Addiction Geographical

I’ve been aware of the concept of an Addiction Geographical for several years, the act of moving location in an attempt to try and erase a history of substance abuse. When I first became a single parent and embarked unknowingly into the ‘dark days’ of 2003-2011, I began to dream of moving to Cornwall, France, Spain, Italy, New York City.

I hated where I lived, an old industrial part of Sheffield comprising of rows and rows of terraced houses, back-to-back with shared gardens, no privacy, no open spaces and no big skies. Living there, I found it easy to remain glued to my drinking habit. That place seemed to bring about in me a self-fulfilling prophecy of gloom, reflected in the dark brickwork and blackened alleyways that ran in-between the houses like rat runs. I often imagined myself with a house by the sea, gazing out onto the rolling ocean each morning and being imbued with the abundant salty air and sense of freedom that belongs to the coast.

I never did move away from Sheffield, largely because of my daughter whose dad lived here as well as all her friends. But I wished with my whole heart that I could have left, and I bemoaned my home city to anyone who would listen, unable to find any positives to it.

Winding forward several years and here I am, four and a half years alcohol-free, and fully recovered from my addiction issues of the past. Yesterday I looked out of my bedroom window and noted the vast green swathes of woodland (Sheffield is the only UK city with a National Park within its boundaries and it’s rumoured that there are four mature trees to every person living here), the peacefulness of where I now live and the easy access to the Peak District, and I thought what a beautiful city this is to live in. The desire to escape where I’ve lived all my life (minus a year in London aged twenty-one) has left me completely.


This made me think: I wasn’t motivated by Sheffield being such an awful place when I was filled with that deep longing to relocate – I was motivated instead by wanting to vacate myself, my own skin, to become a new person, one whose past was not marred by all those mistakes and regrets and shameful episodes arising from alcohol misuse. I deluded myself into believing that I could achieve an instant recovery from my demons if only I moved to a new place where nobody knew me, where I could start again. It’s been hard at times, toughing it out here, being reminded of my drinking past on so many occasions (There’s the pub where I puked my guts up in the toilets, There’s the pavement where I collapsed drunk out of my mind, There’s the house where I pondered suicide and cried rivers). But I’m glad I stayed. It’s been character building. It’s made me stronger. It’s taught me to face up to my mistakes rather than running away. And it’s made me recognise that there is always good to be found in everything – you just need to feel good about yourself in order to discover it.

It Might Just Be Better On The Other Side…

Soberistas is all about hope and optimism. I’m a bloody-minded bugger at the best of times and when I finally accepted that alcohol and me were never going to amount to a marriage made in heaven, I was damned if I was going to let the stuff beat me any more than it already had.

I was probably a little naïve in the early days of not drinking, not fully aware of how difficult the ride can be when navigating one’s way through the emotional storms and social awkwardness of a new, booze-free life. But still, even as the gravity of early sobriety began to dawn on me, I remained stoically fixed on my original goal; to live happily without alcohol swallowing me up once again.

Just now I was reading on the internet about Robin Williams, and became overwhelmed with sadness as to just quite how a person with so much energy and hilarity and humour can be quietly dying on the inside; how complex we, as human beings are when, with rivers of grief and sorrow reaching every last corner of our insides, we still possess the ability to smile and carry on regardless.

I began to think of the accumulative pain that all the people with whom I’ve come into contact since the inception of Soberistas, have suffered at the hands of alcohol. How many of us have plastered on a smile, faced up to the world after yet another shame-filled and agonising encounter with our common enemy, pretended everything is OK? How many times have we all woken up and thought, I can’t carry on with this any more, the fight is too hard? How many have fallen by the wayside, and continue to do so every day because they are too far down the road of alcohol dependency?

As time has gone on, I’ve been lucky enough to have won my fight with booze, and the associated depression and self-hatred that accompanied my drinking for almost a quarter of a century. But I know I am lucky, and I am immensely grateful that I’ve managed to discover a completely new Me with whom I am happy  – a Me whose shoes fit perfectly, as if they were waiting all along for me to wear them.


When it’s so very tough to admit to having a problem with alcohol in the first place, the road to recovery can be almost impossible for some people to embark on. But if, with a glimmer of hope and a lot of support along the way, a person can hang on to the notion that life might be better on the other side, there is the possibility of finding happiness. It is possible to start again in life, at any age, and put your old mistakes behind you. The false smiles can become a thing of the past, and happiness can be felt, honestly and truly.

As for Robin Williams and the countless millions who have similarly suffered at the hands of booze and their own personal demons, I hope we can all remember them in order to remind ourselves just how dangerously easy it can be to hide behind a façade, and to work together to try to help anyone who is drowning in the quagmire of depression and substance misuse. Hopefully, in that way, there will be much more optimism and far less destruction of the human spirit.