It is hard to imagine when looking at Jenny Andrew from East Preston that more than eight years ago she was drinking a litre of vodka a day.
Now she is the director of Lovelong House in Littlehampton, a residential rehabilitation centre.
Jenny says that she had always been a ‘heavy drinker’, and had previously worked in the hospitality and restaurant trade.
“My parents owned Little Thakeham hotel so the hospitality and restaurant trade was all I knew growing up,” she explains.
“When I was working I thought nothing of having a bottle of wine or drinking more if we went out after work.”
Jenny married her husband aged 25, she describes him as a workaholic and said she felt very lonely.
“I stopped working to look after my children but I just kept drinking,” she reveals.
“I never really had spirits until my 30s but then I started having a litre of vodka a day. I was doing this for about three years, and when I got to 37 I went into rehab.”
The push came from a downward spiral that saw Jenny having black outs, not knowing what she had said or done during a certain period of time.
She went into the Priory, undertaking the 28-day programme, but upon leaving she relapsed.
“I didn’t see myself as an alcoholic at that stage,” Jenny says,
“My husband at the time and I went to Goodwood Festival of Speed and I had a glass of champagne thinking I would be fine.
“But the next day I was back on the vodka and went on an eight week binge.
“I knew I had to do something so I went back to rehab for a ten-day detox and upon leaving attended AA meetings, got a sponsor and started my journey to recovery. I have been sober for eight years in August.”
Jenny’s marriage broke down once she stopped drinking.
“My husband didn’t like how I had changed when I became sober.
“My lifestyle changed. I couldn’t be around people drinking, I would go to a friend’s house for a coffee rather than going out for a drink. I did lose a lot of toxic friendships but I needed to.”
After her divorce was settled she used the money to buy the property in East Street.
A former doctors surgery the plan initially was to make it into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO) but after meeting with Arun council they said to Jenny about ‘thinking outside the box’ as there were already a few HMOs locally.
“I thought about turning it into a rehab facility and thought we could make something on this place,” she says.
During her divorce Jenny met Gary Long, he had been made homeless and was also a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.
“When we got this place he got other people in recovery to do the work,” she says. “He was staying somewhere and one person said, I am a bricklayer, someone else a decorator and it grew.
“They have done a great job, and it can be hard when you are in recovery to get a job so you have gaps in your employment and this gives them a chance to work.”
Lovelong House officially opened its doors in March.
It currently has eight beds in a mixture of single and twin rooms, but there are plans to build a therapy centre so that the therapy rooms can move, freeing up an extra six beds. Once someone goes to Lovelong they start in the detox suite which is a high dependency room with the nurses next door. Each initial stay lasts for 28 days and they follow the 12 step programme many fellowships such as AA follow.
“After 28 days they have a month of day passes to come and use the services they did when they were staying here,” she says. “That includes music therapy, art therapy, and holistic treatments such as yoga or massages we offer.”
There is also a lot of support for family and friends.
“It is about educating people, so making sure family members are aware about codependency and how addicts can be manipulative,” she explains.
“But also educating the addicts so they can help themselves, as prevention is better than cure.”
The cost of a stay ranges from £7,000 to £16,000 and people can be sponsored through the programme.
The addictions catered for at Lovelong House include: over eating, social media, gaming, gambling, cocaine, cannabis, heroin - methadone, shopping, work, sex, love, pornography, OCD, technology, violence, alcohol, exercise, aggression, Benzodiazepines and Opioids, glue, and aerosols.
Looking to the future Jenny and Gary are keen to set up the Lovelong Foundation charity to help more people.
For more information, visit lovelonghouse.co.uk