Making headline news at the BBC with my stories about addiction

BBC PICTURE SUMMER I am back on the BBC! They liked my story about the “drastic” and “shocking” cuts to prison drug treatment at a time when even the Prisons Minister says the drugs situation in English prisons is “unacceptable” so much that it was headlining the news. Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Making waves in Parliament with my addiction mental health journalism

ME AND LAPTOP

My writing about addiction and mental health for national newspapers is having a major impact! A Cross party Parliamentary group of UK MPs is to meet on July 12th to discuss my latest Guardian investigation – massive funding cuts for drug and alcohol treatment which is leading to deaths. http://ow.ly/sCJ030czKgt 

Another exclusive groundbreaking story was for the Times showing the levels of alcohol related brain damage among older people had gone up by more than 300% https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5

And for the Sunday Times on the resignation of the Chief Executive of the Priory and extent of suicides at the UK’s largest private mental health provider. The Priory said the two were unconnected. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp

I have also written about domestic violence and abuse for the Telegraph with harrowing case studies http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/

Please send me exclusive story ideas about mental health and addiction that have not been covered before by national media. I am now working on stories for BBC Radio as well as the Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Times and the Telegraph

This return to professional journalism at 12 years clean is welcome after crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005.

Thank you for supporting my blog without which this return to professional journalism would never have happened.

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Widely published at last! 

ME AND LAPTOP

After crashing out of my career as a reporter for the BBC and national newspapers because of my drug addiction and mental health problems in 2005 I am now, at 12 years clean, a professional journalist again! I have written reports about mental health and addiction for the Sunday Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/deaths-spark-care-fears-at-prioryhospitals-jdtf38khp  The Times      https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/huge-rise-in-middle-aged-drinkers-with-brain-damage-n5zgcwzf5 the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/black-bruises-didnt-recognise-domestic-abuse-calls-reach-all/  I also have upcoming commissions for the Guardian and several ideas for the BBC!

Thank you for all your support for my blog.

Caroline.

HOMELESS CHARITIES AND MOTHERS CRITICISE GOVERNMENT FOR NOT RAISING DUTY ON SUPER STRENGTH CIDER IN THE BUDGET

frostyjack's

The CEOs of homelessness charities Shekinah and Thames Reach have strongly criticized the government for not raising duty on super strength white cider which they said is killing more homeless people than heroin and crack.

The CEO of Thames Reach Jeremy Swain said “the evidence showing that the drinks are killing people is beyond dispute and each month that goes past leads to further deaths.” John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “we see daily examples of people just killing themselves from consuming very large quantities of ridiculously cheap super strength cider”. Both said they were “very disappointed” by the decision.

The decision has also been condemned by Joanne Good, the mother of 16 year old  Megan Craig Wilkinson who died after drinking 1.5 litres of super strength cider Frosty Jack. Joanne Good has lobbied MPs to ban or raise duty on what she called “pocket money” cider.  Professor Sir Ian Gilmore Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance said super strength white cider is almost exclusively drunk by children, street drinkers and the homeless because of its sweet taste and low price.

It is possible to buy a 3 litre bottle of super strength cider which contains as much alcohol as 22 shots of vodka for less than £3.50 or $4. Cider which can be up to 9% alcohol has the lowest duty of any alcohol product in the UK at only 5p per unit less than a third of the rate for beers at the same strength. Conservative MP Fiona Bruce wrote in the Huffington Post that the Chancellor needed “to call time on the ability to buy a can of cider for cheaper than a bottle of water.”

Joanne Good told The Mirror: “I felt disappointed that there’s no immediate rise on the cheap cider that is causing so many problems in society. Hopefully this would put children off from drinking it and maybe a life could be saved. If it was up to me, I would like to see ciders like these removed from sale.”

