Hello everyone, I know there is a title to this post and that is because I want to do a special blog edition! I would like to introduce you to 2 of my closest friends I met on my journey. These 2 women are very strong, honest, sweet and have an inspiring story.
For me, I just feel really really really grateful to have these 2 women in my life because they showed me that I'm not the only one, that it's okay to ask for help, to stay connected, to share our experiences of life, to not be afraid, to support each other, to listen to each other, to help each other and to help others. With this post I hope to inspire others, like they inspire me every single day!
I keep talking about these 2 women but I'm sure you're all thinking: OMG WHO ARE THEY??!!
Well, I will not keep you in suspense any longer... The 2 women are: Morgane Vercruysse and Stephanie Cobbaert.
First I will introduce you to Morgane, She is the reason I went into treatment. Morgane was on TV, on the TV-program Tipsy where she shared her story. That is when my family saw her story and started to see a big resemblance to my life. It was only a few days later when I received the link of this video from my brother and that's when some things started to change in my head but at that time I wasn't convinced yet that I am an alcoholic. But deep down I knew I had to give myself the chance to go to Cape Town before I was going to lose my family. Here is Morgane her story:
Hi Marie, Thank you for letting me share a bit of my story on your platform. As you mentioned correctly in your introduction, we have this 'thing' called 'addiction' in common. Every time I am asked to share my personal story/experience, I feel it changes a bit. Although I am sure I only have one life, the reason for this is that thanks to this process called 'being in recovery,' we keep evolving on a personal development level, every day a bit more. “Recovery is not a destination, it’s a journey”, they said. I fell on my knees in June 2016 to ask for help; the reason being that I thought for the first time that I lost control over my 'best friend'; a bottle of Vodka. The Friday morning, I had to choose between going through the withdrawals of stop drinking after a 5-month binge to be clean for my brother's wedding or to keep drinking and not 'feel' any physical or mental pain. “H.O.P.E, Hold On Pain Ends”, they said. At that stage, my life was a complete mess but even worse, a complete lie. I thought I was a performer; I thought I was a perfectionist, I thought I was all these fantastic things that slowly but surely pushed me in a negative spiral when reality proved me wrong. “I didn’t fail, I paid for a lesson”, they said. It started at the age of 16 when I sought attention through food control; they call it an eating disorder. Losing 20kg in 60 days was my next-planned goal, and unfortunately, I reached this goal. My behavior changed; from an extrovert, joyful young lady, I became withdrawn, isolated, self-absorbed, self-willed, and irrational. Anorexia Nervosa became Bulimia as my body was craving food more and more. Hanging over a toilet seat while planning your next trip to the grocery store became the source of my unmanageability. “If you listen to your body when it whispers, you will never have to listen to it when it screams”, they said. And then I discovered alcohol and this voice in my head went quiet for a few moments, and I could 'enjoy.' My motives for drinking alcohol were still 'on point' at that stage; why should I worry if I woke up in the hospital because of alcohol poisoning if the reason I drank was 'having fun'? The more I drank, the more remorse/guilt I felt the next morning because I could not remember what happened the night before. “Shame dies in exposure”, they said. Being raised in a healthy and loving household, suddenly some 'incidents' came my way; a very hectic break up with the first love of my love, a divorce, death from closed ones, body changes due to over-eating and liters of alcohol; the perfect excuses to now release all performing skills/ all overcompensating skills and go and drink 'alcoholically.' My university degree wasn't necessary any longer. The primary focus became 'my next drink.' “What consumes your mind, controls your life”, they said. Fortunately, once again, my family had not given up on me [yet]. They pulled me out of my' 6 months drinking and drugging escapade' and finished my degree under my family's strong watch. Drinking at this point was not an option, so I picked up my relationship with food again or man [men]... All this to run away from Morgane, as at that stage, looking at myself in the mirror was so painful. “If the alcohol doesn’t kill you, the lifestyle will”, they said.
Hiding this disease became a more difficult task; I used to 'cover' my addiction to food/booze/men with overcompensating in other ways, such as achieving good school marks, succeeding in sport, engaging in intellectual challenges, etc. ‘You can only wear a mask for a certain amount of time”, they said. Addiction is a progressive disease; it does not get better if you do not ask for help. My rapid downhill spiral proved this. Physical dependency on alcohol was inevitable, and indeed at the age of 23 in 4 months’ time, I became dependent on my best friend, the bottle of Vodka. I lost control; my focus was the next bottle and how I would get the next bottle, pay for it and hide it. This consumed my mind for 99% of the day. "A physical dependency and a mental obsession," they said. Why did an in-patient program in South Africa work for me and not the numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, alcohol coaches I 'had' to try in Belgium? The only difference is that for my intake in South Africa, ‘I’ was the one asking for help as I truly ‘wanted’ help and not everyone else telling me I 'needed' help. “Recovery is for those who want it, not those who need it”, they said. Through this process, I realized that this disease has little to do with the substance [alcohol, food, narcotics, and people in my case] but more around the behaviors and why I grabbed those substances. Sobriety from these substances was only the beginning, then the real work began. And that, unfortunately, is the hard part. “Everything you want is on the other side offear”, they said. Do I feel grateful for being an alcoholic? No. As a young woman, it is challenging and rigid sometimes, and one needs a lot of perseverance not to get drawn back to that first drink. However, today I feel I am equipped with tools to deal with life-on-life terms, and for that, I am grateful. “You are always one decision away from a total different life’, they said. I have the opportunity to give back to the still suffering addict by my passion and profession; by providing a helping hand to someone else, I remind myself of where I come from and how I do not want to go back there. “You only keep what you have by giving it away”, they said. Thank you, Marie, for your sobriety, being a great example to me and others. I am extremely proud of your journey. www.libertyhome.co.za – Reach out.
