Recovery Month – September 2022

Recovery Month – September 2022

This month, charities and organisations across the UK and beyond our celebrating Recovery Month! 

Faces and Voices of Recovery, who pioneered the Recovery Month movement, shared this about their theme and ideas:

Recovery Month increases awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and encourages individuals in need of treatment and recovery services to seek help. Recovery Month celebrates individuals living lives in recovery and recognizes the dedicated workers who provide the prevention, treatment, and recovery support services that help make recovery possible.

Recovery is for everyone because it benefits everyone. In recovery, we build new connections to ourselves, our families, and our communities. The Recovery Month tagline, “Recovery is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community” reminds people in recovery and those who support them, that recovery belongs to all of us. We are all called to end gatekeeping and welcome everyone to recovery by lowering barriers to recovery support, creating inclusive spaces and programs, and broadening our understanding of what recovery means for people with different experiences. While it may be tempting to characterize recovery as a universal experience or single journey, our community is proof that there are as many pathways to and of recovery as there are people. Our strength is our diversity and because of who we are, the recovery community has unique opportunities to learn, challenge, grow, and dream. By expanding traditional, limited conceptions of recovery, which center on white, heterosexual, cisgender, religious, wealthy perspectives, we enrich everyone’s experience. Mental health and substance use disorder are not one-size-fits-all conditions, nor do they affect everyone equally. Looking beyond our individual experiences strengthens and supports recovery in all its forms. The recovery community has a powerful foundation of mutual aid, peer support, and adaptability. As we grow in empathy and understanding, we save lives by adding protective factors and building resiliency. Our “I” must become our “we.”

Recovery Month educates others about recovery from mental health, substance use, and co-occurring disorders, the effectiveness of treatment and recovery support services, and that recovery is possible. All of us, from celebrities and sports figures to our co-workers, neighbours, friends, and family members, throughout our lives have experienced peaks and valleys, both big and small. And, with strength, support and hope from the people we love, we are resilient.

The level of understanding and compassion shown by all … from the initial helpline call to the partnership I established with my recovery coach, has made my recovery journey life-changing. – Don, 34. Employed.

Kennedy Street For Communities:

At Kennedy Street, we are passionate about reaching those in our community who are seeking recovery. This is the reason that we are launching our Recovery Hub in Brighton this October! Our new Recovery Hub will be the home for all our work at Kennedy Street. From drop-in sessions, fellowship meetings and sober socials, to business-for-good and volunteer training, our Hub will be a welcoming home from which to support the community and promote recovery in Brighton and beyond. The Kennedy Street Hub provides a safe space for people to find out about recovery options and to come together to meet and learn from peers who are in recovery.


We offer recovery support and coaching, workshops to help personal development and future employment potential, and there are always volunteering opportunities to help others. We work intensively with people, giving wrap-around support to help them sort out sometimes chaotic lives, and mentoring and coaching to help them sustain their recovery.

We are so grateful for all those who have helped us already in getting our Hub ready – from gardening and painting, to donating resources and doing odd jobs – we are so pleased to see everything coming together! But, to allow our Hub to keep running, and to really make a difference in the lives of those in our community, we are seeking funding towards our ongoing work.

If you want to get involved, and play your part in celebrating and promoting recovery in Brighton and beyond, check out our fundraising page and see what a difference your support can make!

“Trust me these people save lives! Thanks to the support and guidance I received, I was able to stay in work whilst establishing a plan of action with my recovery coach.” – Rose, employed, LGBTQ+

Kennedy Street For People:

We aim to support all individuals who struggle with any addiction who are seeking recovery or who are concerned about their loved ones addiction. We understand that addiction a hugely diverse issue – any person can develop an addiction to any thing – from drugs and alcohol, to sex and relationships, to gambling or technology. We want to meet people where they are at in their recovery journey, and get them connected with the best support available for them. Check out our blog post and podcast discussing the difference between women and men when it comes to recovery. Our Resource List provides recovery support options that cover a huge variety of addictions, needs, and options, to help you find what support is right for you.

Kennedy Street For Families:

We recognise that addiction doesn’t just impact the individual, but has huge repercussions for family members, too. We want to support those affected and provide advice and resources not only to encourage the addict to receive support, but help loved ones to deal with the impact the addiction has on themselves. Listen to our podcast on Family Recovery and check out our Resource List for information on services for family and friends of addicts.

“If my mum had not phoned Kennedy Street when she did, I’m not sure if I’d still be here.” – Kurt, university student

Alcohol Awareness Month

Alcohol Awareness Month

“Sobriety has given me a life I’d never had and to this day I feel grateful every single day and grateful for the fellowship of AA  and life skills I’ve learned over the 22 years I’ve been sober, one day at a time. When I go to bed at night after not having had a drink, no matter what, it’s been a good day.”

– Nigel, Kennedy Street Recovery Story

One important thing to remember is that there is no one type of person that can be impacted by alcohol addiction. Those from all walks of life can find themselves in patterns of problematic drinking that interferes with their lives, relationships and jobs.