Both Joanne Good, Thames Reach and the Alcohol Health Alliance welcomed the fact that the government would be consulting on introducing a higher rate of duty on cider of 5.5 to 7.5% volume. But John Hamblin CEO of Shekinah Charity said “they have been consulting for years there’s been lots of evidence presented to government about the harms of super strength cider but there just seems to be a reluctance in government to tax people’s leisure. But you and I don’t go round to meals at friend’s houses on Saturday night when someone brings out a bottle of White lightening. But there’s somehow a perception that higher taxes on super strength cider and lager will impact on Joe Public that’s not the case.” Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed saying “80% of cider sales would be completely unaffected by such a move.”

Cider has had an artificially low rate of duty since the Second World War to encourage people to plant apple trees. But John Hamblin said “We are not targeting people drinking craft ciders which are made from apples this super strength cider should not even be called cider. It’s an insult to call it cider as its never seen an apple in its life it’s just a concoction of chemicals.”

When Joanne Good’s MP Labour’s Mary Glindon brought up the issue of super strength cider at Prime Minister’s question time Theresa May said the government had already dealt with it. “We have taken action through the duty system so these high-strength ciders and beers are taxed more than equivalent lower strength products.We have also, of course, taken action on the very cheap alcohol by banning sales below duty plus VAT.”

But Alcohol Research UK director of research Dr James Nicholls said “The price per unit for strong ciders is considerably lower than beer at the same strength. There is a lot of evidence it is drink by people with serious alcohol problems.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance, said: the government needed to “move the tax system towards a more sensible scheme where the stronger alcohol is, the more highly it is taxed. By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government will also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks.”

 John Hamblin of Shekinah said “people won’t stop drinking because you put the price up we are working with very vulnerable complex people when you increase the price they come off the super strength lager and cider and switch to lower strength say 4%. We not only see a rapid increase in their health but it makes it far easier for us to engage with people.”

The managing director of Aston Manor, the firm that makes Frosty Jack’s, was, perhaps unsurprisingly, very unhappy with the government’s consultation on the issue.

“We are very surprised that in the detail of the Budget Statement there is mention of a plan to consult on a new duty rate ‘to target white cider’,” Gordon Johncox told the Mirror.

“We often point to the inaccurate mythology that exists around white cider and we are disappointed that without evidence this announcement has been made. We will participate fully in the consultation process and provide evidence that dispels the myths that exist”

But MP Fiona Bruce said “opinion polling for the Alcohol Health Alliance indicates 66% of the public support higher taxes on white cider. Perhaps most importantly, Public Health England’s recent report clearly states that tackling affordability would be the best way to reduce alcohol harm. Market leader Frosty Jack’s is consistently ranked among the top brands consumed by underage dependent drinkers. .A quarter of patients in alcohol treatment services drink white ciders, and of these nearly half drink them exclusively.”

She added “such measures have worked in the past: consumption of super-strength beer fell by a quarter in response to the creation of a higher rate duty band in 2011.”

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Where is the £10 billion extra going that the UK government says it’s spending on mental health?

The Prime Minister's Theresa May's speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health

Not on mental health according to leading charities Sane and Mind. They say this money is partly being spent by NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to plug gaps in their funding for  physical health problems. They say less money is actually feeding through to front line mental health services, dealing with people in crisis and suicidal than before. The Chief Executive of SANE Majorie Wallace says the number of people calling their helplines is higher than at any point during the helplines 20 year history as people cannot access crisis care

The government is keen to stress it’s spending more on mental health. The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says its spending £10 billion more and 1 billion more than 2 years ago. The £11.7 billion budget for mental health in 2016/17 is double what it was 5 years ago.  But the government has refused to ring fence the money it allocates to mental health which means charities say the money is being diverted.  Two thirds of mental health trusts said recently that their budgets have been cut and 57% of Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded to an Freedom of Information request in 2016 said they planned to reduce the proportion they spent on mental health.

Extra investment has been promised.  “The NHS has committed to investing an additional £1bn in mental health services by the end of 2020-21.” said the Chief Executive of Mind, Paul Farmer. “This is welcome but we need to make sure that it materialises and reaches the front line. The same goes for all the other pots of money announced over the last couple of years,” he said.