I have another great inspirational story for you. I met Stephanie when I was a few months clean and still living in Liberty Home. She was my roommate and she already knew so much about being an alcoholic, she already accepted it. Already then I was amazed and also a little bit jealous that she didn't have to go to primary... We started to get to know each other and helping each other when one day I was in old behavior and Stephanie called me out on it together with Morgane and our counselor. I was very angry and hurt but it's only a true friend who calls you out on it. Only then I could also realize where I still needed to work on... After some time apart we became friends again and apologized for my behavior... I felt embarrassed for a long time towards Stephanie and Morgane... But remember: Shame dies with exposure! Here is Stephanie her story:
Thank you so much for reaching out and asking me to also tell my story.
In the beginning I was not so much for sharing about my struggles and my journey in too much detail. As it is painful and personal. However, today I feel ready, I feel comforted and strong, and I feel it’s time to try to give back what has been handed to me with so much patience and love.
“Center of attention, wherever I was, in all possible ways. So insecure inside, I was the class-clown in school, the life of the party while going out and the scapegoat at home (bad attention is attention too).”
If you would have met me when I was younger, you’d probably not immediately sense my struggles. Growing up, I became a master in wearing masks, hiding my true feelings. But I was in pain, I was unhappy and I was losing myself.
When I was 14 years old, this ‘fake’ version of myself started popping up. Growing into adolescence has been a true struggle for me. Feeling ugly, I tried to make up for that by becoming the cool kid, so scared that people would not want to be my friend otherwise.
It’s then that the first signs of my eating disorder appeared, in boarding school they clocked it, I had to sit with the teachers to finish my plate, it’s here my love for deceiving grew, it became a game.
I’ve hurt people on the way. Telling lies about my life, acting like it was so much more glorious then it actually was, all to become more interesting, and to never become boring (my biggest fear).
Once I discovered alcohol around my 16 years old, this was like a magic thing, it could make me feel so powerful, and I could lose myself for a short while, but boy those hangovers afterwards: anxiety, pure fear, stress, like a very heavy stone on my stomach. You would think I learn my lesson, but the next party it started all over again.
From the moment alcohol touched my lips I had to cross the line, I drank to get rid of my feelings. But since I didn’t drink alone I thought it meant I had no problem (that’s what I told myself). I became a classic binge drinker, a burden on my friends as they never knew if I was going to be ‘fun drunk’ or ‘problematic drunk’: it was a guess game, and the later in life, the more it was ‘the problematic drunk’ came out. And that problematic drunk has brought me into situations I wish I did not have to endure. These situations gave me the “Poor me, poor me - poor me another drink”-syndrome. It became a vicious circle.
At that time, as a student, it was easier to laugh these things away, act like it was quite normal, but once I started working, it was not so easy anymore.
Heading to Paris and Berlin, working in fashion and events and later in the travel industry, I made sure my job include my 3 pillars: 1. Cool-factor 2. Party & Alcohol on the job is normal 3. Strange working hours & lots of stress so I could lose myself in my job.
Every job took a bit more of me and it ended as me being a ghost of myself.
Long story short, anything that could numb my feelings was welcome.
Having my loved ones feeling more and more that something was not ok, I tried a couple of times to stop drinking and prove them that this was not the issue, showing that I was still able to manage my life (which clearly was not true). I came to a point where I was working 24/7 (ineffectively), needed to drink to calm myself down to be able to sleep and I lived (if I was lucky) on one meal a day.
With the support of my now fiancé, Federico, who was very subtle, and never pushed me towards anything I dared to reach out and I contacted Morgane (owner of Liberty Home), whom I was following on Instagram for quite some time now. Due to her open and honest story, I dared to tell my own. I for the first time told the truth and it was such a relief to be able to talk to someone who could relate.
It was a breakthrough.
Having known addiction very close in my life (in other people), I also could clock quite fast which way I was heading. I realised I was one of ‘those people’, the people I always dreaded to be the most, that I would do anything not to be like.
I got it, the penny dropped, but I needed help and guidance.
That surrender has been the best decision I ever made. I learned so much about myself and my relationships. I have real feelings now and I don’t need anything to numb them, and I’m grateful for that every single day, difficult days and happy days.
Liberty Home has been a way to find the real me, along the way of fighting my demons I took the time to explore my passions and hobbies. Turns out I’m quite a badass and I love adrenaline and adventure. The beauty of this story is that I had the balls to choose me.
I started my own company, where everyday I am passionate about what I do, exactly how I want to do it. I chased my dream of starting my own experiential travel company, where I help people create their dream adventures and I can discover the world a bit more everyday.
I’m exactly where I want to be in life. With my loving fiancé next to me, supporting each other.
Marie, I’m grateful for meeting you on the way.
Marie here again, I am so proud of you 2! Such beautiful inspiring stories and thank you for sharing! If anyone relates to these stories please don't hesitate to reach out, it's okay not to be okay, it's okay to ask for help and you are not the only one! We are here for you, we will always be here. As you can read, Morgane her story saved the lives of Stephanie and me and that is why I wanted to share this with all of you! It is a big thing to open up with your story to the whole world and be honest about your struggles but being honest and accepting help gave us our freedom back to be who we really are, I just want to say that it takes time but it is so worth it!!
I hope you enjoyed this post and please share this with everyone you know, you never know if you will save someone's life.
If you want to read my story, click on the link:
Lot's of love
The 3 blonde alcoholics from Belgium,
Morgane, Stephanie and me
Little tip, visit these wonderful websites to see what Morgane and Stephanie have accomplished: