Erica, 37, Leicester, UK

“I have suffered with anxiety, bulimia, mental health issues and self harm issues for years. Through teenage years I was so mixed up and confused and on meds that I really didn’t know who I was becoming… I didn’t have any education on mental health so I was hugely ashamed of myself and unfortunately I spiralled in and out of up and down moods, missing school, missing work, falling in and out of good and bad relationships… To be honest I look back and the world was a very confusing and scary place for me, and I didn’t have the courage or platform to put these feelings into words and make sense of them or me. As a result I did not value myself at all, and the path my life took reflected this.

Not completing courses, dropping out, missing work, etc etc. I ended up in an abusive relationship… More mental but it turned physical and I found courage to walk, one thing I will always praise myself for is my strength.. Not always viable but deep down its there.

I had a little boy from this relationship who is now 7… I was thrown from this relationship and the issues it caused me, AND the baggage from my teenage years, into single motherhood and living alone… Which at the time I thought was a fresh new start for me and my little boy. But being left with a little one and  still having mental health issues and the relationship issues going on I began to spiral out of control and became more depressed than ever. It was then I started drinking to ease everything and it worked for a time. But eventually after a few years of it just being a few evenings  it slowly became most nights, at least a bottle… Sometimes 2 sometimes 3… Until the drinking was no longer in any way a nice thing it was solely to numb everything else.
Anyway one day I woke up when I was at my lowest… I was hungover, sat in my pyjamas crying on the kitchen floor after cutting my arms because I hated myself and what I’d become. But a spark inside told me I had to get up off that floor and fight (told you my inner strength always surprises me) … So I did…. I picked myself up, I went to the doctor and was honest I think for the first time ever because I needed help. I was sent to a group for people with addictions… I at first was closed off… I knew I wasn’t an alcoholic I was not waking needing it, and I was not doing it daily… But it was building and it was controlling me. I was on antidepressants and sleeping tablets too and the mixture of it all made me a walking shell who could not make eye contact when out and about, and the paranoia was absolutely destroying me….
I’d go to the supermarket for milk and think every single person was talking badly of me or staring at me, I’d sometimes run home crying. I look back to this time and realise how dangerously close I was to  ruining my life, and it breaks my heart, but it also fills me with great pride that I got myself out of this mess myself… It makes me realise how strong I really am. Just going getting help is a massive step for anyone suffering with any mental health or addiction issue.
I walked Into my first meeting at ‘Turning point’ and it changed my life. From that day I became free from alcohol….not just alcohol though. I saw myself differently, I learnt what I was using alcohol for, and in turn realised the self harm and bulimia all came from the same place… I really hated myself and blamed myself for everything I’d been through. When I got my mind clear from this I was able to begin to love me again and I gradually became free from antidepressants also. Feeling feelings 100 percent was immense…. And I loved it. I was truly 100 percent happy. I thought I was cured… I was sober a year…. This was September 2019… I was the happiest and healthiest I think  I’d ever been, I was off antidepressants, eating healthily for the first time ever,  and was strong. I allowed myself the odd drink socially and I was really good with this. I would not drink  alcohol when I was alone at home. So I thought I was back in control.
My old partner got in touch late September, early October and I crumbled, it was nothing terrible… A few nasty messages, but it  triggered the old me…. I just lost it…. Within days I had a home binge… But I got in touch with my counsellors the morning after and got the support back…. But the old me continued to creep back in….I was anxiety stricken, I was surviving on a few or no hours sleep, I wasn’t eating all day just downing coffee to keep me going because I was so tired, then I was binging so my bulimia came back…. Within weeks I felt a year’s hard work was reversed… And I punished me. Don’t  get me wrong I have not drank at home but I had a couple of party nights, so the drinking was not out of hand, but it was the reasons behind me picking up that drink… To outsiders I was having a great time… But if you could see inside me you’d see a big anxious, panic stricken, very scared mess…. One of my friends summed it up and told me she could see my eyes were not smiling and happy as they had been, and they do say they are the windows to the soul.
I felt as if I’d deleted all my hard work. The thoughts and feelings of hatred were back. I self harmed because I wanted to punish myself…
It’s hard to explain but when I started my life over, as a single parent, living alone, I was someone I didn’t know, Id lost my identity, I had become a stranger to myself which is the scariest thing, and in trying to find myself I lost myself further.
Drinking in any way takes me back to this person…. The way it makes me feel makes me that person again.
So I suppose I had a mini relapse…. I’m thankful it’s been a relapse that was safe. I’m glad it happened because without it I wouldn’t be writing this and feeling like I’m at the beginning of a journey stronger than before.  I’ve helped myself get better before and I know I can do it again…
So  I dusted myself off gave myself a talking to in the mirror and rang my support group and had my first session back late Jan 2020. It was like an old friend…. I realise my relapse began when I stopped going to my support group back in September. Old memories were the trigger, Yes, but if I’d had my weekly support I would have been able to discuss these issues in the group and probably got through them…. I am a constant work in progress… I mistakenly thought I was cured after a year of sobriety… I’m not…. I won’t be. Because just one sip of drink takes me back to the pain of past years…  I realise now my relationship with alcohol is as toxic as my relationships in the past. I’m now 3 months into recovery part 2… And this time it’s going to be a lifelong battle and one I’m fighting to the end.”


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