Although the government has put money into  non urgent services such as the talking therapy provider IAPT, SANE says that crisis care had been cut. Its Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace SANE said that 4000 adult psychiatric beds and 1500 Child and Adolescent psychiatric beds had closed in the past few years. The Chief Executive of Mind agreed that crisis care had been cut saying  “NHS mental health services have been subjected to significant cuts over recent years, more so than the acute sector, at a time of rising demand. This has left some parts of the system struggling to cope, which of course has a huge impact on patient care.”

Suicide rates of people being treated by Community mental health teams have doubled in recent years which SANE say is a sign that community care is massively overstretched and not working.

Labour say spending on mental health fell by 8% in real terms during the coalition government and a report in January 2015 said spending on Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services had decreased by 6%. The government says this has now been corrected and that has invested £7 million more in CAMHS psychiatric beds in 2015/2016.

Due to the shortage of inpatient CAMHS beds 47% of CAMHS patients are now treated in private hospitals often many miles from their home.  The average cost of a child staying in a private psychiatric hospital is 800 a night. Theresa May has pledged to end out of area placement for CAMHS patients by 2021. But SANE Chief Executive Marjorie Wallace cast doubt on whether this would happen as no significant new funding had been announced.

The Prime Minister’s speech earlier this week promised a raft of initiatives to help children and adults with mental health problems. It said that teachers in schools would receive mental health “first aid training” to spot signs of mental illness and that links between schools and local NHS mental health services would be strengthened. It also promised extra support for people with mental health problems in the workplace and £15 million extra for “crisis cafes” and clinics.  All this was welcomed by SANE and MIND but MIND said “our job is to ensure that the commitment is met. We need to see sustained leadership to make sure services and support improve for all of us with mental health problems. Having been neglected for decades, we need to see it made a priority for decades to come”

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My birthday – will the Corbynistas kill the Conservatives?

birthdaypicture

How do you organise a birthday party when your friends are at opposite ends of the political spectrum and want to kill each other? I have joined the Conservative Party, largely to find a husband but failing that a career. I have just become involved in politics this year and want to become the government’s Minister for Addiction and Mental Health. This comes after crashing out of my career as a BBC reporter because of my cocaine addiction and mental health problems. I have sent my CV to the health ministry with entries such as “Lost in Rehab 2005-2008” and “Only sane inmate at the Prison View Psychiatric Unit 2008-2009.” Strangely they haven’t called me back…

To kick start my apparently moribund political career I therefore want to invite some of my new Conservative friends to my birthday party. Unfortunately one of my best friends, who saved my sanity when I had a nervous breakdown, says that all Conservatives are members of a “toxic neo-fascist political party.”  Obviously he’s a supporter of the hard-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn who evokes adulation among his acolytes and despair from his detractors. A Corbynista comedian my friend’s routine includes an explanation as to why God has always voted Labour. He’s so left wing he called his only child Fidel. And she’s a girl. I feel a diatribe from him may hinder my political prospects. And he is not the only Corbynista friend I have in fact all my friends are solid Labour supporters.   I too was a socialist until the stratospheric leap in value of my house in Notting Hill, which I bought for £400,000 in 1999, convinced me I was a Tory.

I have now gone from Conservative to Confused as the new UKIP lite incarnation of the Tory Party has made me and many other pro-European Tories seriously consider defecting to the Liberal Democrats. Indeed I was campaigning for the Liberal Democrats (and looking for a boyfriend) in the Richmond Park by election and was ecstatic when they won.

I have thought of a potential solution of seating the Corbynistas at one end of the table and the Conservatives at the other with large signs at either end. I will sit in the middle physically preventing any contact between the two warring sides. Milling around is dangerous so there will be no chatting after the meal or offers of people to come back to my house. As soon as someone gets up to leave I will escort them swiftly out of the restaurant pausing solely to check they have paid. I am still extremely nervous and have put the Samaritans on speed dial (who were very sympathetic when I phoned them saying I was heartbroken as I’d failed to win a handbag on eBay) for the birthday. Will this be the Last Supper of my Sanity?

