Returning from rock bottom: real people share their recovery stories
What does it feel like to reach rock bottom, and start to recover from that? We hear from three people who’ve reached out and received much-needed support from charities in the toughest of times. By sharing their experiences, they hope to help you, or someone you love, to reach out, too…
Consuming the news right now can be alarming, especially if you need help with your mental health and wellbeing. We’re constantly faced with stories illustrating how stretched NHS and mental health services are, and the ongoing economic uncertainty, which could impact the money we have available to even consider private counselling or support if we can’t endure the waiting lists for referrals from GPs.
While this might seem like a bleak way to start an article about returning from rock bottom, it’s our collective reality right now. That’s why it’s more important than ever to look out for each other, signpost the amazing charities and peer support groups who are doing incredible work, and for Happiful to champion the websites, phone lines, and chat services that are available to us all in our times of need.
However, we know from personal experience that taking the first step to call, email, or attend a support group can be daunting, even though it’s clear that what’s possible on the other side of that step could be life-altering, or at least better than the situation we currently face. That’s why we’re grateful to the following people who have kindly shared their stories about making that initial move.
If any of these stories resonate with you, please consider checking out the websites listed, and remember you can also find more information at
Jane*, a member of AA, shares how she began her life of sobriety after a long-standing detrimental relationship with alcohol.
From the outside, and to a stranger, I would have looked like a perfectly fine and functioning person, but on the inside my life was utter chaos. By the time I attended my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at the age of 30, I couldn’t even imagine a world without alcohol.
You could say I was in denial the first time I went. I think I was just focusing on the differences between myself and everyone else’s experiences of drinking, and the impact it had on their lives. It wasn’t affecting me in the same way at all, and so I left that meeting and the AA behind. It took me a further 10 years to attend another meeting and to start my journey with sobriety.
By that point, the stories I’d heard before were ringing true for me. Alcohol was affecting my daily life, I wasn’t getting to the same point of oblivion when I drank, I was experiencing the delirium tremens, intense feelings of shame, guilt, and I was spiralling. It was having an impact on my family, too, in so many ways. I even missed my son’s wedding because of my relationship with alcohol.
The thing I found from attending AA, is that no one understands an alcoholic like another alcoholic. There’s no bullshitting when you’re speaking to someone who has been through what you’re going through. They know the signs, the look, and the behaviour to watch out for.
Ultimately, AA saved me, and gave me more life than I would’ve had if I’d continued drinking. I’ve been sober for nine years now, and during that time I’ve welcomed three grandchildren into my life who’ve never seen me with a drink in my hand.
When my dad was dying with Alzheimers, I was able to care for him. That really meant the world to us both.
I now do service for AA and help the still-suffering alcoholic to understand how the fellowship can support them. There’s a misconception that religion plays a part in AA, but that’s not the case. Yes, it’s a spiritual journey, but what that entails is up to the individual. It’s about surrender, accepting support, and welcoming sobriety.
To anyone who’s ready to take that first step but is unsure, I would say please reach out in whatever way you can right now. You can call our helpline, visit the website, or attend a meeting. There are so many people, like me, who’ve been in a similar position to the one that you’re in now, and they’ll be ready to welcome and support you.
T. 0800 9177650
Kay, a listening volunteer for Samaritans, shares the moment she knew she needed help, and the call that changed everything for her.
“I commute into London every day, and on one of my journeys in I became ill and collapsed. It’s all a bit of a blur; one minute I was on a train with my headphones in and the next I was in A&E. I found out that I’d developed sepsis after being bitten by a tick on my dog walk, and it’d gone straight to my bloodstream. By the time I’d passed out, it was beginning to shut down my organs.
When I woke up in the hospital I was physically on the mend, but mentally, I was challenged. Talking therapy seemed like the next step for me, but there was an 18-month waiting list with the NHS, and a six-week waiting list through my work’s medical insurance.
As luck would have it, I was standing on the platform waiting for the train to work one day and I saw the Samaritans’ sign. I called the number, and I can honestly say that the person I spoke to that day saved my life.
Now I’m a Samaritans volunteer myself. I’ve learnt the power of just listening to someone and giving them a safe space that’s non-judgemental. There’s also so much signposting we can do when you call Samaritans. If you have a particular challenge you want to talk about, the listening volunteer can point you in the direction of groups that will help, and give you the foundations and tools to cope.
To anyone reading this who needs help, please get in touch whatever way suits you best. We’re here all year around. Someone will be there to support you, we want to help. That’s why I do it. I want people to be supported in the way I was, because my life would be very different, I feel, had I not phoned Samaritans.”
T. 116 123
Cara, a therapist and the author of ‘The Eating Disorder Recovery Journal’, shares how BEAT, the UK’s eating disorder charity, and its online forums, have been of significant support to her.
I was in eating disorder treatment under CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) until I was 18, and then adult services for a short period, but when that finished, because the service is time limited, I didn’t feel like I was ‘done’ in terms of talking about what was going on for me.
At that point, about 10 years ago, I accessed an in-person group I found via the BEAT website. It was scary going the first time, but everyone was really lovely. Typically, at least one of the facilitators would have lived experience of EDs, and they’d ask everyone how they were doing or if there was anything they wanted to talk about.
Being around people who have similar experiences to you makes you feel like you’re not by yourself with it. There can be a level of fatigue that comes with being a carer and, sometimes, I could feel like I was a burden. I didn’t feel like that in the group. It was a really safe space.
The in-person groups stopped because of Covid, so more recently, I used the BEAT’s online services while I was waiting to go back into treatment. That was a lifeline when I felt like I was on my own. I used the chat rooms because sometimes I wanted to be anonymous. I wanted to share what I had to say without anyone knowing it was me, because there can be such a pressure to maintain a good level of recovery at all times. It was really validating to speak with others and have reassurance while I was waiting for treatment again. It helped to put my situation into perspective.
I honestly love BEAT, so I’d say to anyone reading this to definitely visit their website. There’s so much on there that could help you today.
T. 0808 801 0677
*Name has been changed.
If you are struggling with your mental health,visit the counselling directory for more information, or speak to a qualified counsellor.