Current Alcohol Use in the UK

      Evidence suggests that businesses lose between £866 – £1062 million per year, in costs related to losses of labour and productivity from alcohol misuse alone.

      24% of workers admitted to drinking during the workday in the past year.

      22% of workers admit to making mistakes at work due to having a hangover.

      15% of workers admit to being drunk at work at least occasionally.

     Public Health England’s data on the indirect effects of COVID-19  found that in June 2020, over 8.4 million people (1 in 5) were drinking at higher risk, up from just 4.8 million (1 in 10) in Feb 2020.

Benefits of Stopping Drinking

While many people know the negative impacts that excessive drinking can have, most don’t realize the significant benefits that come when you stop drinking.

Healthier Body – Heart, Liver, Immune System & More

Drinking heavily has a huge impact on your health and can lead to serious and even fatal consequences, including:

  • liver cirrhosis
  • fatty build up in the liver and heart
  • increased risk of many types of cancer
  • high blood pressure
  • weakened immune system
  • & many more.

The good news is, that stopping drinking can strengthen your body and reduce these risks significantly. The liver itself can repair and even regenerate on its own!

Improve Your Brain Function & Mental Health

Long-term alcohol abuse can impact the brain in a number of ways, including:

  • impairing your motor function and reaction times
  • issues with memory and focus
  • mental health issues like depression and anxiety

It can be the cause of many serious injuries and accidents including burns, drowning, falls, and traffic accidents that can be fact. It is also often linked to suicide. When you stop drinking, your risk of these types of accidents dramatically decreases, and your brain function can begin to improve.

Better Sleep

Although many use alcohol as a way to fall asleep at night, it actually disrupts the important stages of sleep, makes it difficult to stay asleep and can interfere with your breathing at night. Stopping drinking means that your body is able to get more good quality sleep, and can help you wake up feeling truly rested, and develop a healthier sleeping pattern for the future.

Weight Loss & Nutrition

Drinking excessively can deplete the body of vital nutrients, and those with alcohol addiction often use drinking to replace meals. It can also affect the body’s ability to digest food and absorb nutrients, which can have significant health impacts. Many types of alcohol are also incredibly high in calories and sugar, so cutting out drinking can help you to lose weight and stay healthy.

Improved Relationships

Alcohol addiction can have a huge impact on your relationship with those around you. It can lead to shame and guilt, cause you to become withdrawn or avoid loved ones in pursuit of drinking, and affect your mood and how you interact with others. Prolonged excessive drinking can also impact your brain’s ability to read other people’s emotions. One of the joys of reaching recovery is that it allows you to rebuild damaged relationships and develop more healthy connections, and allows you to connect with a supportive recovery community. Stopping drinking can also increase your sex drive and sexual performance, too!

“I’ve learnt to love myself because that little shy girl doesn’t need a mask in order to tackle life. She doesn’t need to put on a show or pretend to be anything other than the being that she is today. Annie is not afraid anymore for she has dealt with things that have at times seemed impossible to the point where death was the easier option. I now have a life I love. A home I cherish and bless every day. Family and friends who I have unconditional love for. A body and brain that are still working and working well. Plenty to celebrate!

– Anon, Kennedy Street Recovery Story

Stopping Drinking

Addiction is not always about the amount being consumed, but the impact that your drinking has on your life and your loved ones. You can check out some questions here that might help you to determine if you’re drinking might be becoming and issue.

But for those drinking excessively and who have become dependent, there are some signficant risks of withdrawal that can be dangerous, if someone is to stop drinking without the proper support to detox. Signs of withdrawal can include: cold sweats, racing pulse, nausea, vomiting, shaky hands, intense anxiety, and even seizures and hallucinations.

If you’re worried about withdrawal, you can use the Drinkaware Self-Assessment Tool,, and it is important to discuss any of these concerns with your GP, who can help you access support to detox if needed.

At Kennedy Street, we don’t just want to help you to stop drinking but to also maintain sobriety and thrive in recovery! You can contact us today and find out how we can help you. Call our Recovery Helpline on 020 3416 3643 or Contact Us, and check out our Recovery Resources for more helpful tools and contacts to support you in your pursuit of recovery.

Additional Support

AA – Alcoholics Anonymous

For those seeking help with an alcohol problem. AA is about personal recovery and the continued sobriety of individual alcoholics who turn to the Fellowship for help.
0800 9177 650

Sobriety Counter – Stop Drinking (EasyQuit)

This is a great motivational app for those that have stopped drinking. It tracks several elements, including how long you’ve been sober, the relevant health benefits, motivational tips and money saved. It’s easy to use and highly rated.
iPhone app store
Android app store


This app helps you track your drinking from day to day, provides you with your current risk level, and also offers a GPS function that can offer you some encouragement if you’re near a ‘trigger’ location for you. Available on Google Play and App Store:

Kennedy Street meets Win Parry

Kennedy Street meets Win Parry

You can watch the original full-length Recovery Talk here and read our follow-up Q&A further down this page.

