I’ve no idea where my addiction came from. There could have been factors from my childhood, but I think it was just me. I started drinking at 15 and I think I was drunk for the next 21 years.
At 17 I came out, quite quickly. My sexuality was the most secure thing, I understood it and it’s been consistent all my life. I was drinking daily all the time I worked, and taking all kinds of tablets, including through the nursing career I embarked on in my twenties. But I was never disciplined, and never killed anyone! Then I had an accident at work and had some months off. A relationship ended badly around this time, and I ended up in a filthy bedsit, really ill, coughing up blood.
I wanted to kill myself all through my addiction – it was hell. I made various attempts. Once I took enough to kill an elephant. I woke up the next day so angry and confused that it hadn’t worked. My younger sister was taking care of me, bringing me food parcels but it got so she couldn’t do it anymore. It was so hard for her, basically watching her older sister killing herself.
Eventually I went to a place in Birmingham that did controlled drinking but all the time I was screaming inside “I CAN’T DRINK”. I didn’t want to control it. I walked away and thought, “that’s it, I’m going to die”. My ex brother-in-law stepped in and took me to a GP. They referred me to a psychiatrist and I started talking, for the first time in years. They gave me a book of rehabs and my brother-in-law started phoning round. The third place, Broadway Lodge, was the first place to ask to speak to me. I felt listened to.
On February 9th 1997 I went into Broadway Lodge. I knew it was my last chance. From the start, I was allowed to be me. I was listened to; I wasn’t judged. I knew some of the counsellors were in recovery and that said to me that this worked. I got a tiny bit of hope, and that got bigger each day. I’m so grateful it was a 12 step programme. I’m not religious, and I saw that the higher power is about your own personal beliefs – whatever works for you. And I realised I wasn’t on my own. That’s one of the biggest things I took from Broadway. I didn’t have to explain myself. Everyone knew and understood.
In the last 20 years, in my recovery, there have been so many positives. I’ve become a godparent to two nephews. I was there for both their births. I was married for 11 years. I had ten years with my mum, before she died; time to talk and to make up. I’ve lived in New Zealand for a couple of years and got to know my elder sister’s two kids. They’re both getting married now.
I now work for a housing association with the homeless, and as a counsellor and psychotherapist. It’s a way of giving back. I still go to NA meetings – they’ve been my lifeline. They keep me grounded.
So much has happened. My life is so different: miracles do happen and I’ve been given a life I only dreamt of. There’s a lot of love in it, friends and family, and I feel blessed every day. I owe everything to Broadway. They gave me the gift of recovery.
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Helen drank every day she worked and became suicidal