“It took me a long time, but I did get back on my feet and life is far more fun without alcohol”
Ronnie Merritt from Weston-super-Mare is one of those people who radiates warmth, humour and ease with life. You can see why she made the perfect landlady of a pub in London, able to have a laugh while not taking any nonsense. But when her five week old son died, and depression took hold of everything, she couldn’t see a way of finding the support she needed and turned to alcohol.
“We’d been trying for 13 years to have another child and he was my dream come true.
“I spent six weeks in a mental health hospital, but all they really did back then was sedate me and instead of crying all day I just wandered around isolation like a zombie.
“When I came out, I took up drinking and with the cocktail of medication I was on I don’t know how I woke up some days. People didn’t talk about depression back then. I’d been prone to depression since I was a teenager, but every time I had tried to talk to other people about it, I was told, ‘you don’t know what depression is’.”
Ronnie split up from her partner and moved with her 13 year old daughter to live near her parents in Burnham-on-Sea.
“I started dating and then living with an alcoholic, so it was hard not to rely more and more on it. I used alcohol to help me sleep and cope with the depression and anxiety.”
Ronnie had two more daughters, now aged 14 and 15 and now lives in Weston.
“It crept up on me. It started as grief and then became binge drinking. I turned to alcohol to escape, but it made things worse and I hit rock bottom.
“When it started to affect my relationship with the girls I came to see Addaction. It was only then, during that very first assessment, that I truly realised I had an issue with alcohol. I thought lots of people drank to get to sleep of an evening.”
After two week detox at Broadway Lodge, Ronnie started getting support Addaction North Somerset with one to ones and group work.
“I started the self empowerment group and absolutely loved it. I didn’t realise you could have a laugh without alcohol. We went for a walk every Friday, did some kite flying on the beach, went for coffee. I loved that you could actually share how you were feeling and know it was safe, confidential and that it wouldn’t go outside that group of people who actually understood.”
Ronnie went on to do the relapse prevention and a 12 step fellowship programme. “I adored that, I got so much out of it, including a lot of really good friends. I’ve learned to enjoy life without alcohol, something I didn’t think possible before.
“My relationship with my kids now is amazing. They’ve noticed changes in me. I’m happier, there’s no alcohol in the house, we can sit and have properly mother/daughter conversations again and I’ve got a glow back in my hair and skin. It’s great to be just me and my girls and back to being mum running around after them.
“The support from Addaction is amazing. I couldn’t have done this without them. You couldn’t wish for a better service in this town. It isn’t doom and gloom, it’s refreshing and inspiring.
“I might eat more chocolate than I used to, but it’s better than putting poison down your throat,” Ronnie laughs. “Life without alcohol is brilliant, it’s like a big fluffy world I have not seen before. I’m noticing things for the first time, smells, fresh air and I don’t feel isolated anymore.
“I used to drink to get more confidence but I don’t need it, all my confidence has come back without it. With alcohol you put on a mask. Addaction helps you take off the mask and become a real person, someone you can start liking and loving.
“My big piece of advice would be never drink when you’re alone, it’s not sociable and becomes a habit. If you’re struggling, talk to a GP about things first. There’s so much support out there these days.”
Ronnie, aged 53, hopes to start college in September to do a course in interior design. "I’ve wanted to do it all my life, but I hadn’t got there until now."
If you feel you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or drug use, get in touch on 01934 427940, send a message via Facebook or visit www.addaction.org.uk for more information.