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I had an amazing home as a child. My dad left when I was 15 months old, but my mum could not have done more for me and my brother.
Then at 13, I started drinking. I was bullied at school, which triggered a mindset that I was fat and ugly, so by drinking I suddenly felt popular, like I fitted in, and it gave me confidence.
Someone with fake ID would go and buy a load of bottles from the off-licence and we’d get drunk in the park or fields.
My mum knew I was troubled and arranged counselling for me, but I didn’t see it as a problem. It was fun.
As a student, drinking was part of the culture. It was acceptable to get absolutely smashed. I even chose my degree in hospitality management because there was wine tasting on a Friday.
I drank the same as my friends, but while they’d be going out one night a week, I was going out every night and gradually my addictive nature turned on me.
It started as binge drinking, then it became the first thing I’d do in the morning and last thing at night.
It began to cloud my judgement, and as a result I ended up in an abusive relationship. After university, I went on holiday to Turkey, met a Turkish waiter and ended up staying for two years.
I wasn’t thinking straight. I knew I was in trouble with my drinking and I thought meeting somebody abroad who was so different would change it.
But he was very controlling. I was running a nightclub and he didn’t like the fact I wore make-up or spoke to men.
Our cultures were different, and when I told him I wanted to end it and go back to England, he became aggressive.
He said, ‘You’re not going anywhere.’ I had an apartment with metal bars on the windows and he locked me in. It was horrendous, but all I could think about was alcohol. He brought me alcohol and bread every day, then he was violent and used me.
I was a mess. I didn’t know if I’d been in there two weeks, three weeks, or a month. I knew I had to get out and get some clarity, so I cut down my drinking and told him I would change.
Finally, he let me out. I booked a ticket home and when he found out he flipped. He dragged me through the pub and beat me up, broke my ribs and left me black and blue.
Somehow, I managed to get on the flight. My hands were shaking, I felt dizzy and sick.
My body was crying out for alcohol and I realised I had a massive problem. I remember looking out of the window, thinking, ‘How has my life come to this?’
I was broken – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
It was chucking it down with rain when we took off and landed, but above the clouds the sun was shining and there was something about that moment that gave me hope.
My mum collected me at the airport, she took one look and said, ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and took me straight to hospital. I felt empty. I didn’t know who I was any more.
I moved in with Mum and she did everything to help me. I tried local services, but it didn’t work. I couldn’t live with drink and I couldn’t live without it.
Then life got really dark. I moved into a flat on my own and I was drinking two litres of vodka a day. The only person I’d see would be the Tesco delivery man, or my mum checking if I was alive.
I fell over, broke my arm, I had black eyes… I struggled to breathe. I could have blacked out any day and gone in my sleep.
My mum was a respected pharmacist and in 2008 The Pharmaceutical Society paid for me to go into a six-week residential treatment centre and I made it into recovery. It didn’t work and two years later I was in recovery again.
Then in November 2012, I had two weeks of absolute carnage. I ended up on probation for smashing my car while drunk. It was the second time I’d lost my licence and I was given a five-year ban. It was the best thing that could have happened to me.
It brought me to a rock bottom I’d never experienced before. I was so empty and dead inside. I remember sitting in the police cell thinking, ‘I either carry on down this path, or I do something different.’
So I asked for help. I reconnected with my local church and went back to AA. I did everything I had to do and that’s when my recovery blossomed.
Mum came down to Bournemouth from Wales to support me.
I’d always planned to take her on holiday, but had never been well enough, so we went to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and had a great time.
After we got home, Mum was getting ready to drive back to Wales when she suddenly collapsed. I thought she’d fallen at first, but then I realised there was something wrong. She was on the floor, out cold. She’d had a cardiac arrest.
I dialled 999 and started doing chest compressions, trying to get her heart to re-start. I’d done basic First Aid with the Red Cross during my rehabilitation, but never thought I’d need to use it.
I wasn’t fully trained, but remembered the ad on TV with Vinnie Jones. They said the ambulance would be eight minutes.
It was the longest eight minutes of my life – then two ambulances turned up at the same time.
The paramedics shocked Mum’s heart six times, but there was nothing. One of them said, ‘We’re going to have to call it.’ I looked him in the eyes and said, ‘Please, try one more time.’ He still had the paddles in his hand – he tried one more time and her heart started beating. It was incredible.
They rushed Mum to hospital, and although it was touch and go, she made a full recovery. If she’d collapsed six weeks earlier, I wouldn’t have been in a fit state to save her.
Things continued to get better. I went back to court and when the judge saw how much I’d turned my life around, he gave me my licence back two and a half years early, which I never expected.
I’ve been sober for six years now and pioneered an initiative called The Recovery Course, which has helped over 800 people in Bournemouth in four years and is spreading nationwide.
I’ve met amazing people who have encouraged me to become a better person, and I’ve had more fun in recovery than I had when I was drinking. I don’t think you’re ever cured, though.
I have to actively try to stay on track. I still meet friends in restaurants, but I don’t go clubbing or places that are going to be triggers.
I despised myself, but if I hadn’t gone through all that I wouldn’t be able to help people today. I turned my battles into blessings. In any broken situation, there is always light and hope.
HOW TO SAVE A LIFE
● If you witness a cardiac arrest, call 999 and start CPR immediately.
● Place the heel of your hand on the breastbone at the centre of the person’s chest. Place your other hand on top and interlock your fingers (right).
● Position yourself with your shoulders above your hands.
● With straight arms, press straight down with firm force by 5-6cm (2-2.5 inches) on their chest.
● Keeping your hands on their chest, release the compression and allow the chest to return to its original position.
● Repeat these compressions to the rhythm of Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees.
For more about Emma’s recovery course, visit Recoverytwo.org
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