An Addict's First Step To Recovery
Nearly five years ago, I was rapidly drinking myself into an early grave. I was popping pills like they were candy. I wanted to die. Today, in stark contrast, I love my life. Over the coming weeks, I’ll share with you my journey to rock bottom, my journey in recovery, and how I came to live a fulfilling life in recovery; losing 50 pounds, overcoming depression and anxiety, and dealing with life in recovery.
Due to difficult family circumstances, I landed in the UK aged 3. I had a troubled childhood. Outwardly, I had everything I needed. Emotionally, I felt a lack of nourishment, and always felt unable to connect and have meaningful interaction. I felt lost, empty and I lacked emotional coping skills. Consequently, I spent years trying to escape myself and searched for connection. I looked in all the wrong places, and I hid in places where the light couldn’t get in.
I felt lost, empty and I lacked emotional coping skills. Consequently, I spent years trying to escape myself and searched for connection. I looked in all the wrong places, and I hid in places where the light couldn’t get in.
Looking back, I can see that I suffered with depression and anxiety throughout most of my childhood, together with crippling low self-esteem. Around 12 years old, I discovered drugs and alcohol. It was like the lights suddenly shone, I felt alive. My anxiety and depression dissipated. It provided a social lubricant and I felt confident. In discovering something that made me feel good, albeit artificially, was something I chased for the next 20 years--at great expense.
Whilst on the surface I appeared to be functioning-I had a job, a home, and relationships-I continued to suffer with debilitating depression and anxiety. I self-medicated to overcome this, and then became obsessed by an overwhelming compulsion to get my next fix. I just couldn’t fill that aching chasm, no matter how much I consumed. I lived but an existence. My life consisted of keeping up appearances, but ensuring I meticulously planned getting my fix.
Whilst, I might have initially appeared as the social butterfly, I quickly became known as Liv the Liability. Going to bars, having dinner parties, quickly descended into chaos. I blacked out every time I drank. Each morning I had to inspect myself for injuries, check who was in bed with me, unpick the mess in my apartment and try and figure out what I had done the night before. I’d cower in anticipation of who I’d upset.
My life consisted of keeping up appearances, but ensuring I meticulously planned getting my fix. Whilst, I might have initially appeared as the social butterfly, I quickly became known as Liv the Liability.
Nothing in my life came in between me and drugs. I compromised my values and began to do the things I said I’d never do. I ended relationships and friendships that challenged my drinking. No one knew about the pills, or so I thought. Fueled by increasing feelings of shame, guilt and remorse, I medicated with even more wine and drugs. Feel crap? Don’t worry, just drink four bottles of wine, problem solved. Was my thinking.
This carried on for years and the hole just became larger, requiring a greater amount of drugs and alcohol. Despite gaining an increasing awareness of my problem, I couldn’t understand why I was unable to have one drink. Yet, I continued to try, over-and-over again. I tried a new diet, drinking only on weekends, not drinking at home, cutting out cocaine and opting for wine instead, trying codeine to overcome the hangover more quickly, excessively exercising and rewarding myself with a nice bottle of wine.
Then came a moment of clarity: I ended up in my apartment having left my job, with few friendships left, I’d drank 14 bottles of wine and taken a packet of codeine over three days. I was covered in blood, and my apartment was in chaos. I had no recollection of what had happened, but I reached a point of surrender. I had utterly had enough, to the very core of my being. Something had shifted. I either choose to die, or choose to get help.
In the next chapter of this series, I’ll share with you my journey into recovery and how I achieved nearly five years of sobriety.
Located in Portland, OR, Olivia Pennelle (Liv) is an experienced writer, journalist, and coach. She is the founder of the popular site Liv’s Recovery Kitchen, a site dedicated to helping people flourish in their recovery. Liv is passionate about challenging limiting mentalities and empowering others to direct their own lives, health, and recovery. You can find her articles across the web on podcasts and addiction recovery websites, including The Fix, Recovery.org, Ravishly, and The Recovery Village. Liv was recently featured in VICE.