We hope you enjoy both!

KS: Tell us about your journey to becoming an addiction recovery therapist

WP: I came to therapy a little later in life. I was married with two children with a good job at Hoover as a Sales Trainer. I gave a good external impression of success and confidence which wasn’t perfectly mirrored internally. Life difficulties lead to some problematic drinking which led to my own personal recovery journey.

I’d always greatly admired people in the psychiatric profession. I thought they sat on the right arm of God and never really aspired to join them myself, but friends gradually persuaded me that I had the right abilities and skills to explore it.

I did my training at Edgbaston and joined the Priory Group as a trainee addiction counsellor. My first thought was to work with the homeless but I soon found myself working with people at the Priory who could afford to pay for their own treatment and I threw myself into it. I came to realise that regardless of their background and circumstances the emotional deprivation and desolation was just the same among addicts.

KS: Tell us about your work at the Priory

WP: I practiced the Minnesota Model which advocated total abstinence. 40 years ago this was seen as controversial. I remember being laughed and jeered at for speaking about it at conferences at a time when everything revolved around harm reduction and controlled drinking. There were few places which opened up to abstinence model back then, but the Priory was one of them, along with Clouds.

KS: What turned that around?

WP: It wasn’t easy to stand up for it, but the likes of Dr Brian Hore championed it, as did the Priory. People began to see that the recovery rates were so much better, so the proof of the pudding was in the eating. I was training others in it in Altrincham and had to be very patient with those less familiar with it. The statutory bodies were a closed shop, but AA was spreading too and the tide gradually turned.

Alcoholism wasn’t even seen as an addiction and much emphasis was placed on treating the root cause and correcting the reason, such as childhood trauma etc, but this approach meant that addicts were left with no shift in emotional resources. It seemed to make sense to get the alcohol out the way first and then resolve the underlying issues. Often there was a genetic predisposition too, you could see a history of alcohol abuse in families for instance.

Fellowships like AA started to be taken more seriously, when they were once dismissed as pseudo-religious, cult-like entities. I would host groups from the statutory bodies to pass on this learning. It was very gratifying to educate others to really understand addiction. But it’s only been in the past fifteen years since abstinence became the accepted model. Soon there were addiction programmes popping up all over the country and it became credible at long last.

KS: Kevin was one of many celebrities to benefit from your treatment Win. What are the main challenges associated with treating those in the public eye?

WP: Most ordinary people who come to the Priory can do so with few people knowing. They can hopefully ease their way back into work gradually. But it’s very difficult for famous people because they have a certain image to protect and can’t escape the glare of publicity during their recovery. It’s harder and more threatening because the focus is intensified on them. It’s not uncommon for a therapist to offer some support in attending events for this reason. The difficulty of attending a wedding or a funeral for example is magnified and only adds to existing anxiety about such critical situations.

Of course there are other challenges too. Celebrities are used to being liked and it can be hard to get them to stop performing when they attend groups. It’s not just celebrities though. Doctors and dentists have their own specific groups to attend so that they don’t have to worry about the stigma of their own patients finding out they have a problem.

KS: In the recent recovery talk we did with you, you covered the subject of denial in some detail. What’s important to understand about denial?

WP: It’s pointless pushing someone who’s lying about addiction into a corner. Eventually though they’ll reach a point where they can’t sustain the lie. Remember that not having a crutch to regulate your emotions is a terrifying thing. If you’re living with a young person who’s lying and stealing to fund their habit the best thing you can do is simply remove your valuables from the house, rather than telling them not to do it, which won’t wash.

When the dishonesty reaches a point that the consequences are just too great you have to be prepared to give an ultimatum – clean up or get out. Never give one unless you’re prepared to carry it out, avoid empty threats. Also have some help ready and available to the addict. Family members can often be a powerful lever to those needing help, so don’t underestimate the influence you weald.

KS: Once an addict has stopped using, how long can they expect that feeling of a void left by using this substance to last?

WP: Some people can last a while going cold turkey, but it can be a miserable existence getting by purely on white knuckled willpower. Without the right support users in recovery don’t know how to change their thinking and regulate their emotions. The early euphoria doesn’t last. You’ll soon hit reality when life deals you something difficult.

It’s only when you start to change your attitudes and learn new coping strategies that you’ll feel better. You find new ways of regulating stressors and that abyss fades and shrinks once you do. People’s desire to drink leaves them if they practice a programme of abstinence through therapy and support groups. You have to submit yourself fully to recovery and accept that abstinence is the only possible way to become well again.


KS: After a long and successful career at the Priory you retired and went into private practice. How did you find that transition?

WP: I did some general counselling courses at Keele University, pursued some different specialisms and advanced my training overseas too, as I knew that it was important to be as knowledgeable about general life issues as I was on addiction. But I found it relatively easy really and my practice soon grew to be full time. I was well known after 25 years at the Priory and had a good referral base.

