Alumni Update: “That call is my piece of connectedness to where it all began.”
I am 42 years old and I have spent over half of my life to date knowingly in some sort of pain – dis-ease -just at being alive. I was first admitted to a private clinic in London for depression, bulimia and suspected alcoholism in 1999 at the age of 26. In the same year, my career took off and I was flying in every sense. Getting promotions, titles, driving myself, driving my Aston Martin, in 3 different countries a week, but never knowing who I truly was and getting lost in power lust. And causing myself greater and greater spiritual pain. And drinking. And bingeing and purging. Growing thinner, fatter, sicker, less familiar to myself and everyone else around me. I signed myself off sick (because, being God, I could do that) on 4 occasions over the next 15 years, progressively more desperate, but at first with the financial comfort, to seek help in private specialist clinics. Therefore you could say I was still a ‘functioning’ addict of food and drink. I was physically not completely broken, and I still reveled in self-created emotional highs, but on a spiritual level I had already flat-lined. In 2012 I first came to The Cabin after acknowledging I was very ill. My pride was thrashed and the shame, overwhelmingly painful after loss of work contracts, most spectacularly in a responsible position at London 2012 Olympic Games. I was pretty desperate, which I continued to blame on others, or my father’s death that year. Notice I say, ‘pretty’ desperate. The worst was, indeed, yet to come. I was sober for 9-10 months in 2013. I actually can’t tell you exactly, because I was in the throes of being a classic dry drunk and, as I see it now, still grieving for my dad. I didn’t pick up, but my thinking and behaviours hadn’t changed one iota. Misguided, hazy and with no programme on board, I went to AA, but didn’t get a sponsor. I was still in denial. I hadn’t hit my rock bottom (as it was to be in 2015) and so essentially I still thought I could do this somehow without working the steps. I hadn’t, on reflection, even honestly done Step 1. I went on to lose my husband, my house, my work, many friends and I had properly crashed this time last year. I was drinking at least a litre of vodka a day, tried to commit suicide twice, and became a recluse. My only friend was the bottle. Oh, and someone sick enough themselves to have an affair with, as I was and remain at present, technically married. From Christmas Day last year I descended into a 10-day-long psychotic episode, which began at home and on the streets being chased by imaginary police helicopters and ISIS gunmen, and ended in a secure area of Royal Berkshire Hospital. It was terror on earth. My long-term GP admitted I was a case he had run out of options with, and I had no money left. But on 18th February of this year, I somehow landed in Chiang Mai after 20 hours of suffering withdrawals on airplanes because nobody would serve this alcoholic a drink. For this I have a friend, Steve, to thank. Steve stayed with me in hospital throughout the worst days until I boarded the plane and went mad, literally, at 30,000ft. I was taken immediately to the intensive care unit at CM Hospital. My estranged husband had found some money to lend me for the plane and a month of treatment, and I agreed this was either the end for me, or I take the trip. I still believe that is the day I surrendered to alcoholism. When I came round and started my programme at The Cabin, I was on my hands and knees, and most importantly to my recovery, had done Step 1, honestly. I admitted I was powerless over alcohol, and that my life had become unmanageable. And with the foundation of AA’s steps, The Cabin programme began to work for me, but I had to be open, honest and willing to take action and do as I was told. It really was that simple, I was battered into submission by this killer disease of addiction, that makes exceptions of nobody: barristers, television moguls, sports idols, hookers and me. After one month, it was too soon for me to leave. This felt from the outset like ‘the last time or else’, and today it still feels that way. My estranged husband knew this, and helped find the finance again. For this, I will thank him whole-heartedly when I reach that step, which I hope to do before too long. I get very over-excited in recovery, but the steps are in that order for a reason. The next 10 weeks, including trauma therapy and participation in many AA-related activities, allowed me to return to England, and start my life all over at the end of April 2016. In truth, it began on that horrific, torturous plane ordeal, which today I can look back on with insight and clarity of what was truly happening to Kate. I am able to do this as a result of the incredible experience and the truth that the specialists and special people at The Cabin, Chiang Mai taught me. I have become teachable. Having been a global event producer for 18 years, I began cleaning deep fat fryers in an English countryside pub kitchen on minimum wage. Not ideal, but by f**k did I learn humility. My patience and tolerance is also improving. And I learned how to serve up a Michelin dessert. And I got to AA meetings every day, wherever possible, and crucial to Kate, got a sponsor in my first week back. I needed that guidance with immediate effect, and happened to be drawn to Abi at my very first meeting. But my recovery life today is made immeasurably more manageable with The Cabin’s Aftercare programme. Every Saturday I love getting up at 5:30am to tie up with The Cabin and a handful of close alumni to talk about how our week has been, discuss a topic such as ‘high-risk situations’ (to which I say, work), and then look at the challenges of our week ahead. I have done this for the past 7 months and I really do mean ‘I love it’, because 5:30 on a Saturday is OK for me and therefore it is also my way of saying thank you to The Cabin for what you do for me. That’s how it works for me. That call is my piece of connectedness to where it all began. It is a superb service, which bookends my weeks and as such, helps me to manage my life today, one day at a time. Interestingly, my spirituality was the first thing to leave me on this extraordinary journey, yet it was also the first thing to come back, ahead of my physical and emotional health. And this triangle of life factors need to be kept well balanced to stay in shape. This is my work today. Not global events or Michelin tiramisu. Me. Who I am finding a little more of every day. And a balanced me is impossible to find without the help of others, who I try to thank along the way. Today I have a new employer, and I am just his agent. The most important thing in my life today is truthful connections and doing the next right thing, as guided by my Higher Power, working the steps and just working to be the very best version of Kate I can be. There is sh*t every day to handle. But most days I seem to handle it, without kicking and screaming. That, is a sensational miracle, right there. I also happen to have started my own creative business with a brilliant partner – Steve – painting and renovating old properties. And guess what? It’s keeping me out of trouble. Just for today. I was also voted in as Secretary at my home group, Didcot in Oxford with five and a half months sobriety and the group haven’t kicked me out yet. Who knew?I especially find meditation and mindfulness help me to calm my mind and see things more clearly. Getting honest with myself and the people I love has been hard, but also a huge relief.