Doe’s life changed when she was just 15 years old and she discovered her dad wasn’t her real father. "Apparently everyone knew but me. My best friend broke the news. I confronted my mum and she admitted it was true, that I was actually the product of a rape. Thinking about it, I realised my dad had always been a bit inappropriate with me in a way he wasn’t with my sister. I’d never felt so alone, unwanted and I started hating myself. I started taking from my mum and dad’s drinks cabinet and would sometimes sniff glue. It took away the pain I was feeling.”
Doe’s school marks tumbled and she began to find it difficult to look people in the eye. As friends fell away from Doe, she turned further to alcohol and drugs. Looking back aged 51, Doe says: “If I’d had someone to talk to back then, anyone who asked me what was wrong, a teacher, anyone, I don’t think my life would have spiralled quote so far out of my control."
Leaving school with few qualifications, Doe met her partner through drink and drug taking and they got married.
“We thought if we had babies it might make everything better. I did stop when I was pregnant, but as soon as breastfeeding ended, it all began again. I never really knew there was a different way of living. I thought I had to drink to cope with life. I had never heard of recovery.
“My kids didn’t have a good start. I was agoraphobic, paranoid and scared of everything and everyone. The house was disgusting, with no lightbulbs and no carpets. They raised themselves and my daughter was the adult from the age of about eight. They witnessed all sorts of things. I set myself on fire in a tent once trying to use a gas canister while drunk and had a two week stay in hospital having skin grafts. We would inject in front of them.”
Doe’s husband died suddenly at the age of 37, when the children were nine and 13. "I hated him for dying, I wanted that to happen to me. My self-esteem was so low and any thought of the future was so desolate I felt like I was just hoping for the end. I was aware how awful life was, but didn’t know what to do about it.”
“Social services wanted to take the children away, but they wanted to stay and look after me. I wish they had gone into care, it was selfish to keep them.”
One Sunday morning, Doe woke at 4am with the shakes and instead of alcohol calming her body it made her violently sick. “Every little bit of alcohol came back up. My body was rejecting it. I was in a mess and crawled down stairs to get help. The neighbour called an ambulance. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face as she watched me being taken to hospital. She thought I was going to die.”
An alcohol and drugs worker talked to Doe in hospital. “I was offered a place at a rehab. Before I left they gave me one evening to go back to the flat to get anything I wanted. I saw it with fresh eyes. Everything was broken, there was blood on the walls and carpet, burn marks – I thought to myself ‘I never want to come back here again’.”
Doe spent six months in the rehabilitation centre before visiting Addaction. “I was terrified of the world outside. I knew I had to come to Addaction so I ran the whole way from the front door of the rehab to the reception at Addaction. I was so scared, the staff had to really calm me down.
“I moved into a dry house. Four days a week I used to go out of my room and come to Addaction for support groups –then straight back into my room without talking to anyone. Group work was really hard but made the most difference because I had to say things out loud that I thought about myself and my past. There were quite a few instances when I would start bawling my eyes out or storm out of the room. It is hard and lots of people want to run away, but it does get better. We’re like big kids when we come into recovery. I was still 15 mentally because I’d never moved on from that point.
“At first there wasn’t relief in recovery, it was painful; it’s far more painful to deal with all the anxiety. But if you stick with it, it’s so worthwhile in the end.
“After a few months I plucked up the courage and started doing a City and Guilds course in drug and alcohol awareness. It gave me the confidence to become social with people again and over time I’ve completed more courses in things like mentoring, volunteer training and counselling.
“I’m now in a position where I volunteer five days a week helping others do their work. I’m even a trainee assessor for some courses. Just being here for people to talk to is great, seeing them in the position I was in at the beginning and inspiring them with how things can change. Having permission to say ‘I’m not ok’ and for people to understand was like a breath of fresh air. It’s like I’ve found my life again.
“I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me because I didn’t have the strength to do it for myself, because I didn’t think I was worth doing it for.”
Doe moved into her own flat last year and her daughter has moved up to live with her from Devon. I’m working on my relationship with my daughter. I’d never really known her when I was sober, I had to start again. For the first year she was always watching me, smelling my breath. Every day I feel I have to make it up to her.”
Doe has competed level 2 and 3 in counselling and is looking to start the full degree at college this month (September), hoping to then find employment in the field.