LYING in bed unconscious, Danniella Westbrook was shaken awake by her terrified teenage son, who feared she’d died from a drugs overdose.
Tragically, the former EastEnders star , who was terrifyingly fragile and weighed just six-and-a-half stone, started every day this way.
Despite desperate pleas from her children to get help, the mum-of-two refused. Instead, she used all the strength she had left to get her next fix.
Her coke addiction was so severe and made her look so dreadful that her son was forced to check she hadn’t died every single morning.
The depressing cycle of drug abuse, including 12 years sobriety before her relapse in 2014, meant there were times Danniella felt death was the only option.
Now 45 and five months clean, Danniella is determined to kick the crippling habit for good and confesses: “I’ve got another relapse in me, but I don’t have another recovery.”
“It’s do or die for me. I know I’m one relapse away from dying.”
Danniella has been hooked on drugs since she was 14 after shooting to fame as Sam Mitchell in EastEnders.
She went onto spend £250,000 on the habit, and was so hooked she even admitted taking up to 5g of cocaine a day when pregnant with her son Kai – and even took the drug during labour.
Unable to escape her addiction after he was born, she asked social services to take her baby away from her.
Speaking on the Jeremy Kyle show she confessed: “I could have killed him yeah, and my daughter when I was pregnant with her.
“I tried for years to make it up to them by buying them things.”
She was later diagnosed as bi-polar, and deemed to be suffering from episodes of psychosis. Danniella says she began using cocaine to cope with her mental health issues, but mixing it with her medication proved catastrophic.
Danniella abused cocaine so badly that her septum – the cartilage that separates the two nostrils – fell out.
Photographs of her collapsed nose were splashed across the papers, as a very visible warning about the dangers of drug abuse.
She had surgery to repair her nose in 2000 and managed to kick the destructive habit when she was 28 after going to rehab in Arizona. Happily married to then-husband Kevin, Danniella managed to stay clean for 11 years.
Sadly she fell off the wagon in 2017, turning to cocaine to cope with the pain caused by botched dental surgery.
“I was dabbing cocaine around my mouth and rubbing it in to numb the pain,” she said. “I had three operations in seven weeks. I’m an addict and the wheels fell off.”
Danniella was consumed by shame, and only a trip to the much-maligned Jeremy Kyle show forced her to face her demons once and for all and go to rehab.
Backing The Sun Online’s End Of The Line campaign today as she reflects on her year from hell, Danniella said: “If Jeremy hadn’t reached out to me I would be dead.
“When he saw me for the first time out of rehab he had tears in his eyes. I told him he’d saved my life.
“I was six and a half stone. I didn’t realise how bad I was. I looked like a 70-year-old woman – like I was already dead.
“Cocaine ruined my life. It hurt my health and stripped me of my personality and my self-respect and self-worth.
“When I was in the throes of addiction, nothing could stop me. I would have passed a lie detector test to say I won’t take drugs today, but then in the same breath be on the phone to a dealer.
“All I cared about was drugs. I was just constantly trying to get money. It wasn’t about putting food on the table, it was all about getting drugs.
“I couldn’t see a way out. I thought the only way out was death. I would wake up in the afternoon and think if I got through until 6pm without using I’d be doing well.
“I thought about killing myself many times. I even tried suicide, last year. I felt like I’d done so much damage to my kids that they deserved better than to be tied to me as a mother.
“I kept thinking I didn’t want to live any longer.”
Have you or your family been affected by cocaine? Tell us your story by emailing email@example.com
At the height of Danniella’s drugs hell she was kidnapped at gunpoint and gang-raped by drug dealers after failing to pay her debts.
A source revealed: “It is the worst incident that happened throughout the period when she was hooked on drugs. When she looks back and thinks about what happened, it fills her with horror.”
It was reported in 2016 that she was held at a flat in South London for three days by three thugs in 1994 as a punishment for not being able to pay a dealer.
A source close to the star told the Sunday People: “It was nothing short of hell on earth for Danniella. It was the lowest point of her life. She was distraught but had no way of paying the money.
“Looking back, she can’t believe she let something like that happen.”
She reportedly waived her right to lifetime anonymity as a victim of a sexual attack so she could reveal the shocking details about the horror in her book Faith, Hope and Clarity.
Sadly Danniella is just one of a rising number of victims of cocaine abuse in Britain.
Use among young people is on the rise, with 20 per cent of 16-24-year-olds admitting using in the last year.
The Sun Online’s End of the Line campaign is raising awareness of the impact cocaine use can have on mental health.
Danniella has joined the fight against cocaine for our campaign and warned that young people in showbiz circles are more vulnerable than most.
“Nowadays it seems like everybody wants fame, but once they get it they don’t know what to do with it.
