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Chesterfield's Gary Topley is feeling positive - a year after suffering an alcohol relapse

Gary Topley. Pictures by Rachel Atkins.
Gary Topley. Pictures by Rachel Atkins.

A recovering alcoholic says he has come back from a 'very dark place' after suffering a relapse.

Gary Topley, of Chesterfield, told the Derbyshire Times he drank a bottle of vodka one day last summer - after not touching alcohol for eight-and-a-half years.

Gary Topley outside Chesterfield's new Xercise4Less gym.

Gary Topley outside Chesterfield's new Xercise4Less gym.

But with the support of friends and family, dad-of-three Gary is now feeling positive – and looking forward to the future.

The 39-year-old alcohol awareness campaigner said: "Last June or July, someone told me something from the past to do with my childhood and it really affected me to the point I went to the shop and bought a bottle of vodka.

"As you can imagine, after not drinking for all that time, I got into quite a state.

"The police ended up taking me to Chesterfield Royal Hospital and I was under the care of the mental health team for two weeks.

Gary Topley preparing for his mammoth walk next year.

Gary Topley preparing for his mammoth walk next year.

"I felt like I'd failed people, I felt embarrassed.

"It was a scary time and I couldn't believe I'd taken that step back - I was in a very dark place.

"But I had so much support it was unreal - and I'd like to thank all those people who were there for me."

Gary said he was keen to inspire other people who had suffered relapses to turn their lives around.

"Sometime you may face a blip in your life when you’re trying to stop drinking - but you can overcome it and go on to do better things," he said.

"My advice to people who've suffered a relapse would be to identify what caused the blip, don't be ashamed or worried about other people's reactions if you tell them you've had a blip, seek help and don't keep things in - talk with other people and keep positive that everything will work out."

Gary has not drank any alcohol since relapsing.

He is now back in work and keeps himself fit and healthy by walking and going to the town's new Xercise4Less gym at Spire Walk Retail Park, training hard for his next positive venture.

Next summer, Gary intends to take part in the Peninne Way walk - which is nearly 300 miles from Chesterfield to the Scottish village of Kirk Yetholm - to raise awareness of alcohol addiction and mental health issues. His eldest daughter Jasmine is keen to walk some of it too.

He has written to Prince Harry in the hope he will support the mammoth challenge.

Gary has also been nominated in the Positive Awards 2018 for his voluntary work helping people who are affected by alcoholism.

His Facebook group - Alcohol Support and Advice - has thousands of members who regularly share their struggles and successes and help each other overcome their issues.

Gary was taken into care when he was two-years-old then later adopted partly because of his mother’s drink problems.

This affected him later in his life.

He started drinking when he was just 14 and became dependant on alcohol until his late 20s.

But Gary does not want to dwell on the past - he is looking ahead with optimism.

• For more information about Gary's story and his work, visit www.garytopley.co.uk

• If you need help with an alcohol problem, contact the Derbyshire Recovery Partnership by calling 0845 308 4010 or emailing info@derbyshirerecoverypartnership.co.uk

CBD oil 'has a number of benefits'

Gary has hailed the 'wonders' of CBD oil.

The oil, which was made from a compound in the cannabis plant, was legalised in Britain last year.

Gary said: "It's brilliant.

"I take two drops a day and I find that it has a number of benefits."

Dr Sarah Brewer, an award-winning writer and the author of 50 popular self-help books, outlined those benefits.

"CBD oil has a lifting and relaxing effect on mood with none of the adverse psychoactive effects associated with marijuana," she said.

"It acts via the body's own endocannabinoid system to promote feelings of wellbeing.

"It's a great choice if you're finding it difficult to relax as it's not habit-forming," she added, noting that the oil is 'particularly helpful for reducing anxiety, promoting relaxation and restful sleep'.

CBD oil went on sale at Holland & Barrett at the start of the year and the high street retailer boasted a 37 per cent increase in sales in the space of four weeks.

A spokesperson for Holland & Barrett said: "We knew that there were numerous trends surfacing around this liquid but we didn’t expect to see sales increase this dramatically."

It is advised that people discuss CBD oil with their doctor before using it.