lager or half a standard 175ml glass of 12 per cent red wine.

Empty nest syndrome led Sarah to drinking

SARAH loved coming home to a full house and being surrounded by her family.

But when her children grew up and moved away, the single parent found herself feeling increasingly lonely.  Her job in hospitality kept her busy until she lost her driving licence and struggled to find work.

She lost her confidence and became incredibly unhappy at the prospect of entirely empty days looming ahead of her.  Never one to drink heavily - only a pint of lager or two at the pub - she turned her attention to spirits to fill the void.

This escalated into more than a bottle of vodka a day.

"I thought with vodka you couldn't smell it but I was wrong," she said.

"I just couldn't cope with going home and there being nobody there. It became so bad that I could not function without a couple of glasses of vodka. I would be shaking and it would calm me. I couldn't go out unless I had a drink. I would drink through most of the day.  "I knew I had a problem but I didn't know how to deal with it. I stopped but then I started again. This carried on for quite a few years. It completely ruined my life.

"I was told later I had what they call empty nest syndrome."

It was her doctor who noticed the signs and arranged for her to get the help she needed. She has taken part in three detox treatments since then. This time she said she has made a breakthrough in her struggle and is indebted to the Brighton Oasis Project.  The 65-year-old Brighton mother-of-two said: "I feel so much better. I can cope with things much better now. I had let everything take a back seat - my personal hygiene, financial matters.

"I had very little support from friends and family but the people here have been wonderful. I tried AA meetings but that didn't quite work for me. But since I have started this I really enjoy it. I don't know if it is because it is all women that I feel part of a community. I look forward to coming to sessions and I want to come to them.  "I don't want to drink, I don't need to drink.  "I am facing problems now rather than pushing them under the carpet. After Christmas I want to look at getting involved in volunteer work."

Gary turned to alcohol after his life began to fall apart

FORMER school teacher Gary has not touched a drop of alcohol in six months.

It is a huge achievement for the 51-year-old who, until only recently, was seeking solace in booze every night after he lost his job and his marriage broke down.  He had always been a social drinker but it was never a problem until he was in his 40s and became "more thirsty" as parts of his life began to fall apart.

His relationship with his wife broke down, they sold their house and he moved into a smaller property on his own.  He turned to a six pack of lager and half a bottle of vodka to cushion the blow but said by 2013 he had gone "completely gaga".

"It got the better of me and I got into a really bad space. It was horrible," he said.  "I could hold my drink and could function OK but I never had an alcohol free day. I was using it to get through the day. I was going to work not completely alcohol free. It's terrible but it's true.  "I would get long holidays and had six weeks on my own so I became best friends with the off licence.  "I woke up one day and the first thing I did was reach for the bottle. I suddenly thought 'Gary - what are you doing, is this what the rest of your life is going to be?' I didn't want it to be."

In May this year he called Pavilions drug and alcohol service for help.  "I couldn't get out of the hole myself. I went kicking and screaming - I was still in some form of denial until I could admit it. I was admitted to Mill View hospital in Hove, I couldn't safely come off the drink myself so I went there to detoxify."

He was in there for eight days and nights earlier this year, receiving injections of the tranquiliser Diazepam. He then attended a relapse prevention course with Pavilions.  Now he is in recovery and to show his gratitude for those who helped him, he has become a volunteer for the charity.

Key statistics from charity Pavilions:

• The city has around 1,400 licensed premises.  • Alcohol costs the city £10.7 million for the impact on health, £24.5 million for the effects on the economy and £71.8 million for crime.

• Each week in the city there is an average of two alcohol-related deaths, 66 alcohol-related ambulance call-outs, 46 attendances accident and emergency hospital department, 97 adult inpatient hospital admissions and 11 people under the age of 25 offered help.  • Although research suggests professionals consume more alcohol than manual workers, people from deprived areas are more likely to be in treatment.

How to get help

PAVILIONS is open to anyone over the age of 18 concerned about their drug or alcohol use and for their families.

It works with Cranstoun, Surrey and Borders NHS Partnership Foundation Trust, Equinox, Brighton Oasis Project, YMCA Downslink Group and Cascade Creative Recovery to give advice, help and recovery services for those in need.

Call Pavilions on 0800 014 9819 or click here to visit the website.