AN ALCOHOLIC mum-of-two who sank two bottles of wine and a litre of vodka a DAY at her worst has told how it took a brush with death for her to get sober.
Lisa Kelly, 39, from Cornwall, convinced herself she was no different to most people for enjoying a glass of wine to unwind – but in reality, her drinking was out of control.
After being admitted to intensive care with severe pancreatitis, her family and friends gathered at her hospital bedside to say goodbye – but thankfully, Lisa pulled through.
She is now 11 years sober, and in the past 12 months has finally begun to feel comfortable admitting she’s an alcoholic – and is determined to use her experience to help others.
Back in the summer of 2004, Lisa seemed to have it all.
While her children Alex, then eight, and Tara, then six, were in school, she spent her mornings working from home as a self-employed travel agent.
By midday, she felt she’d earned a liquid lunch.
Lisa recalled: “I used to text my girlfriends seeing who fancied lunch. But ‘lunch’ had become an excuse to drink and I noticed my friends making excuses not to meet up.”
She didn’t look like a typical alcoholic. Her own mum, Carole, was a fitness instructor, so Lisa inherited a love of exercise.
“I looked healthy,” Lisa admitted. “I was good at my job, I remembered my friend’s birthdays, I read bedtime stories to Alex and Tara. I was a devoted mum.
“But a social glass of wine evolved into hiding bottles of vodka behind my curtains.”
Things spiralled after the breakdown of Lisa’s marriage to Angelo, whom she’d met when she was 16 and married at 21.
“After the kids were born, it became clear we married too young,” she said.
“By 2002, we amicably agreed to separate. Within a year I was drinking a bottle of wine most evenings.
“I started waking at 4am and the only way to get back to sleep was via another glass. By 2005 I couldn’t go one day without drinking.”
Concerned friends made comments, so Lisa switched to vodka, which she hoped was easier to hide.
She depended on booze so much that she hid bottles in cupboards and even in the cistern of the loo. When people visited, she’d nip to the bathroom for a sneaky glug.
“When I forgot to pick Alex up from football, it frightened me,” Lisa admitted.
“I felt ashamed and began to realise I had a problem.”
In the winter of 2005, Angelo and Lisa agreed the kids should stay with him for a while.
“I wasn’t capable of looking after them,” she said.
“I told them I wasn’t feeling well, but that I’d be better soon. Not having them around, I started drinking two bottles of wine and a bottle of vodka every day.”
Lisa’s concerned parents attempted to lock her in her house, but the withdrawal felt like it was killing her.
She recalled: “I was shivering and sweating, I started bleeding, my stomach was so bloated I looked pregnant, yet my weight dropped to six stone.
“I went to the doctor about the pain in my stomach. He said it was acid from the wine burning me.
“I wanted to stop, but if I went more than a few hours without a drink, my hands shook uncontrollably, my eyesight went fuzzy and my thoughts muddled. It felt easier to drink.”
In March 2006, Lisa’s friend Peter, one of the ‘responsible adults’ tasked with being around when Alex and Tara visited, brought the kids over.
The children prepared a surprise breakfast, but as they presented it to Lisa, all she could think of was slipping some vodka into the orange juice.
As she stood up to fetch the bottle, her legs buckled and she passed out.
Lisa recalled: “I woke to the sound of my children screaming. I begged Peter to call a doctor.
“When an emergency doctor arrived he took one look at me and called an ambulance.
“I had everything to live for, yet all I wanted was wine. In hospital I tried to escape to search for wine, so I was sectioned.
“I was diagnosed with pancreatitis – a partly-burst pancreas as a result of heavy drinking, which caused a pseudo cyst that in turn caused blocked arteries that were heading for my heart.”
Doctors warned Lisa’s family that her situation was critical.
“I didn’t know why Angelo had visited, but he looked terrified,” she said. “Old school friends sat beside me crying. They were saying goodbye.”
After three weeks in intensive care, drifting in and out of consciousness, Lisa was eventually moved to the low dependency unit.
Lisa said: “I felt fragile, but no longer craved a drink. The booze was out of my system and I couldn’t wait to hear my children’s voices.
“Tara called, telling me she missed me and asked if I was coming home. A tidal wave of shame, regret and guilt surged through me.
“I knew I’d never drink again. There was no way I’d let my kids down twice. I had detoxed. It was not an experience I’d want to repeat. I was done.”
Lisa took randomised blood tests in the first six months, and in time, Angelo agreed to share custody of the kids.
Tara and Alex were resilient and forgiving, growing up proud of their mother’s sobriety. Both are now at university.
Nine years ago she met Matt, 45, and together the pair had daughter Marley, three.
“Thankfully she will never witness the things her older sibling saw,” Lisa said.
“I will spend the rest of my life making amends. But I don’t regret anything. It made me who I am.
“I’ve retrained as a wellness expert and I’ve just graduated with a degree in nutrition. I’ve also set up a Facebook page – Lisa K Wellness Warrior – where I talk openly about my past and offer advice.
“The healthier I get, the more comfortable I am admitting my past. It always felt like a dirty word, but now I can say I am an alcoholic – and that’s exactly why I don’t drink.”
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