I came to The Living Room for alcohol but realised that my primary addiction was always food, but something major happened in my life to stop the food addiction. I had most of my stomach removed.

I now know I’ve always been an addict. I didn’t know that before I came to The Living Room, but probably from a very early age I used substances to push down how I felt. That worked with food until I couldn’t do it anymore and then gradually, over the last 10 years, that’s gone over to alcohol. Then it really escalated about two and a half years ago when I was diagnosed with PTSD and then the alcohol really took off. I had 29 operations over six years. First for a gastric bypass to control my weight and it was messed up. There was a hole in my bowel, they cut my intestine too short and tied it up to the wrong piece of my bowel.

I ended up in hospital for six months, with week after week of surgery. Off the back of so many things that went wrong with the surgery I couldn’t eat when I came out and I felt left out of social events. The only way I felt I could be included was if I drank. I suppose I noticed it gave me the nice feeling that food used to.

Then my lifestyle changed massively. I got married two years ago and I was in a better financial position and finally got everything I ever dreamed of, but I was destroying it with alcohol. It stopped being fun and became a necessity, but it took me to the gates of insanity, to the point that every time I was drunk I wanted to kill myself and I attempted to do so on numerous occasions. I’m one of the lucky ones; I had an extremely supportive non-judgemental husband who wanted to help me but he didn’t have the tools to help me.

Breaking point came and a friend of mine suggested coming here. My husband had gone away for the weekend. I convinced him I was having a friend to stay and that I’d be fine. I blew the friend off and drank for the weekend. Then on Monday, I went to work and it got to lunchtime and I needed a drink. I went out to get a drink and sneaked small bottles of wine back to work and drank it by putting it in my coffee cup. I knew then that I’d stepped over ‘the line’.

I rang my friend, I was suicidal and the next day she took me to the doctors, who wasn’t very helpful and told me not to bother going to rehab because the problems would still be there when I got out. My friend suggested I come to The Living Room. On the Tuesday afternoon I rang them and I was seen on the Thursday morning and started that day.

I was petrified. I had this idea that The Living Room was religious, which had put me off from coming before. But I was so wrong. Everyone was so lovely, from the receptionist, when I came through the door, to the counsellors and the other clients who made me feel welcome. I left on the first day feeling very positive and that ‘I was going to do this’. I hadn’t felt that in years; that I was going to solve this problem. 

I think the fellowship with other clients is very powerful. I feel understood in here for the first time ever. The best description I could give is that when you first come here, you don’t love yourself and you can’t hold yourself. This place loves and holds you while you build your strength. And I feel safe here, I feel like I can say anything here; I trust the people around me. It’s a real safe place.

There are really tough days in here and the days you don’t want to come are the days you need to come more than ever. I’ve come out of here hating a counsellor and have gone out the next day loving them. But I have changed how I react and deal with people and situations massively. I realised I was stuck at about 14 years old emotionally when I came here and this place has helped me to grow into an adult. My relationships with people are so different. They are respectful and grown up. I see the beauty in things I never even noticed. I’m riding my bike here in the morning and I’m thinking what a beautiful day. I suppose I’m drinking it in, it’s as though I’ve been blindfolded for the past 10 years. I get pleasure out of the simplest of things and for the first time ever I have a feeling of contentment. An afternoon sitting in my garden reading and talking to my husband is now a lovely day.

I’m repairing relationships. My son spoke to me for the first time in 6 months on Saturday. We’re starting on a clean slate and its lovely. I’ve got a feeling our relationship is going to be better than it’s ever been thanks to the skills I’ve learned in here.

I’ve made friends in here that I think I’ll have for life. I had always had the attitude of it’s me and my husband against the world - a very insular relationship. But that’s not healthy. I’ve started doing things with friends from The Living Room and I’m actually really enjoying it. And the knock-on effect is I’m so much more confident and happy and have more to talk about with my husband. He’s seen a massive change in me and he loves it. He says he’s got an even better version of the woman he married.

I have never loved Mondays my whole life, be it at school or in work. But now I can’t wait to get here on a Monday. I’m here at 9.45 – it doesn’t even start until 10.30! I can’t wait to share the lovely experiences I’ve had with my fellow clients.

All of us here have pushed our feelings down with something and here we have to stop and feel those feelings. Sometimes for the first time in a lifetime you have to feel sad and live with that and not act out on it. You just have to sit and feel it and that’s really tough but you know every time you do it you grow a little bit more.