I’d made good connections with various faith groups and many of my clients today come from these. Some of my clients are third generation now – their grandparents would have seen me and referred them on.

Today around 50% of my practice focusses on addictions, and that which doesn’t often looks at repeated behaviours which causes problems. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result and that’s very true of all addictions. The addictive object disinhibits them. It can turn the mildest, gentlest people into monsters.

KS: Finally Win, do you have any words of encouragement for anyone newly entering recovery today?

WP: If you’re listening to and learning from others who’ve recovered and are enjoying a good quality of life then wonderful things await you. Your life will change beyond your wildest dreams. That may sound trite but it could mean for example that you can be free of that tyrannical relationship, finally become a healthier parent or simply face every day without fear or anger. You will find connection in life to your thoughts and feelings which you’ve been searching for in an addiction and which always eluded you.


Sobriety has given me a life I’ve never had – Nigel’s story

Sobriety has given me a life I’ve never had – Nigel’s story

I was often given a glass of wine when I went out for dinner with my parents from the age of around 12 – it seems strange now but at the time it wasn’t. I always liked the feeling and taste of alcohol but never drank much until my mid-20s, partly as a reward for working hard and definitely for the feeling it gave me. Rarely, if ever, was I happy with just the one drink.

I was happily married at 25 and was working hard, after I left home my parents went through a rough time and both used to ditch on us and it was then my drinking increased. My mum sadly passed away when I was 30 and that’s when my drinking really increased. I was so depressed and anxious and was already a functioning alcoholic. I visited my GP who took one look at my liver reading and sent me to an addiction psychiatrist. I was asked questions like ‘have you ever taken a morning drink?’ I was promptly diagnosed as an alcoholic and sent for treatment.

Rarely, if ever, was I happy with just the one drink.

It was May and approaching a busy time at work, I couldn’t find the time for my treatment! By July I was on my knees begging to go. I hadn’t fully realised I couldn’t drink safely again and came out after 28 days and picked that first drink up soon after. It didn’t take long for me to end up back where I’d left off, only this time worse.

By November, having been completely beaten by the disease of alcoholism, I fully conceded I was indeed an alcoholic and could never drink safely again. I was very honest this time and relieved I was able to be so. I came out of treatment and attended Alcoholics Anonymous every day, then 6 times a week for 18 months or so before dropping my meeting to two or three times a week. I got a sponsor, got to know my fellow alcoholics in recovery, and got honest. I had to keep away from places that sold alcohol with the occasional exception of having the odd meal out.

I feel grateful every single day and grateful for the fellowship of AA 

I went to Florida on my first sober holiday and went to the most amazing AA meeting which I’ve attended many times since, making lifelong friends along the way. Acceptance is still a daily thing in many ways except it is accepting I am indeed powerless not only of drink but in many cases, of people, places, and things.

Sobriety has given me a life I’d never had and to this day I feel grateful every single day and grateful for the fellowship of AA  and life skills I’ve learned over the 22 years I’ve been sober, one day at a time.

When I go to bed at night after not having had a drink, no matter what, it’s been a good day.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction please see our resource list.


My alcoholic Dad

My alcoholic Dad

Some of you may not have a clue what ‘recovery’ means. It has so many definitions, not just those found in your dusty copy of the Oxford Dictionary, but to anyone who has recovered from something.

In layman’s terms (the terms I often rely on to understand something), it’s the journey or process someone goes on to get better. So, with that in mind, haven’t we all been through some sort of recovery?

Each week, we will post someone’s recovery story. They might be members of our Kennedy Street team, our network of friends in recovery, or maybe even you.

This is my Recovery Story.

‘Recovery’ has been a word I have grown up with, woven into the tapestry of my past and etched into my psyche. I know it, I understand it, and for a long time I thought all parents lived ‘in it’.

While my primary school friends were visiting amusement parks and grandparents at the weekends, our family outings were attending AA conventions. Not every weekend, but enough for it to feel like the norm.

We’d attend parties and BBQ’s hosted by other families affected by the disease, where the only drinks served were cans of Coke and fancy sparkling grape juice.
While dad was attending AA, my mum was immersed in Al-Anon, the support group for families of alcoholics. Years later, when I asked how she coped for all those years, she just replied ‘Al-Anon saved me’.

Before dad’s recovery began, when I was about seven years old, we had existed in a cycle of his binges. Chaos and the inconsistent had become frighteningly consistent. Dad would be brilliant and fun for weeks, months, then one day simply disappear into his room and mum would set up camp on the sofa. Instructing us not to go into her room, as dad was ‘poorly’ again. The bedroom carpet drowning in a sea of empty vodka bottles, the stale air filled with his sick, strained voice pleading for more ‘booze’ (a word that still fills me with discomfort and sadness, when I hear it). Family members would arrive and whisper incoherently in the kitchen. Finally, the day would come when dad would be wheeled out of the house on a stretcher, neighbours’ curtains twitching. Mum’s head hung in shame, following him into the ambulance. An aunty placing an empathetic hand on my shoulder. Weeks would pass and dad would return home. Always presenting us with a ‘guilt gift’, the tightest hug and the remorseful promise that he was so sorry for putting us through this latest episode and would never drink again. Life resumed, until the next time.

