Film maker

Recovery champion

Alcoholic and anxiety surviver

Maddie’s story

After 15 years of what I now realise was alcoholism – brought about by my mental ill health and childhood trauma, I found myself in A&E after a four-day binge, shaking uncontrollably and at my lowest point. It was here I was told I was alcohol dependent, which was the wake-up I needed to stop drinking and turn my life around. I’m nine years sober now, 14 years in recovery and the proud founder of ‘Sobriety Films UK’, a not-for-profit Community Interest Company, we are a collective of filmmakers producing films, hosting screenings and running filmmaking workshops about recovery from addiction, mental ill health, trauma and disability concerns.

There was a day when I thought I’d never make a film again, yet I am now back following my calling of film-making and speaking confidently to international audiences. It’s been a challenging journey, and I still battle with anxiety and depression, but I am in a completely different place now that I have stopped drinking and started supporting others to tackle the cause of their own addictions.

There was a day when I thought I’d never make a film again, yet I am now back following my calling of film-making and speaking confidently to international audiences

I would say my introduction to alcohol started as early as 13 when my Dad gave me a Babycham in a champagne glass, which I thought was incredibly glamorous and sophisticated.

I grew up in a difficult family environment, which often felt unsafe to me. Alcohol relaxed me in social situations and was my way of self-medicating. When it really got out of hand, it was triggered by leaving a long-term relationship. It spiralled from there and whilst I was often able to hide my drinking from my work in nightclubs – it affected my modelling career, when I’d turn up for early morning shoots having been up all night drinking.

After my turning point in A&E, I went to a 12-step meeting and started to turn things around a day at a time

It also impacted my family life – I remember driving us all back from a wedding in Normandy when I was completely drunk, thankfully lucidity prevailed and I stopped the car and got out, realising in horror that I was putting all their lives at risk.

After my turning point in A&E, I went to a 12-step meeting and started to turn things around a day at a time. I’d been to a meeting eight years before, but wasn’t ready to give up then as the drinking had enabled me to function with severe agoraphobia. But the next morning it would leave me shaking and suicidal.

When I gave up, my anxiety increased dramatically at first, as my nervous system struggled to stabilise.  It was hard but I kept on going. 

I believe that recovery is the best and most life-changing thing a person can do, especially if you have co-existing mental ill health. You get your life back and you get to experience it to the full, without the substance that has been numbing you and masking the emotional pain.

I believe that recovery is the best and most life-changing thing a person can do, especially if you have co-existing mental ill health

Whilst I’ve relapsed a couple of times in 14 years, I am nine years sober now and confident in myself (rather than having false esteem from the drink). Relapse is part of addiction, and they were both precipitated by my crashing down into severe depression. Now, I can relate to others without alcohol and feel truly engaged, grounded and authentic.

I’ve had therapy for many years which has really assisted my journey and I’m very grateful for the support, care and treatment I’ve received. It meant I could be really present (i.e. completely sober) for the passing of both my father and my brother from cancer, which I would have deeply regretted if I was still in active addiction.

Now, I can relate to others without alcohol and feel truly engaged, grounded and authentic

One of my proudest moments was last October when I went to Los Angeles for the première of my film, ‘How I Got Sober – A Film About Recovery’, at the Reel Recovery Film Festival, it was on my birthday and I spoke in front of an international crowd about the UK mental health crisis in young people. I thought about how far I’d come and how I’d previously been crippled with panic attacks and social anxiety yet here I was speaking in front of all these people. It was a miracle. Another of the greatest gifts recovery has given me is the ability to work with female newcomers and support them in their growth.  Passing on my experience, strength and hope, is priceless.

My advice to anyone who finds themselves self-medicating with any substance is that you need to take the substance away to get to what is underneath and to treat any mental ill health and trauma. You could start by phoning one of the many helplines, talk to your GP or self-refer to services. 

You could alternatively join the 12-step fellowship or Smart recovery group. It has to come from within you. You have to want a different life without that addictive substance. The most difficult thing is asking for help, but that help is there. Just reach out and tell someone.

The most difficult thing is asking for help, but that help is there. Just reach out and tell someone

I found recovery to be a process of cognitive restructuring, personality and behavioural development and growth.  You change and your brain remodels the neuropathways that have got stuck in the addictive groove.

The link between addiction, mental ill health, and trauma, is absolutely fundamental. We are all products of our experience. I recommend looking at the work of Dr Gabor Mate and finding out about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s).

I felt a huge stigma around my depression, however being in a recovery group helped me to know that others were in the same position. There’s still a massive stigma around alcoholism, but I now see my experiences as a gift. I’m proud to say I’m an Alcoholic.  Sometimes I like to surprise people by telling them that and watching their reaction.  It makes me smile.  And then I explain to them my incredible journey and how I am More Than My Past.

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