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My life changing recovery from 30 years of bulimia and anorexia

I recover from 30 years of anorexia and bulimia by following a food plan organised by Overeaters Anonymous a 12 Step programme dealing with eating disorders

I had my first bout of anorexia at the age of 7 starting a 32 year battle with eating disorders which very nearly killed me.  At that time (the late 1970s) it was incredibly unusual for children of that age to have eating disorders so everyone in my family was mystified. I had always been a very thin child. But I suddenly decided I was “fat,” would lock myself in my room for hours screaming that I was fat, weighed myself and exercised compulsively. Everyone in my family blamed my mother, who was an overeater and crash dieter. And it is true that I had a very bad relationship with her, as she was absent most of the time, and did not want to be like her.   But I now think the reason behind that first bout of anorexia was that it was at that age that I was first sexually abused.

My parents had already taken me to see a child psychologist because I was dreamy and lost in a fantasy world.  I had 70 imaginary friends, my teddies, all with their own voices and personalities and would create complex Elephant v Snoopy sibling rivalries. We had schools, we had hospitals, even our own Christmas Day. My mother said the psychologist said I had “behavioural problems” but that there was nothing wrong with me.  I now realise that the reason I had retreated into a fantasy world was that my mother was away 6 days a week, my father was unreliable and, by the age of 8, I had had eleven nannies that I could remember.

The anorexia went away. But when I went to boarding school at the age of 10 and was homesick and under a lot of academic pressure, I started having competitions with my best friend as to who could eat less. I was the winner, of course. My parents took me back to a child psychologist who said I was in danger of developing anorexia again if I stayed at the school so they took me away.

However the eating disorder wasn’t just about being thin. So troubled was my relationship with my mother that I was also obsessed with staying a child forever and not growing into a woman at all. When I was 11 or 12 and started developing breasts I would bind my chest with belts so tightly I could hardly breathe to stop my breasts growing. By 13 I had started making myself sick on “special events” such as Christmas Day when I would eat a lot of food. I had no knowledge or understanding of bulimia, was not copying anyone I knew, it just struck me as the “natural” thing to do. The refrain that has followed me all my life started at this time: “where do you put all that food?”  When someone eats a massive quantity of food, then literally runs to the toilet at the end of the meal, I think it should be pretty obvious what they are doing with the food. But I managed to conceal my bulimia from my family for 25 years. Perhaps they didn’t want to know.

Then, at the age of 13, I had the most traumatic event of my life, my parents vicious divorce in which both of them turned on me, their only child, my mother telling me I was evil and my father telling me I was ugly. My mother calmly sat opposite me in our house threatening to put a contract out on my father, and saying I was just like him and wasn’t even her daughter.  My father said my academic achievements (I was a very clever child) were “boring” and that my legs were too short and my head too big. I am mixed race,  as my mother is Jamaican. But he started making racist comments about black people and Jamaicans with his blonde blue eyed Swedish girlfriend.  I felt totally rejected.

The bulimia was erratic. There were other girls at my boarding school who had bulimia and anorexia but I never saw myself as someone who had an eating disorder.  Nonetheless, as my efforts to stop my breasts growing had failed, I took a drastic step at the age of 15 and tried to cut them off with a carving knife.  I didn’t get very far just superficial scars and never told anyone or sought treatment.

Meanwhile the bulimia was progressing. In my first year at Oxford University I would vomit in the sink of my room. And in the second year, when I had to appear in a see-through body suit, as Titania in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” I starved myself jogging and doing squats for 10 hours a day. Then as soon as the play was over, I started stuffing myself with jacket potatoes cheese and sour cream. I adopted a strict Atkins diet regurgitating all the carbs down the loo.  My cat also became bulimic after I fed him sweet and sour squid. The fact that I’d given him a couple of blow backs from a joint probably didn’t help.

