Name: Olivia Pennelle
Location: Manchester, UK
Sobriety date: 26 March 2012
Creative niche (art, music, writing, entrepreneurship, etc.):
Writing, cooking, creating new recipes, designing and launching Liv’s Recovery Kitchen.
Drug of choice (or not of choice...):
My ‘favourite’ combination was alcohol, cocaine and codeine.
Recovery story in a nutshell:
I was born in the US, to a not-so- functional family; consequently, I ended up in the UK at a young age. I started using at 12/13 years old to mask my feeling of being utterly lost; I had no anchor, and was crippled with anxiety and depression. Using, to me, seemed to ignite a light inside that made me feel whole, albeit temporarily. When I discovered this, I could not stop. I thought it gave me confidence; I was sociable and no longer withdrawn, or seeking solace in food and isolation. I began hanging around with a much older crowd and consequently my use of drugs escalated from the recreational types to more hard drugs. Running parallel to this journey of drug discovery and escapism was a series of dysfunctional and harmful relationships – on both parts - and a hell of a lot of poor choices. As with all stories of addiction, we all trudge down that road of desperation, illness, loss - huge consequences until we die, get hospitalised, end up in an institution, or find recovery. I was close to suicide. I had isolated myself to using on my own, in my apartment, and had few friends left and felt utterly broken. Disconnection can’t begin to describe that chasm I was left with. I was left with two choices: live or die. I chose to get help. And I attended my first AA meeting. I haven’t had a drink since and was four years sober on 26 March 2016. It’s not all rosy. I still continued taking codeine inappropriately, and was in such denial that I didn’t see it was an issue. It was only in ‘cleaning house’, that another like-minded person suggested that I was an addict. My work had revealed that whilst alcohol brought me to my knees, there is a long, long history of drug use. I later found my home in NA, and will celebrate 4 years clean on 5 August 2016.
Top 5 tools for recovery (from drug/alcohol/food addiction, mental illness, etc):
I love this question. I believe that the foundation of my recovery is rooted in connection and spirituality. I achieve it through:
This is my number one tool. I have written in journals since my first week in recovery. It connects my mind and spirit and I feel there is great power in connecting pen and paper. My writing takes two forms: journaling and writing my blog.
i. I write in the morning: my plan for the day, how I feel, any reflections.
ii. I write in the evening: I write about my day and acknowledge what I on a daily reading, any troubles/worries; have done right that day – this is one thing I cannot recommend enough. I write through any resentment, 3 things I am grateful for, what I have invested in my recovery and sometimes make a list of things I need to do the next day.
This I started in my third year of recovery and it has been invaluable. It’s cathartic to share my journey. Initially its purpose was to share my weight loss journey in recovery, but it has morphed into so much more. I now write interviews with others in the wider recovery community, share recipes and blog about my recovery.
I need to connect with other like-minded people. I need to hear I am not alone. There is great power in the collective empathy of other people in recovery. I speak to at least one of three close friends daily. I don’t want to, but I have to.
I attend two NA meetings a week and I do service. I am still yet to figure out the reason why I still go. It could be the 90 minutes silence, the connection with other like-minded people, the collective empathy, the giving of myself or the sharing for the newcomer. I need to hear how others feel and are coping with their life.
4. Exercise and good nutrition.
I damaged my body so much that I now try to invest in myself through nourishing activities. I need to sweat, daily, for my mental health and fitness. I ride a bike as a mode of transport, and workout about 4/5 times a week. I am trying to lose weight and spend a lot of time researching and sharing healthy recipes and lifestyle.
It is spirituality to me. It connects the dots between my mind-body- soul. I feel utterly at peace and more in harmony when I regularly practise it. That’s not to say I don’t have to remind myself, all the time, about the need to go to a class.