But for about seven years dad was in recovery. This new and improved Superdad was just that, Super. Our home was no longer consumed with the stench, or sound, of ‘booze’. He was our funny, consistent, sober dad.

I can see now that he finally, after many years, tears and thousands of pounds spent on treatment, had managed to commit himself to his recovery. Something suddenly worked for him. Was it the imminent threat of losing his family? His drinking had destroyed two previous marriages. Or was he finally taking the Twelve Steps seriously? Who knows. Attending meetings, conventions, socialising with people he had shared experiences with, had all become his life-saving support network. He was finally in recovery, we were all finally in recovery.

Life was good and my parents decided to relocate us from the Midlands to Torquay, the palm tree-lined utopia we’d spent many a family holiday in.

Dad continued attending meetings and was even running a helpline for alcoholics, as well as visiting prisons, supporting the convicted addicts.

Our new norm was great. Unfortunately, this perfectly normal life was short-lived and the bubble soon burst. I’m not sure what happened to my dad. His new support network was solid, but clearly, something was missing. Within a few years of moving to ‘The Bay of Dreams’, his new business had failed, we were forced to move from our spacious four bedroom detached house, to a pokey first floor flat. It clearly had a profound impact on him. He’d been raised in wealth, was privately educated, owned large homes, drove fast cars and led a fast life. Mum used to compare him to Georgie Best. Sadly, their demise was also all too similar.

One day, something just snapped in his mind. He wanted to drink again, he could ‘handle it’, or so he said. Six years of sobriety washed away with a pint. Five years, multiple visits to the local ICU and a psychiatric sectioning later, he was dead. Years of liquid abuse had taken their toll on his weak, yellow body. His stubborn organs had finally surrendered, too battered, bruised and inflamed to continue fighting him. His mind was his body’s worst enemy. He had spent the final years of his life pleading with me and my brothers to kill him. We’d launch a counter plea, begging he try recovery one last time. Life could be good, he had all of us. But he’d given up. His mind was gone, his body and soul trying so hard to follow. Life became a struggle and chore, his zest and enthusiasm were gone.

This was life living with my dad and his addiction in a very tiny nutshell. What I have written really doesn’t do justice to his illness, or what we went through as a family. Perhaps I’ll write more in a future blog.

But it gives you an idea of what addiction recovery is, and the profound importance it has on addicts and their loved ones. The reason I’m so passionate about Kennedy Street, and I’m working so hard with the KS team to make this dream become a reality, is because I am painfully aware of the importance of creating positive, safe settings for people in recovery. A place to focus on something other than their addiction. This will be an opportunity for them to nurture talents, as well as self-belief, that have been overshadowed. Perhaps if my dad had found something he was passionate enough about, something that lit a fire inside him, he might still be here. Watching his children grow, fall in love and have kids of their own.

So next time you are faced with someone either in the depths of their addiction or trying to recover, consider what they might be going through. What has happened in their life to reach that point and how could you help them?

Thanks for reading,

Orange is the new …

Orange is the new …

I love my family. I adore my parents. I was even a Daddy’s girl before I knew what was really going on. Something way too big for me to comprehend or understand. Baffling. As I grew up I soon learned why Mummy would get so upset, angry, fraught with tears. Sheer frustration through gritted, seething teeth. Shut crying in her room for days on end, whisking the 3 kids away in the middle of the night, driving from Scotland to England or vice versa to stay with family. Our promised trip to Disneyland never happened but that’s nothing in the scheme of things. Moving house every 6 months for Dad’s new job or to ‘find his happiness’. If Dad found his happiness, we’d all be happy, it was our quest as a family. The only time I saw Dad happy was with a drink in his hand, but he wasn’t truly happy. Far from it. Dad changed with a drink and soon turned into a monster, a stranger to us all, pleading with him to be the Daddy we loved so much.

Hidden bottles around the house, sneak drinking at every opportunity, lost jobs, crashed cars with police at the roadside breathalysing him, endless arguments, holidays cut short, parties ruined, the hideous odour, our mortifying embarrassment.

Harrowing arguments seemed to be my connotation with home life. My reluctance to leave my Mum with him for fear of what would happen. I was frightened and really struggled with school to the point where my siblings and I were home taught for a period of time as it was near impossible getting me, in particular through the doors.

The last to flee the nest, I spent my last few years at home living in silence with my father. A tense cold hatred that felt like torture every time we passed. Arguments, resentment and bitterness in every family activity. Absolute hatred toward someone I loved so very much. It hurt. It tore me apart. Alcohol. Mum and I would talk for hours, trying to understand why he couldn’t stop. Why was it so hard? Did he not love us enough!? We were stumped and mystified.

