Michelle Heaton says she’s ‘lucky to be here’ after celebrating 100 days sober
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After surviving a horrific three-year battle with alcohol and drug addiction, Michelle Heaton isn’t taking her recovery for granted
The Liberty X singer is the first to admit she’s lucky to be here after the therapists who helped her revealed her abuse of her body had left her potentially days from death.
Michelle, who recently celebrated 100 days of being sober, tells new! from her home in Hertfordshire, “It was exhausting. I couldn’t stop and I was fighting it but still drinking, and I was being sick. I was very ill.”
She adds, “I didn’t think I deserved anything. I think that’s the thing with addiction, you don’t feel worthy of anything.”
After hitting rock-bottom in April, the 42-year-old spent four weeks in the Priory clinic and she is now using the tools she was given there to help her recover “one day at a time”.
And no one has been more supportive of Michelle’s journey to sobriety than hubby Hugh Hanley, with whom she shares children Faith, nine, and AJ, seven.
“Everything would have fallen apart without Hugh,” she says.
Here, Michelle opens up about her “really hard” experience in the Priory and why she won’t be avoiding any showbiz events…
Hi, Michelle! You recently celebrated 100 days sober and seem to be doing really well…
I’m really grateful. I’m just so lucky I’m here. Before, I didn’t think I deserved anything. I think that’s the thing with going through addiction, you don’t feel worthy of anything. That’s why you drink, because you want the pain to end. That’s the reality of addiction.
We’re so glad you’re in a better place now. Is it a daily battle to keep up with your sobriety?
Yeah but I don’t think battle would be the word now. Battle is what I would have used before, because keeping up being an addict was a battle. It was exhausting because I was lying a lot and hiding it.
I couldn’t stop and I was fighting it but still drinking, and I was being sick. I was very ill. That was more the battle. The programme and recovery is one day at a time, so now the only battle is the addiction. The addiction is always there, that’s why it can never be won. It can be really overwhelming but the way through the recovery is simple and it’s actually really easy steps if you work at it and not against it. It’s all about taking it a day at a time and attending my meetings.
Was being in the Priory hard?
It was really hard. I don’t know what I was expecting but I definitely expected some form of spa and it’s not. It’s a psychiatric hospital. They kept telling me that when I said, “Where’s the pool?” It felt like a hospital but not in a punishing way. I did feel like I was in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest for a good four days though and it made me feel like I was going insane, but they know what they are doing and it works for some people for a reason.
Did you experience any withdrawal symptoms?
I think mine was Saturday night. I called the nurse on the buzzer because I was freaking out. I was given something for my anxiety and a sleep aid. They wanted me to be as clean as possible, as my liver was so bad. When you arrive, everything is taken away – your phone, bags, clothes, toiletries, razors, anything with glass that could hurt you, until they assess you and monitor you closely for 24 hours. You then earn your rights back depending on your physical condition, medication and what your addiction is. They get you completely clean and free from everything by giving you a detox and then you have your natural comedown.
Do you think you will be avoiding lots of showbiz events now that they’re back in full swing?
I’m going to go with bells on! Me and Hugh have been to a couple of friends’ parties over the past couple of weeks and I’ve been surprised. Every time we’ve gone out as a couple I’ve had that anxiety and fear, and then when I’m there and in the moment I’m not thinking about the drink, I’m thinking about who I’m talking to and engaging rather than looking over their shoulder and thinking, “Who’s that arriving? I wonder if they’ll get on the shots with me?”
That’s pretty much what my life was before. What I will do is not put myself in dangerous situations. I will go to events but I won’t go to after-parties. Without putting puns together, I won’t be sniffing those out. I’ll leave before the fear sets in. One party we went to with the kids, we left before any of that anxiety came and that was a really powerful position to be in.
Definitely! It looks like you and Hugh have been working out a lot together, too?
Yes, Hugh has me up early to work out. Everything has changed. Now, I go to bed really early. I can’t wait to have my shower before bed and get into bed clean and watch Love Island! It sounds ridiculous but I was hardly ever clean before because showering was the last thing on my mind, it was just drinking. There would be days without me properly taking care of myself. It’s not nice. I have a good seven-hour sleep now and I wake up like I should do, without a hangover and that feeling of, “What time can I drink? Where can I get a drink from?” It was exhausting.
Finally, do you have any family breaks planned during the summer holidays?
We want to go to Ireland to see Hugh’s family. He hasn’t seen his parents since the end of 2019 due to Covid. His dad actually
said to me two years ago I was an alcoholic. He pulled me into the kitchen in Dublin. But he said it to Hugh first a while before.
He said, “You’re an alcoholic, Michelle, and you need to get help.” My wonderful Mum also tried to tell me many times but as an addict I just didn’t listen. I remember him [Hugh’s dad] saying it and I adore his mum and dad, and his whole family. I was heartbroken that my husband’s dad had to tell me something I already knew. It was heart-wrenching and I heard it and I took it in, but I couldn’t start the process even then. Now, I’m just so thankful I got the help I needed.
If you need help with alcohol addiction, visit alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk.
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