Middlesbrough mum's unique friendship with nurse helps overcome alcohol addiction

Former A&E nurse and current alcohol care coordinator Jess Beck with Kat Hearn, senior rehab coach at Recovery Connections

A Middlesbrough mum is sharing a unique story of her friendship with a nurse who helped her find recovery from alcohol addiction.

Kathyrn Hearn, 42, is leading a life as a senior rehab coach at Recovery Connections, a non-profit Lived Experience Recovery organisation based in Middlesbrough. In her role, she supports individuals to overcome addiction to alcohol or substances whilst steering them towards a life of health and balance.

However, the mother-of-two’s recovery from alcohol was never easy as her early life was filled with bumps and hardships. “It started with a litre of cider with friends and going to pubs as a 16-year-old on a Friday night in Middlesbrough,” she said.

But Kat’s life as a 22-year-old took a sudden turn when she sadly lost her fiancé in a car accident. This escalated her alcohol consumption as she started drinking heavily to cure her pain.

She added: “Although my past experiences led to drinking more than often, I would say I fell into addiction after my second child was born. It started with a glass of red wine cooking the evening meal which developed into two glasses, then the bottle and before I knew it the bottle wasn't enough.”

Jessica and Kat share a joke
Jessica and Kat share a joke -Credit:SOUTH TEES HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST

This quickly turned into an addiction and she ended up losing her children, partner, home, job and driving licence. She was regularly in and out of the accident and emergency department at The James Cook University Hospital in 2018 – either because she had been found unable to respond, or inflicting self-harm related to her alcohol consumption.

This is where Kat met former A&E nurse and current alcohol care coordinator Jessica Beck, who Kat recalls used to treat her with love and compassion. “I don't remember meeting Jess (Jessica) but I feel that I made a lasting impression on her. Although we can laugh about it today apparently, I was not very pleasant to her back then,” she said.

These interactions, although not amusing for both, helped create a strong bond which was crucial for Kat in her struggle to quit alcohol. Jessica said: “I met Kat many years ago when I was a nurse in A&E, she was known as Kathryn back then.

“She could be very chaotic when she was a patient, wanting to go outside for a cigarette when staff were trying to carry out assessments and wasn’t happy if stopped from doing so.”

Following this, Kat realised she had to do something to escape from the bottom pit of her life that was caused due to alcohol. Jessica referred Kat to HILT (hospital intervention liaison team) for further treatment and then started her rehabilitation journey at the Recovery Connections rehab facility in Middlesbrough.

Since then, she has been proudly sober for just over four years. Moreover, her journey to becoming a senior rehab coach involved volunteering, completing Recovery Connections’ ambassador programme and moving into paid work.

Kat added: “Alcohol didn't just ruin my life it ruined the lives of all those who loved me. I think Jess and the alcohol care team (ACT) are very valuable, and they are changing people's lives.

“She is the perfect person to run the alcohol care team. She is understanding, and non-judgemental, and believes everyone deserves a chance at life no matter how many times you have to try. It did not bother her that I was the girl who used to come into A&E, and that I was an alcoholic in recovery.

“We are now best friends and I think about how different my life would be if that random nurse from A&E did not make me her bestie – she came into my life when I needed her the most and I couldn't imagine my life without her. And to add more, we are even going on holiday together soon – we call this our very own love story.”

Delighted with Kat’s progress, Jessica said: "When Joanne and I started setting up ACT in James Cook in August 2022, we met with Adam at Recovery Connections where he introduced us to Kat, who was working there and at the time was two years into her sobriety. Kat is one of the kindest caring people I know, who is a loving mum to her two children.

“Over the last two years, Kat and I have become really good friends. She has just celebrated four years of sobriety and has successfully gained promotion as a senior rehab coach. I am proud to call her my friend and proud of her achievements over the last few years.

“Today, Kat is a shining example to those who are still struggling with alcohol dependency and how life on the other side of alcohol addiction can be by showing patients what can be achieved through hard work and dedication to become sober. She is an amazing support to patients and ACT staff.”

Kat is now an active member of Recovery Connections, which is a Lived Experience Recovery Organisation, established in Middlesbrough in 2008. Since early 2024, two of the charity’s lived experience ambassadors have supported the alcohol care team at James Cook by sharing their stories and experiences. They have helped people who find themselves in the same position as Kat, before she found recovery, that support and a life free from alcohol is possible.

Recovery Connections CEO Dot Smith said: “Kat has been an important part of our longstanding team of lived experience recovery coaches across North East for the past few years.

“Kat’s journey, like the many journeys of recovery within the charity, shows others who faced similar challenges that recovery is possible for everyone.”

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