My parents moved to France in my early twenties, much to my surprise as Dad’s drinking was far from conquered, I thought Mum as mad. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. And I felt so sad that she’d moved away with him. To live in solitary with that man, that problem and without me to support!? I felt useless, to say the least, and I felt completely alone. I wasn’t really a drinker back then, in fact, I’d pour it away whilst out with friends, I just wanted to fit in. Slowly, in my early twenties, alcohol was everywhere for every occasion and so naturally, I started social drinking and started to enjoy the freedom it gave me with my social fear and painful lack of confidence. I’d regret it briefly the next morning whilst suffering with friends and laughing about the fun we’d had. Alcohol was fun and without anxiety or worry, I began to feel cool, accepted, funny, entertaining when intoxicated. All these things I didn’t think I could be normally… I didn’t know who I was but I did know that I was shy and afraid, I lived with a fear of most things.

When living on my own or the first time I was lonely. I’d find a comfort in drinking at home, alone, alcohol was like a reliable friend to me.

A few drinks each night began to be routine. I’m a performer, I graduated with a Diploma in Performing Arts and a promising career in the West End. I loved pretending to be someone other than me and so, naturally I’d have a drink before a show to calm the nerves, some during, some after to celebrate, some after that to wind down. I was self-medicating with alcohol and it seemed to be working. If I felt rough the next day I’d have a drink in the morning to combat that. Bored, ill or worried at work? I’d have a drink at lunchtime. Did I mention it was my reward after work? Yeah, why not. Alcohol daily to medicate every emotion, tiredness, loneliness of every single day. Alcohol had a reason and I had an excuse.

Over the years I learned to cope with the illness it made me feel, daily. It was worth it because it enabled me to cope. Working, earning, performing some amazing gigs and shows etc over the years. A career anyone would have been proud of. This was life. As my health gradually deteriorated, I noticed that my brain was not coping so well either. Forgetfulness, thoughtlessness, fabrication and manipulation of the truth, rising anxiety and panic attacks constantly and the guilt, shame and secretive nature of my drinking. I thought if no one knew, it wouldn’t cause any harm. I was depressed most of the time and found no enjoyment in my life, whatsoever. Gigs with the BBC, shows at world-famous venues with big names, record deals, every second of it fuelled with alcohol. Life seemed impossible yet it still ticked along relentlessly. However, I didn’t see alcohol as a problem. In fact quite the opposite. It’s what kept me going, like fuel to a fire. Without even knowing it, my body was alcohol dependent. A dangerous place to be. But I couldn’t live with it or I’d surely die, that’s what ‘they’ say.

A slow realisation and a dismissed thought. Facts started to point out that, carrying on the way I was, physically my body would cease to live and breathe or I’d kill myself like I could well have done on numerous occasions. For example my near-fatal car crash whilst drink driving, something I did daily but without caring or thought! “Missing, presumed dead.” My poor parents were told. I’d lose job after job, constantly calling in sick and underperforming. I had to move frequently as I couldn’t keep up with my rent or bills, despite earning good money I was drinking every penny I had, drinking was the only motivation I had. If there wasn’t a drink, I wouldn’t be there. For when drink wasn’t available, don’t worry, I always had a secret stash. Every second of every day, meticulously planning my next drink. I didn’t know what it was like to be sober, I couldn’t remember a day where I hadn’t drunk. I started to not know what I’d done the day/night before and swear blind that I didn’t do all the awful things people told me I’d done. I’d laugh it off. I didn’t know what blackouts were. Not passing out but literally, no knowledge of the things you actually do. Scary stuff that I learnt years later, in recovery.

I started taking cocaine and soon became addicted to that. Made my drinking less of a problem, neither was coke for that matter. One balanced the other out, cocaine would perk me up when alcohol made me take a dip.

It got me going for work. I even remember taking it whilst bored on the M25, stuck in a traffic jam. I’d DJ in a strip club in exchange for a bag or two. I’d wait patiently for hours for my dealer to emerge from strange places at strange times. No fear. I do believe I was promiscuous at times, more than I’d care to remember. After breaking up with the love of my life, I only dated alcoholics, unbeknownst to me but glaringly obvious now. Most of these relationships were violent in nature but all the while I was drinking, I didn’t care. Their drinking made mine seem acceptable and normal. Alcohol made me numb to violent acts. Alcohol pulled the wool over my eyes and ears so I couldn’t hear the abuse. Alcohol was all-encompassing at this point. I did however dream that one day I could be the cool, calm girl at a party, happily stood celebrating with a glass of orange juice! But that, at the time, that was laughable. An impossible dream.