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After I left university, the bulimia was sporadic. I had been severely depressed since my parents divorce at the age of 13 and was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 22.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of 22 by the psychiatrists at St Mary's hospital in Paddington where I was being treated at the Patterson wing and was actively suicidal ending up with a carving knife at my throat

As I was actively suicidal and ended up with a carving knife at my throat, about to cut my throat, the bulimia was the least of my problems.

After intensive therapy, I recovered from the clinical depression at the age of 25 and it was then that the bulimia and my substance addiction problems took off. For some reason, I’m not quite sure why, all my addictive behaviours were kept under control by the depression, possibly because I was so depressed that there was no way I thought anything would improve the way I felt, suicide was the only option.

I had smoked dope at University and tried ecstasy in my early 20s but it was the beginning of my first serious relationship at the age of 25/26 that both my using and bulimia took off.  My boyfriend had quite a lot of money and would regularly take me out to expensive meals which I would eat then run to the loo to purge. He also crucially introduced me to cocaine which would be my downfall 10 years later.  I was diagnosed with bulimia at the age of 25/26 and was once again back in treatment with NHS mental health services.  The therapist who’d helped me with the depression couldn’t help me with the bulimia at all as she wasn’t an addictions therapist. So I stopped seeing her completely and just ploughed on with the bulimia and substance abuse. I was dumped by my boyfriend triggering my drinking and bulimia to spiral out of control.

At my job as a producer reporter at BBC TV I would literally run to the loo to vomit after lunch every day.  People noticed that my eyes would be red after I came out of the loo and everyone thought and would openly ask if I was on cocaine. But no one guessed about my hidden disorder bulimia. I was prescribed 60 mg of fluoxetine, an anti depressant, every day for the bulimia. But this did almost nothing to curb the symptoms of the bulimia although I did feel the fluoxetine “come up” like a medical version of ecstasy at midday every day. The staff at the BBC reacted badly when I started dancing in the office.

Then a disaster happened that almost ruined my life. My mother had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when I was 17. The doctors had recommended she have an implant in her brain to control the shaking, but as she was living in Jamaica, she would have had to move to the United States or travel to the United States every two weeks to have the implant monitored. Determined to stay in Jamaica, she decided to have a partial lobotomy instead.  This led, almost certainly to a massive stroke and a series of further strokes. By October 2001, two years after the operation, she was paralysed but shaking uncontrollably, having psychotic hallucinations and screaming from 5am to midnight every day. As her condition deteriorated, she had begged me to move out to Jamaica to spend time with her and so I took a career break from the BBC. My mother’s illness made me want to slash my wrists and had a disastrous impact on my substance use and bulimia. I first started drinking on my own at home, deliberately trying to get drunk, then continued with the binge drinking in public which had started when my boyfriend dumped me.

My family said I had a drink problem. I was in total denial and thought you could not be an alcoholic unless you had been filmed on reality TV attacking the police in Newcastle. So I decided to up my cocaine intake to “control” my drinking. When I went to a Jamaican ghetto at midnight to score drugs, thinking I was very likely to be gang raped and have my throat cut, when I finally found a dealer he asked me “how much do you want one kilo or two?” I left with a massive bag of cocaine knowing I would get addicted to it. Meanwhile the eating disorder had escalated sharply – apart from making myself sick I had discovered that diet apocalypse Xenical, a fat blocker which would literally remove large quantities of the fat from food, The side effects were disgusting – constant diarrhea – but I didn’t care as it made me thin.

As the cocaine addiction escalated to using 22 hours a day so did the bulimia. I would eat healthily till 7pm but then start going out on trips to score fast food like fried chicken and ice cream then vomit and score some more.  These trips became so frequent that I would literally eat the fast food over the toilet vomit and go out again. The doctors who were treating me for bulimia in London said that every time I made myself sick on the quantity of cocaine I was taking, which happened at least 3 times a day, I could easily die of a fatal heart attack. But as I was distraught and trapped by the terrible state my mother was in I thought I wanted to kill myself.My cocaine addiction progresses to 22 hours a day and my bulimia to three times a day as I am deeply traumatised by my mother's illness after she has multiple strokes when I live in Kingston Jamaica. I now realise that I was in denial about my mother’s abuse as a child and underneath was angry because the minute she got ill her and all her family expected me to drop everything and look after her. I wasn’t even aware of my anger let alone being able to express it so I turned the whole thing in on myself.

