My Story… (part 1)
I’m often told what a compelling story I have… how I have overcome adversity and faced my demons. With a look of confusion, I often say that I’ve no idea how it is compelling. Naturally, I compare myself to others in recovery and, hearing their’ stories, I am humbled. But, with increasing visibility on the web through my website, and my strong desire to break the stigma about addiction, I have decided to write about my story. This is one of two posts.
Read below to discover how I believe my addiction came about, how it took hold, and what happened to me to bring me into recovery. Whilst I’ve shared about some of the elements of my recovery, I’d like to share how it has miraculously transformed my life, in the second post.
That’s me, just before my world turned upside down.
I was born in New York, in 1979.
Due to difficult family circumstances, I ended up living in the UK by the age of four.
I found the next few years to be very hard. I felt deprived of emotional nourishment and experienced a troubled childhood. I failed to learn healthy coping strategies and, consequently, began seeking comfort externally, in food, and withdrawing entirely – I was mute for a lot of my childhood.
As I grew up, things got worse. I was then dealing with female teenage hormones, together with adjusting to a newly formed family, and an inability to cope with life; I headed toward disaster. I discovered drugs. I had that ‘ahhhhhhhhhhh‘ moment, where my insecurity and racing mind stopped. I felt less depressed, I felt alive. I felt like I had arrived. I started on marijuana and vodka first, and quickly progressed to LSD, amphetamines and ecstasy. I befriended a drug dealer twice my age, and continued along a very destructive path. In that journey, I was very depressed – I attempted suicide, twice, developed anorexia and bulimia, and had a violent, destructive and emotionally abusive boyfriend. I was utterly incapable of coping with life. I was awful to live with and drove my parents wild with frustration and pain. In retrospect, its hardly surprising I became like this; I was up against a strong genetic predisposition to addiction, had zero coping skills and an inability to communicate. I had no connection. No healthy outlet.
I moved out of recruitment and stopped taking cocaine, mostly. But I just swapped this drug for the drug of alcohol. Depression consumed most of my mid twenties. Its hardly surprising considering alcohol is a depressant. At one point being diagnosed with clinical depression by a psychiatrist. I had a melt down. I’d stopped drinking at that point, under the guidance that it was incompatible with medication. When I later discovered that this was not the case, and I could drink in moderation (I conveniently omitted this information), I made up for lost time and my addiction progressed rapidly.
This is me, in 2009, in the heart of my addiction and the continuation of my demise… It took a further three years, and a whole heap more loss and pain for me to reach my rock bottom. I left a trail of broken relationships, friendships and mounting debt into the tens of thousands of pounds, in my wake. But it was my only means of soothing myself and making my unfulfilled life feel better, albeit temporarily.
My nickname used to be Liv the liability. I truly was. At this stage of my drinking, I’d discovered codeine. So I used to take it to excess with alcohol, and then to cope with the hangover. I never quite knew what would happen to me. I was always blacking out by that point. I was often found passed out somewhere, acting completely inappropriately, or arguing. I was abusive. I was a monster. I couldn’t understand why I only went out with the intention of having a couple of civilised drinks, but consumed ten times that amount. I tried swapping what I drank, only drinking on certain days, countless diets, ending relationships, moving, but nothing worked.
I still hadn’t had enough. I moved to the city centre, ruined more relationships, damaged my body further – the doctors at that point were warning me of the scarring on my liver and were concerned by the amount I was consuming (and I had omitted half the amount I actually drank). I was then physically dependent. I had also gained 10 stone!
In my infinite wisdom, I decided that it was becoming too dangerous to drink outside. The drugs were having more of an effect and I was losing the ability to stand. I’d often wake up in the mornings and have to inspect myself for injuries. So, I moved in on my own. That way, I didn’t have to hide how much I was using. By that point I had a drawer full of prescription drugs and I was very sick. I could also drink in the mornings at weekends. I was forever too ill to go to work and suffered crippling migraines and depression. The consequences were mounting up. I was getting into trouble at work, I lost friends, and was manipulating people to supply me.
What I recall from that weekend was drinking against my will really hitting home. I was drinking corked wine (that i’d ordered from a 24 hour alcohol delivery service), vomiting, and drinking more. I couldn’t actually keep it down. I was covered in blood from cutting myself, I’ve no idea how. My lungs hurt terribly from the chain smoking. My stomach and ribs hurt from all of the violent vomiting and my flat looked like someone had ransacked it.
I spent three nights on and off the bathroom floor, vomiting, shaking, sweating and crying. Finally, I’d had enough. I was at the jumping off point (which I now hear of); I either could kill myself or get help. I chose help. I knew from a close family member that AA was a solution for them to stay sober, I called and asked for help.
I went to my first AA meeting on 26 March 2012. I haven’t had a drink since. I found recovery. My life changed completely. I believe when I arrived that I had exhausted all avenues of control and help. Read part 2, my transformation to learn about my recovery, strategies, holistic approach, and how I lost 45 pounds.