I moved to Australia in the hopes that life would be different. Alas, I continued to wake and drink until I was asleep again. On returning back to the UK with my tail between my legs I moved in with my folks who were now situated in the UK. It was now that the reality and severity of my alcoholism could not be hidden anymore. I tried to work but returned home every night, drunk as I entered the house, who doesn’t drive home with a bottle of wine between their legs? After some awkward conversations, they coaxed me into AA meetings of which I’d oblige in order to pacify them. Instead, I’d use them as a reason to drink, all that talking about it made me want to. They were a pathetic bunch of sorry alcoholics, far worse than me, of course.

At one point I was stealing money from my parents to buy drink, they even tried locking the windows and doors to stop me going out but that wouldn’t stop me from jumping out of a first-floor window in order to get out, nearly breaking my legs and/or back in the process. Nothing would stop me! Elation and a feeling of success when I battled the obstacles in my way and had that drink in my hand! One day, however, out of the blue I got crippling stomach pains to the point where couldn’t even drink a small glass of water. I couldn’t eat. Mum ‘home diagnosed’ me with a liver problem, whatever it was, this was to last the next 18 months. Solid, continuous pain, doctors, tablets, liquid diet, cameras down my throat, utter, sober misery. I was detoxed from alcohol by my Mum but I found other ways of getting intoxicated, ways and means only an addict would do in order to get that feeling and to fill that void. I was even addicted to codeine at one point. Anything. I didn’t like being sober. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t like anything. I hated my life and I was utterly ashamed.

The next few years, in a nutshell, were a blurred, chaotic madness. I’ve tried to piece it together and have undoubtedly forgotten most details of it. My parents left the country once again and I was well enough to drink again with no one around to hurt, or so I thought. I’d been kicked out of my rented accommodation by the landlord after just 2 weeks. He visited my place, me passed out on the bed, I presume, the flat in a sea of bottles and mess. A letter by my head saying I had 24 hours to vacate, so I loaded my car and without a thought in my head as to what I’d do from there. I allowed two complete strangers to help me move when I heard my car being driven away from me. I didn’t go to the police, I went to steal some wine and sleep on the riverbank, naturally. So, I had no home. Burgled from all my worldly possessions, guitars, computers, photo albums and memories, everything – including my car. I started living on the street, without a second thought. I had to shoplift on a daily basis to keep my dependant body going. I’d take bottles of wine into the pub, café and public toilets where I could drink in peace. Drink to sleep. I was often chucked out by security though. I was arrested regularly and actually didn’t mind a night in the cell, nice and warm, hot food, bit of company, a slap on the wrists the next morning then back to it later that day. Where next? The streets, strangers homes, the cells. I wasn’t violent so, I wasn’t upsetting anyone. This was my life.

I was often found, taken in somewhere; hospitals, hostels, doctors surgeries. Anywhere people thought they could save me but of course, I’d just be let out or I’d abscond. Like I’d done previously when my parents spent a small fortune out of sheer desperation getting me into a rehab where I endured 18 hours of treatment before leaving. In my pyjama’s and slippers in the depths of winter. I’d managed to walk to a shop with £20, got wine and cigarettes, laid down in 2ft of snow, drank quickly and smoked till I was asleep. At the time I was oblivious to everything but I had what I wanted, lovely. I didn’t care if I lived or died but, what a miracle that I didn’t die on that particular occasion. I did awake with hypothermia and frostbite. I can’t feel my feet to this day.

I was arrested so many times over the years in different cities, the courts and authorities (who knew me all too well by then as Amy Winehouse – clearly I’d been boasting or singing at them) decided to take action and placed me in prison on remand until a decision was made for this hopeless addict.

I was in on remand for a month, didn’t mind it. Even got a bit of a kick out of it like I was on some ‘clicked up’ female prison drama. However, fighting my way out without being sentenced and promising to attend addiction services, I convinced my parents to take me in once again, which they reluctantly did. After 3 months with them, soberly and seemingly well, I decided to move to Brighton. The minute I was dropped off at my new place, new things, a fresh sober start, I went to the nearest shop for wine.

Within 2 weeks I was on the streets again. I opted to take the rent money back from the landlords and live off that for a while. I’d hang around with street drinkers and was taken under their wings, looked after even. Soup runs, car parks, alleyways, parks, drugs, singing in the lanes for spare change and being disappointed when given food rather than money for drink. A friend and I stumbled across a bag of drugs. Didn’t know what it was but I took it. There was a warrant out for my arrest as I hadn’t been attending probation or the required addiction services. When they found me, again a slap on the wrists and a promise to engage going forward. Sneaky Annie can be quite convincing. Then one day, completely depleted of all health, feeling like any time I fell asleep I wouldn’t wake up. Weak, frail, painfully thin with hardly any energy to fend for myself, I was viciously assaulted and raped. How this hadn’t happened sooner, I do not know. I was taken to hospital so black and blue with a smashed up face, missing teeth, two broken ribs and a body that had to be photographed by detectives for evidence, 138 photographs to be precise. They didn’t show me a mirror for 3 weeks as they settled me into a protected housing scheme where I was visited every day by several teams, police escorts when going out etc. You know, the norm. When I did eventually see a mirror in a counsellors office, I didn’t recognise the empty, soulless wretch that stared back at me. I was missing. But I wasn’t dead.

