I grew up in an alcoholic home. My parents ran pubs; the mirrors in my childhood home had Bells Whiskey and the Marlboro Man on them for crissakes! My early lessons in living came from people whose solution to stress and anxiety was to drink. Their route to a good time was alcohol. In the end, for my father, breakfast was coffee laced with whiskey.
My childhood addiction was sugar – this is important as it set me up for my later need to change the way I was feeling with something mind-altering. After my parents divorced when I was 15, my mother stopped drinking with the help of Alcoholics Anonymous. I had AA’s Serenity Prayer down in my teens. My father died from his alcoholic lifestyle at the age of 62.
My brave, beautiful younger sister Jennifer died of Leukaemia when she was 19 and I was 20. At her funeral my father was so drunk, he couldn’t stand up. Two months later, I turned 21 bereaved, lost, rootless, confused and incredibly lonely. This was 1994. I sought solace and quickly found it in clubs, house music and party drugs on the rave scene. I shut down all the pain, loss, fear and anxiety, popped it in a box, never, I hoped, to be seen again. A year later I started a journalism degree; on graduating I was hired by The Independent as their fashion writer and found some purpose.
Working in fashion turned out to be perfect for me to continue my career, not only as a journalist, but as a budding alcoholic and addict. My poster girl was Kate Moss. Seemingly everywhere I looked people were drinking, taking cocaine and partying and being, as I saw it, fabulous. I so desperately wanted to be fabulous, to escape my childhood, to live the life I saw in magazines, and in many ways I did. It’s tragic now I look back on it.
My disease progressed at a slow pace. I quit everything to get pregnant, but a few months after my son was born, it crept back in. By my mid-40s, a time when most people have hung up their hard partying shoes, I was still going, secretly, with a small group of friends. That night in March 2020 was a week before my 47th birthday, I entered re-hab four days after it, and haven’t looked back. Last week I celebrated 18 months of being sober, happy to be in a gang of amazing, inspiring people across the world who have made the same decision as me.
Doing the Twelve Steps with my sponsor in AA restored me to sanity, and its ongoing work. Doing the steps helps you see where you are powerless, and gives you an instant network of people who can help you. Step 4 in which you “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself,” is my absolute favourite. It took me months to write out. Step 4 helps the person taking it understand what makes them tick, where their resentments are and what parts of their personality are responsible for the way they react to people. For me it laid bare everything I was, and could be. Everyone should do a Step 4.
Today I understand what caused me to drink and party, and I have the tools to deal with uncomfortable feelings when they arise. I’m so much happier and know how to feel peace sober, rather than chase it away with drink. I’ve lost the friends who continue to party, and made many new ones. Life is good. I have clarity, and understanding.
I could write all day long about this, but the most important thing I want to say is this: If you’re suffering, or know someone who is, give some love, kindness and understanding. Tell yourself, or your loved one: You are not a bad person. You are not alone. It’s going to be ok. There is a solution. Help is there, and it is waiting.
If you are struggling with substance dependency or abuse, please reach out to the following organisations: