Maddie has been a client at The Living Room since May. Her primary addiction was to alcohol but counselling treatment has helped her address her addictive behaviour around relationships and spending.

I’ve been drinking about 28 years. I was a happy drunk, life and sole of the party. I was married at 19. My husband left when I was 26 with three kids under the age of seven and that was when it started to escalate.

I was a single mum. I went as a mature student to uni - tried to carry on with my life. I had my own business with the Princes trust and all this when trying to be a mum to three kids under seven.

Over the years it escalated on and off I would say. When the kids became teenagers it really escalated and that was when I was using alcohol as a crutch. Life was unmanageable and I used drink to cope.

I was in abusive relationships, always the same pattern. Drink. Drugs. Pubs and violence. I had detoxes before and never had any kind of after care or support so was always back on it. So there were periods that I was abstinent but there was no support and before I knew it I was back on it.

My son was diagnosed with a cyst on the brain. My daughter was diagnosed with MS 9 years ago. Lots of things happened which were very difficult to cope with and I was on my own. The father wasn’t around.

In 2000 I had breakdown and spent 7 weeks in a psychiatric hospital. My drinking escalated. In 2010 I went into a residential detox to get help after another violent relationship breakup. I moved house again. Then another incident with a neighbour who abused me sexually. I got an exchange to a different area seeking a fresh start. Then got into a relationship with a neighbour who was an alcoholic and a drug addict. This relationship was abusive physically, it was his family stealing from me and controlling my life. Then I made a decision through victim support to accept a place in a women’s refuge in Stevenage. I was there for nine months and was rehoused in Hemel Hempstead. That was Sept 2015 my rock bottom. I was happy with the property but I was on my own, with no friends or family. I couldn’t work because of my drinking. So felt isolated and completely alone. I was full of fear. I was in and out of A&E, overdosing, trying to end my life. I became so ill, I couldn’t eat. My liver function was very bad. I knew I was getting problems as I was getting that yellow tinge and bloated. The hospital said my stomach lining was ripping. So I sought help from CGL Spectrum in March of this year. It took me 10 weeks of commitment to get a residential detox. I was desperate.

I was detoxed and came out after 10 days. My worker at Spectrum introduced me to The Living Room and AA meetings. I was told by The Living Room to treat it as a new, full time job. I was quite excited about that but apprehensive at the same time.

I came out of detox on the Sunday and I started here on the Wednesday and I haven’t looked back.

When I started here I was confused, my brain was detoxing from alcohol (it still is) what it made me realise and learn about myself was to really get connected with feelings. All of the alcohol I had over the years suppressed my feelings. In the 6 months I’ve been coming here it has taught me something every day. The workshops and the feelings groups help me understand how I’m feeling on a daily basis. Taking home and learning about myself. I’m building a relationship with myself. I’ve never really thought about these things before. I’m building boundaries with myself.

This isn’t just about alcohol now. The treatment that I’m in is teaching me boundaries, relationships, accepting that the past and the future can be good. And just the support from the staff and from the friends that I’ve made here is phenomenal. I don’t feel that I’m on my own. At the end of the day we all relate because we are addicts.

Structure; it’s my structure, I get on the bus, whatever the weather. It’s my structure and without it it’s a serious worry.

I’ve realised recently that I do have other issues. I’m a bit confused about it myself. I am aware of other addictions as in I’m totally in a spending addiction – I’ve admitted that and realised that. But the Living Room is about looking at all the relationships in your life and really connecting with that. I’m asking, oh, maybe I have got an addiction with this or that. The obsession of the mind. What The Living Room is doing is teaching me to address those things.

The progress I’ve made in this 6 months is so good. My family were suffering. My daughter especially. The progress there is amazing. My daughter is reaching out to me now. My relationships in my family are just brilliant now. I am able to support my daughter now with her illness. I went to spend the day with her during her being very unwell and was able to help – I’m there for her well and sober now. The things are happening which are just amazing.