When I went to the psychiatrist treating me for bulimia at the Eating Disorders Unit in London at the beginning of December 2004 and said I was drinking a litre of vodka a day and taking large quantities of cocaine he said he could no longer treat me. He expressed extreme concern about me going back to Jamaica where my addiction had spiralled out of control and said I needed to sort out my drug problem. Seeing the in patient anorexics at the Eating Disorders Unit, who looked like concentration camp survivors so thin they could barely walk, I thought my problems weren’t that bad. I said I had to go back to Jamaica as I couldn’t abandon my mother. I went back to Jamaica my cocaine addiction and bulimia spiralling to a whole new level. I spent Christmas day 2004 on my own with a litre of vodka and a large bag of coke and then, desperate, told my family about my cocaine addiction and bulimia.

I said I wanted to go into treatment but that I wasn’t in a rush. This was after I’d been given 3 months to live by the psychiatrist in Jamaica. My family had other ideas, packing my bags and forcibly escorting me to the airport to get on a flight to the UK. There I decided to go to St Chillin’s, Britain’s most exclusive rehab, as I felt it would look best on my CV. I smuggled enough benzos and diet pills, Xenical, into the rehab to keep me going for the first week. I was also addicted to lorazepam as it was the only thing that could make me sleep after 22 hours of using cocaine. I went absolutely mad when the diet pills ran out begging the psychiatrists to prescribe me more. You’ve got an eating disorder they said we’re not prescribing you anything. Desperate and defiant I scored laxatives at the local chemist not attempting to hide this from the other St Chillin’s residents. I was confronted in my therapy group about the laxatives and said that the main reason I was in rehab was not to sort out my drug problem but, obviously, to lose weight. I’d also adopted a protein only diet at St Chillin’s to foster my goal of weight loss. They said I could not be treated on the general addictions programme but needed to move to the Food Disorders Factory at the main branch of St Chillins in London. In fact they packed up all my bags, including 12 pairs of Agent Provocateur lingerie, 36 handbags and 15 pot plants, and tried to forcibly move me. But when I went for an interview at the London branch of St Chillin’s they said there was no way I could go to the Food Disorders Factory if I had a drug problem as so many of the women in there were on drugs.

I returned defiant to the rural outpost determined not to be moved. And although I wasn’t in an eating disorders programme the treatment at St Chillin’s had a remarkable effect on my eating disorder. I was put on a strict diet of 3 meals a day, no puddings or snacks. I considered this a massive curb on my human right to snack but actually it worked.  The enforced abstinence from alcohol and cocaine also had a massive impact on calming down my bulimia. I was only sick once at St Chillin’s, my eating disorder was on its way to recovery.  I was told that I would know when my eating disorder was in recovery when I no longer cared what size I was.

With enough mental health problems and addictions that my ego had a serious problem of crowd control I was told by the psychiatrist at St Chillin’s that I had “too many issues” to be treated in the private sector as I would “bankrupt my family.”  He told me I needed to move to a state rehab. As my own decisions had ended me up in rehab, totally broke, I decided I’d better start listening to other people.

At my next rehab, a tough outfit in South London bristling with ex-cons, they told me I would have to leave if I was sick as they couldn’t treat bulimia. As the puddings were delicious, I developed exercise bulimia instead spending 5 hours a night on the exercise bike in the gym.  I burned as many calories as Neanderthal Man at the darkest point of the Ice Age. When somebody broke the exercise bike I threatened to put out a contract on them. But as I’d been bankrupted by my shopping addiction the would be assassins said that the packet of fake nail glue – which was all I had to offer – just wasn’t enough. I wasn’t sick once at my second rehab but I did get very thin.

