Also check out Olivia’s website: www.livsrecoverykitchen.com
My story… (part 1)
My coach often tells me 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 Liv’s Locomotion, 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.
How cute, eh?
I was born in New York, in 1979, to, whilst loving, a highly dysfunctional Italian-American family. I am a twin to a lovely brother.
My father at that point was an alcoholic and my mother was starting her drinking career. As you can imagine, it didn’t go well. We ended up living in the UK by the age of four. With nothing.
The next few years were hard. My mum did the best that she could. She strove to provide a great life for us, whilst dealing with her own demons and the loss of her marriage. And she did; we had our own house, she took us on holiday and we had food on the table. But the cost – this is hard to write knowing my mum did her best – was that she wasn’t able to offer that emotional nourishment and availability I so desperately craved. What I saw was a woman trying desperately hard to keep it together, exhausted, and slowly drowning in the wine bottle. Consequently, I picked up wine as a coping strategy. Around this time, I also began seeking comfort externally, in food, and withdrawing entirely – I was mute for a lot of my childhood and I can still go there now. I also saw a wonderful woman always struggling to be slimmer, with diet-after-diet after-diet. I developed a very unhealthy relationship with food and an eating disorder. I’ve only dealt with this in my recovery.
My father, on the other hand, didn’t really fulfil that role. He tried. And I now believe that he lacked the nourishment, coping strategies and skills that I did in my formative years. He was doing the best he could. We started visiting the states in our teens. Sadly I carried my mothers pain with me, out of fierce loyalty to her. So we really didn’t bond. I also ended up mute and full of hate. My aunt was wonderful, she loved me wholeheartedly. But the family bickering made me consequently torn between these loyalties. My trips were always fraught with arguments, disagreements, and my feeling of being used as a pawn to carry out the family dysfunction.
We moved. Again. My mum bought a house with my step dad. We moved to the north west, after only relocating to Hampshire two years earlier. In the space of a few months, we acquired three new step brothers and a step father – going through his own turmoil with the end of his marriage. I will say this though, and its something I firmly now believe: he is a great guy. He took on the role of father to twins, and has provided for us until my early twenties. He went above and beyond. A true man.
Me on the other hand, dealing with female teenage hormones, together with adjusting tothe doubling of our family; a new authority figure, and an inability to cope with life; I was headed to 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.
My life continued in this way. I managed to keep a guise of a functioning person on the surface, attending college, university and later full-time employment. I have no idea how. But underneath I was a wreck of anxiety, low self-esteem, constant depression, feelings of worthlessness, a constant need for approval and validation, and feeling completely underwhelmed by life. I moved to Manchester to a job in recruitment (!). I discovered cocaine. Wow, what a drug! That, together with copious amounts of wine and cigarettes, were my drugs of choice. I arrived. Again. And so did the dishonest, seedy, immoral behaviour. I lied, cheated, manipulated and stole to acquire my fixes. I lived to use.
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.
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…
This is me, one or two weeks sober. The lights on FULL and the volume turned RIGHT UP!
Also check out Olivia’s website: www.livsrecoverykitchen.com