Alcoholism: Woman ‘shocked’ she could buy alcohol at 6am calls for it to be 'less accessible'

Alcohol causes around 1,500 deaths in Wales a year according to Public Health Wales Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

A woman who used to wake up and "watch the clock" until she could buy her next drink says alcohol is "too accessible" and is calling for change.

Alcoholism began to be a problem for Lowri Edwards from Newtown around a decade ago, but she has now recovered from her addiction.

She told ITV Wales: “I was living on my own in Shrewsbury. I had just come out of a relationship that had broken down; he left.

"At that point in time, I was very low, and I turned to alcohol as a coping mechanism". 

Staff at the addiction and substance abuse charity, Kaleidoscope Cymru agree with Lowri that there is “so much alcohol out there.”

Alcohol causes around 1,500 deaths in Wales a year and creates more than £1 billion worth of damage to society, according to Public Health Wales.

Lowri was living in her flat on her own and says she was "drinking every day" adding, "That was my life really".

She said: "I didn’t answer the door to anyone and the Community Mental Health Team. They didn’t know what to do with me because I wouldn’t meet or speak with them. 

“My brother had to phone to make sure I was okay. The police would come to the flat for wellbeing checks. My brother was phoning the CMHT: ‘just help her’.”

Then, Lowri’s situation reached a point where she had to leave Shrewsbury and move back to Wales.

“I had an eviction notice -  so, it was quite serious really, and that’s how I came to Newtown,” she said. 

“I was in supported housing. But I was still drinking, that’s the thing, so I still hadn’t battled through it.”

Lowri’s father had been suffering with his mental health, and when her alcoholism was at its worst, Lowri lost her mother.

She said: “I wanted to get better on my own because it was my decision to give up alcohol."

Lowri was shocked she was able to buy alcohol at 6.00 am, she says "I was expecting 8:30, 9 o’clock." Credit: PA

Lowri added: “I got help from Kaleidoscope. I haven’t looked back really. Life’s a lot better now.

“The year when I started to give up the alcohol, dad passed away and things were changing, and I thought: ‘I want to live, and my parents would want me to be happy.’”

Lowri told ITV Cymru Wales how she remembers alcohol being on her mind from the moment she woke up.

She said: “I would find myself watching the clock because I was always up really early - 3, 4 o’clock in the morning.

"I might have had a little bit of alcohol left at the bottom of the bottle. So, I had to make that last until 6 o’clock in the morning, when the shop opened.

“I would get the shakes. I would be really anxious, and I would get palpitations. I needed alcohol at the time to get through that."

Although her addiction led her to develop this habit, she wouldn’t be the only one making similar early visits to the shop. 

She said: “I was quite shocked really. I was seeing people who’d just be getting a bottle of whisky and things like that. I was really shocked that other people were doing it.”

Lowri would like to see societal change to reduce the accessibility of alcohol, to prevent other people from developing similar habits. 

“There’s adverts everywhere for alcohol. It’s not the same with drugs. You can get alcohol from almost anywhere.

“You can get pubs as well that open at 9 o’clock in the morning, and all day. Those hours should be reduced."

Discussing alcohol in shops, Lowri said: “I was shocked that I was able to get [alcohol] at 6 o’clock in the morning, I was expecting 8.30, 9 o’clock, something like that. So, I think it would be a good idea to start selling alcohol later."

Lowri’s dependence on alcohol at times caused financial strain on her life. 

“I was just spending all the benefits on alcohol really, and then I was having trouble with money - bills and things like that. I wasn’t very good at covering those costs.

“But I spend now, I’ll go on holidays and things like that, spending my money on nice things.”

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Lowri’s key worker at Kaleidoscope Cymru, Emily Reeves, said: “I went to a supermarket recently and straight away at the entrance are the offers for the alcohol and the reduction of those things. 

“Some pubs, I know we’ve got one local who, they still don't do non-alcoholic lagers or things.

“Someone who wants to go and doesn't feel triggered by that can feel part of that - going into the darts club, playing pool or having those opportunities that they can still enjoy, but with a non-alcoholic drink.

“There’s so much alcohol out there. It’s in every soap that we watch on the telly. It's every celebration so it's looking at alternative ways of celebrating things. 

Although going teetotal might be a solution for some people with an addiction, it’s not always the answer, according to the charity.

“It's very much working on that harm reduction, harm minimisation,” said Emily.

“Someone might not want to be abstinent, but if we can create a way where what they're doing is less harmful and they're reducing the harm, that's the most important thing.

Years later, Lowri has made big changes in her life, and her key worker has been a witness to all of this.

“We have this confident lady next to me out there, you know, advocating for other people, you know, in her own accommodation, working full-time and to be a part of that has been a real positive. 

“We’ve had ups and downs, in that time and different things, but no it's been absolutely wonderful to do."

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