At my third rehab I put on weight ate perfectly normally and was only sick once.  But once I was out of the cozy cotton wool of rehab the bulimia flared up again. From the beginning of 2006 to 2009 I would be sick every couple of weeks, sometimes once a week. It was much better than before but the bulimia was still not in recovery. I would also do compulsive exercise.

My friend from “Divorced from my Drug Dealer Anonymous” introduced me to the food programmes of Overeaters Anonymous. I had attended OA at St Chillin’s where I’d been taxied to the meetings despite my reluctance. But the next rehabs I went to were mainly focused on drugs and didn’t get me to go to OA meetings.

Following my friend who was a kind of mentor for me in recovery, I adopted the OA food programme which consisted of a certain amount of protein, carbohydrate, vegetable and fat at every meal. Also crucially the OA food programme banned sugar and high fat food which had often been the trigger for me to binge and puke.

Following a food programme designed by Overeaters Anonymous I cut out sugar and high fat food from my diet and recover from the bulimia that I have had since I was 13

After about 6 months of doing the programme I made myself sick for the last time in July 2009. I have never been sick since then though I have done compulsive exercise.

I no longer follow the OA food programme and have re-introduced small quantities of sugar and high fat food into my diet. It is important that I only have these foods occasionally and that it does not become a habit as if it did I would be exposed to the desire to purge the high calorie food through bulimia or compulsive exercise. I control my portion size, never eating an amount that would be too large as this would make me want to purge.  Also, as at St Chillin’s, I have three meals a day and do not snack. I am quite thin, I got down to 105 pounds when I had a nervous breakdown at the end of 2013. I only realised in retrospect that, as well as doing crazy OCD checking rituals 10 hours a day as I felt out of control, I was also controlling my food.

My weight is now slightly higher at 107 pounds but I am still very slim. I have not and will never reach the level of recovery from an eating disorder where I don’t care what size I am. I have no desire to reach this state as I might then be happy being fat!  Being slim gives me freedom as I feel I can indulge in sugar and high fat food maybe once or twice a week. When I was a normal size when I had a high sugar or high fat meal I would feel a twinge of compulsion to purge or compulsively exercise. I have not compulsively exercised for at least six months. My recovery isn’t perfect but considering I was given 3 months to live because of my bulimia it’s has definitely changed my life.

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Next week: My battle with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

 

 

10 Tips to avoid relapse when you encounter alcohol or drugs in work or social settings

I celebrated 11 years of recovery from alcohol and drugs at the beginning of 2016 and have never relapsed since I came into recovery at the beginning of 2005 by following these tips Following these suggestions I have been in countless situations involving alcohol and drugs and have never relapsed in my eleven and a half year recovery.

  1. Always have a couple of people’s phone numbers in recovery you can call if you feel triggered.
  2. In a social situation, if you think you are going to pick up, leave.
  3. In a work situation, if you feel you are going to pick up and cannot go home, leave the room for 5 minutes, make a phone call, pray, meditate or do some deep breathing exercises.
  4. Carry a list with you of the worst things you did when you were drinking and using so you remind yourself how bad it could get if you relapsed.
  5. If your job involves constant client entertainment, where you are under pressure to drink alcohol, switch to another role in the company where you don’t have to do this or find another job.
  6. If your job involves regular contact with your drug of choice, consider changing your job.
  7. Avoid social situations where you know you will see drugs, particularly your drug of choice. If someone brings out your drug of choice in a social situation, leave.
  8. Explain to your partner/close friends/family members how bad your drinking/using was and how terrible it would be for everyone if you relapsed. Encourage one person not to drink at social events with you or if they accompany you to work events. Then you have a non-drinking buddy to hang out with.
  9. If your partner/family members/friends are not there, there is often one other person who is not drinking because they are driving or on medication. Sit near them or hang out with them if it’s a social setting so you feel less isolated.
  10. I was advised in rehab not to drink non-alcoholic beer or wine or soft drinks out of wine glasses. Both can trigger a craving and you can end up picking up the wrong bottle or glass that actually has alcohol in it.Sign up for updates on this blog