A few months later I absconded the housing scheme once again to go and live with two newfound alcoholic friends I’d made in Hove where I’d continue to drink and ignore all help. Dragged to doctors by my flatmates with the promise of alcohol if I did, real liver problems, no end in sight for my drinking days. Once again, I’d cunningly landed myself in the care of others. Drink, drugs and sleep. All I ever wanted. Eventually, they got me moved to a place where there were 51 other residents, all as hopeless and incapable as me. The workers there started getting me engaged and I started doing little things to help myself. I’d even eat occasionally. I saw people die there, use there, skank around as I did and expect to be looked after. I was taken in for a hospital detox, I came out and was drinking again shortly after but not so much this time.

I was engaging more in talking, key working, someone gave me a guitar and got me playing again and slowly, started to enjoy little things like that. I’d still binge and get myself into spirals where I couldn’t look after myself at all but there were people there daily who saw it and helped and got me engaging in things once again. My drinking started to affect the things I found myself enjoying and wanting to do, I didn’t like that so I’d actively try and drink less or more carefully so that I could do more. A seed had been planted, a realisation that I started to like doing things. A slow realisation perhaps but, my brain was changing. I was offered another detox. This time, I really wanted it. Each drink I had was painful, I didn’t get any enjoyment anymore. It was kinda getting in my way… I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.

On the 9th February 2016, I was detoxed. Sober.

Opening up my eyes a little more and starting to enjoy little things, even if it were initially just brushing my teeth or trying a piece of toast. I’d try and get out for little walks which over time turned into running. The toast became lovely feasts. I’d do art in my room, play my guitar and start writing music again. People would start to compliment me on my looks! Or my funny personality or the fact that I was always so happy. I was encouraged to be me. I was assigned a peer mentor through an addiction service, she became my first real friend in sobriety. We’d go out together, have coffee, play ping pong, even laugh! I found I could be funny, interesting, good company. I saw people reacting to me, valuing my opinion and actually liking me. Trusting me. Little me. Annie started to become alive, perhaps for the first time.

I got involved in a film course with Kennedy Street and found a whole new world where I’d wake up with real purpose to my every day, a newfound appreciation, so huge for such tiny things. An unconditional love of my family that never gave up on me, new friends who showed me love for no other reason than the fact that they liked me, something I could not understand at first. I worked really hard at being sober, gritted my teeth daily, like a soldier at war. I was my own drill sergeant. If I could get alcohol come hell or high water, I could do this. AA and CA meetings weekly, initially not really knowing why but I was white-knuckling and just desperate to get to bed sober each night. I set myself goals like a 5k run for Cancer research. A sober gig. Volunteering. Running a Drybar. Being in a film about my recovery so far. An AA meeting when I could, finding a whole world of people doing exactly what I’m doing and finding it an amazing awakening despite the difficulties. It was hard but I wasn’t alone.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t magically cured. I’ve had two lapses since, however, the lapses were a little crack in the window opening slightly so that I could just have a glimpse at what life was like and could be like again within the matter of, well, picking up just one drink. I’ve had a little taster of recovery now and boy, oh gee whizz. There are simply no words to convey what I feel every day now and how life simply amazes me. I am working my 12 steps with a wonderful sponsor, I give my time and effort and thought to everyone and everything I engage in. I take pride in myself. I love my meetings and the fellowship because it’s what kept me going when I was walking blind with nothing but hope and faith in my heart. I’ve learnt to love myself because that little shy girl doesn’t need a mask in order to tackle life. She doesn’t need to put on a show or pretend to be anything other than the being that she is today. Annie is not afraid anymore for she has dealt with things that have at times seemed impossible to the point where death was the easier option. The only option. In the very word, ‘impossible’. ‘I’M POSSIBLE!’

I now have a life I love. A home I cherish and bless every day. Family and friends who I have unconditional love for. A body and brain that, God knows how, are still working and working well. This body and brain is respected by others too, enough so to find myself working as a Creative Director for Kennedy Street, the people I went to initially in recovery as a student. I will be training as a ‘Wellbeing coach’. I have also been appointed as a freelance filmmaker for a TV company where I hope to spread the word, the truth and the hope that there is in recovery.

Plenty to celebrate one might say. Yes. And the cherry on the cake is that I got my Daddy back. His own path to recovery is just that, his own but he did it also and in his own way. No two stories of recovery will ever be the same but the similarities shock and amaze you. It is a miracle that my Dad and I are still on this earth and, more importantly, stronger than ever.
So to my dear old friend, alcohol, for old times sake, “cheers mate”. I’m quite alright celebrating with my orange juice. It is most delicious. Orange is indeed the new…