I didn’t have the easiest childhood. I was the second eldest of six, brought up single-handed by my mother. I always felt different. Being in a wheelchair from the age of five to nine and a lot of moving from one place to another only added to my feelings of isolation, on the outside looking in, never feeling part of anything.
I was subjected to sexual and physical abuse, which added to my insecurity. I lived in fantasy, read books and sought out ways of escaping to change how I felt, which included self-destructive behaviours. I was a hurt, angry little girl who wanted to escape.
I remember my first drink so well. I didn’t like the taste but fell in love with the effect. It enveloped me like a soft warm security blanket.
By 10, I was drinking and smoking weed whenever I could, experiencing blackouts and doing anything to get money to score. I hung out with older kids, who were taking class A narcotics and committing crime.
I was expelled from school when I was 12. I was out of control and so was my drug habit. I was taken to court by social services and placed in care. I kept running away and at 14 I was placed into a secure unit, where I had to do my first ever detox. I was referred to a psychiatrist but I could never open up about how I felt. I just carried on being angry when challenged and shut down. I left care at 16 with no education and pretty quickly went back to my old ways of using and drinking.
At 18 I got into my first relationship, I thought I had found what I had always searched for. Something that would fill the void that wasn’t a drink or a drug. The love and security I had always craved. Maybe I could be normal, have a family, be like other people and be happy. But it was to no avail.
The man I loved was just like me. The relationship became violent, controlling and damaging. We tried to make it work but two wrong people don’t make a right. The only thing we had in common was our drinking and drug taking. I had my first son at 22 and my second age 31. When he reached three, I decided to leave as I didn’t want my kids to be a part of this dysfunction anymore. I wanted them to feel safe. I was done trying to fix the unfixable.
In a six month period my mum died, I moved house, ended my relationship and found out I was pregnant with my daughter. After bringing her home I felt so alone and depressed. I found myself drinking more and more. Drink became my crutch I needed to face the day, to face life. I couldn’t ask for help. I tried to pretend I was coping but inside I was becoming more afraid and needed drink to turn my head off.
I ended up in another violent relationship and by the time my daughter was two, I was drinking as soon as I opened my eyes. I loved my kids dearly but the drink was more powerful. It became my master. I drank through the night to stop the nightmares. I hated myself and wanted to die as I felt I couldn’t do the one thing I had always wanted – to be a good mum.
I only escaped from my abusive partner when he went to prison but I lost my children due to my rapidly declining physical and mental health. I did detox after detox and was frequently hospitalised, but drink always lured me back.
I missed my kids and was told if I didn’t stay sober I would die. I went into church one day and angrily cried out to God. I believe God answered my prayer as not long after, I lost my home and was referred to the hostel system for my own safety while I waited to go into yet another detox.
Only this time I had a support worker who told me I would go into a 12 step residential rehabilitation centre for six months.
For the first time in a long time I had hope.
The day I was taken to Park View to start my rehabilitation I was really scared. I was homeless and didn’t have much to offer anyone. I didn’t know how to be clean and sober. I had no identity and felt really vulnerable. I had been on a substance or drink since the age of eight and 35 years of addiction was who I was.
Coming off drink and a 25 year prescribed medication addiction was like hell on earth but my yellow skin started to turn back to normal and slowly I started to physically recover.
I settled in and began to feel safe. I learned that I have an illness which rendered me powerless over alcohol and drugs and I could never use or drink again if I wanted to live.
I was told there was a solution but not a cure. I was relieved to find a way out from the woman who was in a doorway homeless only months before, who felt so ashamed and fearful clinging to a bottle for comfort.
Park View did for me what I couldn’t do for myself.
I completed my treatment through a lot of hard work and soul searching and rebuilding what damage my drinking had caused. I have a life today I never thought possible. I have been abstinent for two years now. I have a new home and my 14 year-old back living with me and my 10 year-old daughter at weekends.
I’ve started to get an education and I now volunteer for Riverside’s Park View, which brought me back from the brink of death and the gates of insanity.
I have a completely different life today as a productive member of society who can give back what was freely given. I can be the mum, sister, daughter and aunty that this disease stripped me of, a disease I believe I was born with. I hear other alcoholics’ stories, who lacked nothing in their childhood, but I identify with the thoughts and feelings of being different and inadequate. For that I am grateful and never have to feel alone again.
I’ve come from a place of desperation myself. If I can help one person get through what I did, it will be worth it.