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10 Tips for dating a normal drinker if you’re a recovering addict/alcoholic

TIPSDATINGDRINKER

  1. Do not have alcohol in your home. I was warned early in rehab not to have booze in my house in case I had a bad day and reached for it. I think this is very good advice.
  2. Keep going to meetings or in touch with your online recovery community. You need to keep reminding yourself you are an alcoholic so you don’t think “my partner is drinking I will too.”
  3. Explain your behaviour when drinking to your new partner and that it would be a disaster for you and them if you went back there. This may encourage them to abstain from drinking when they are around you.
  4. If attending gatherings where everyone is drinking apart from you always have some people in recovery you can call if you get triggered. Tell your partner if you feel like picking up a drink.
  5. Exit as quickly as possible from the situation if you actually think you are going to pick up.
  6. Work on keeping a separate identity to your partner by maintaining your own interests, activities, hobbies including contact with all your recovery friends.
  7. If you start to think “I’m cured maybe I can drink again” read your Step 1 about the horrors of your addiction or any written work you have done in treatment or groups.
  8. Get more support in terms of seeing an addictions counsellor if you can afford it.
  9. Include other recovery people in your social activities or holidays with your partner, when possible, so you are not the only person not drinking and have support for your recovery.
  10. If you have a spiritual practise, some form of meditation or prayer, use it to ground yourself and ward off cravings. If not, check in with how you are feeling every day. If you are very angry upset or tired maybe avoid social situations where you will be exposed to alcohol.                                                                 Sign up for updates on this blog                     Follow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook

 

The 10 craziest things my denial has told me…

Throughout my cocaine alcohol shopping addiction and bulimia I managed to convince myself, despite being completely out of control, that I did not have a major problem as I had denial big enough to house the entire population of Beijing

  1. Despite drinking 21 hours a day that I could not be an alcoholic as I had never been filmed on reality TV attacking the police. Specifically, I had to be filmed in Newcastle, a hard drinking town in the north of England. My drinking was obviously fine as I had never been there.
  2. That waking up from a self-administered Rohypnol and alcohol induced blackout in the middle of having sex with someone I definitely did not want to f**k was just “one of those things that happens when you’re having fun.”
  3. That it was normal to be so tanked up on alcohol that you couldn’t actually remember whether you’d had sex with someone or not.
  4. That everyone in England collapsed on the floor of nightclub toilets, had to be carried out by the entire bar staff, went into convulsions and then almost caused a car crash by kicking the person in the head who was taking them home. This I said to my relatives in Jamaica was a “cultural difference” they didn’t understand.
  5. That the best response to thinking I was having a cocaine induced heart attack while driving in Jamaica was to take more cocaine and drive on.
  6. That my drug dealer in England (who I had heard had beaten up several of his girlfriends) was not only of impeccable moral character but also my “best friend” as he gave me free cocaine.
  7. After practically moving him into my house and doing cocaine with him 20 hours a day when he wanted to date me I said “I couldn’t possibly date a drug dealer as I might get addicted to drugs.”
  8. That being seduced by a female teenage stripper in Jamaica, who’d killed a girl the week before, and then stole my car was just one of those “funny things that happen when you’re doing drugs.”
  9. That although I had made a hole in my nose so huge by snorting cocaine that every time I breathed it whistled like a kettle when it was boiling I did not have a major drug problem.
  10. That after projectile vomiting having drunk car engine cleaning fluid while high on cocaine it was normal to attend several parties, rather than hospital, doing sign language as I couldn’t speak. I did not perceive myself as an addict but rather a party girl and socialite who’d been to too many parties.                                                                     Sign up for updates on this blog                                                                                                   Follow me on Twitter            Send me a friend request on Facebook