“You think it’s going to be like Hollywood, but there’s nothing glamorous about drugs. What’s glamorous about bending over a toilet and sniffing coke through a note off a toilet seat?
End Of The Line
Cocaine use is reaching epidemic levels in Britain, with the UK branded the ‘Coke capital’ of Europe.
More than one in ten British adults are believed to have tried it, and with young people the numbers are even worse.
A staggering one in five 16 – 24-year-olds have taken cocaine in the last year.
That’s why The Sun has launched its End Of The Line campaign, calling for more awareness around the drug.
Cocaine use can cause mental health problems such as anxiety and paranoia, while doctors have linked the rise in cheap, potent coke to an increase in suicide rates.
People from all walks of life, from builders and labourers to celebrities like Kerry and Jeremy McConnell – who are backing our campaign – have fallen foul of its lure.
It’s an issue which is sweeping the UK and, unless its tackled now, means a mental health crisis is imminent.
“I think it’s dangerous when you put young people in the spotlight and don’t give them any help or care.
“I can’t imagine the amount of money I’ve spent on drugs, but it’s cost me everything, it almost cost me my life.
“I’d gone from being a famous actress, to being famous for being a drug addict,” she told us.
Against all the odds, Danniella has turned her life around – and it appears for good this time.
She’s shunned showbiz parties for a quiet life in the country with her dogs and farmyard animals as she continues her gruelling recovery.
In line with the twelve steps to sobriety, Danniella is making amends to those she hurt along the way – and is trying to build bridges with her kids.
“My son Kai used to come into my bedroom and shake me to see if I was breathing,” Danniella admits.
“The other day we were on the phone and he told me ‘I’m so proud of you. I would have been so angry at you if you’d died while using.’
“He said he’s so happy that he can breathe now because he doesn’t have to worry about where I am or what I’m doing anymore.
Am I addicted to cocaine? The signs and symptoms of addiction
Cocaine is highly addictive and what can start out as a one-off can quickly turn into a habit.
Regular use of the drug changes the way the brain releases dopamine – a chemical in the brain that makes you feel happy.
But the high is short-lived so often users will take more to feel the desired effects again.
Over time, the body and brain can become too used to cocaine that it builds up a tolerance, which means you have to take more to feel the same high.
If you recognise any of the following behaviours in yourself, it might mean you’ve developed an addiction to cocaine:
- You’re taking more of the drug to feel the effects
- When you stop or reduce your dosage, you feel agitated, restless and depressed
- You’re struggling to cut down or control how much you take, even if you try to
- You spend a lot of time thinking about and trying to get cocaine
- You’re disregarding family, friends and work in favour of taking cocaine
- You know the damage it’s doing to you, but you can’t stop taking it
“He keeps saying ‘I’ve got my mum back’.
“Instead of him checking in on me, I’m checking in on him like a mother should. He’s like my best mate.
“When he said all this, I was crying my eyes out. I feel so proud of how he’s turned out after everything I put him through. He didn’t deserve the shame and embarrassment.
“Because drugs don’t just ruin you, they ruin your family’s lives too. They end up with mental health issues because of the worry.”
She’s also been leaning on the support of old friend Barbara Windsor who played her mum in BBC soap.
Describing her recent visit to see Babs – who has Alzehmier’s – Danniella said: “She’s my queen, I love her.
“She taught me so much and still teaches me so much now. She’s a real role model. It’s people like her who I need to surround myself with.
“Babs always looks out for me. It was nice to see her and know that she remembered me.”
Danniella is now training to be a therapist so she can help other addicts.
“Maybe my purpose wasn’t about being famous,” she said.
“Maybe it was about going through what I’ve been through so I could go on to help other people and use my platform in a positive way.
Where to go for help
Helpline open 24/7: 0300 123 6600
For help finding a service or to Instant chat
Help, support and advice for those affected by addiction
Help for anyone with drug and alcohol issues
Dedicated help for people under 25.
Mental health support line: 0300 304 7000
Rehab and community addiction treatment
0300 330 0659
Helpline open 9am-9pm, 7 days a week
0300 888 3853
Help for families affected by drugs and alcohol
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“I love the outdoors so now I’m enjoying being out in the country and being on my own, with just the dogs for company.
“They’re giving me stability and structure to keep me away from drugs. It’s self-care and good therapy.
“In the past I’ve been guilty of not admitting when I had a problem. I’d urge anyone who thinks they’ve got a drug problem, to go to a meeting. They’re everywhere, anytime and completely free.
“You’ll find like-minded people and realise you’re not the only person going through it. Don’t feel ashamed. Don’t let it get to that point where you’ve gone too far.
“If more people stopped and reached out we wouldn’t be losing as many as we are to suicide.”
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