One hundred and twelve days

Reflections on a journey to recovery and a special worker from Together who made it happen

One hundred and twelve days ago, I woke up on the floor of a police cell. I woke as I had done for many days previously – with a dry throat, pounding head and hazy recollection of the night before.

This time was different.

This time, I had gone too far.

This time, there were more than the physical sensations and the nagging feeling of shame.

My name is Sara, and I am an alcoholic.

Within minutes, it became clear that my sense of time and reality was now locked within the four walls of the cell and I was no longer in control of anything.

For the first time in my life I prayed. I opened my heart and begged for another chance. I promised that if I could just get out of that room, if I could just see my children again, I would never….

I didn’t really know what I was promising, but desperation, regret and fear hung heavy on my words.

As I sat there, locked away, locked in, I was strangely also locked out. I was locked out of the trust between a mother and her children. 

I howled. I screamed and cried and begged and hissed and howled for my sons. I became feral on the floor, inconsolable and terrified. 

God didn’t find me on those cold unforgiving tiles. Nor Buddha or Allah. No deity came to magically absolve me.

A lady in uniform did though. Damn near scraped me off the floor given the state I was in.

She was kind, but firm.

She pointed me towards the open door and said “if you mean what you say, then I’ll never see you again. If you don’t, then you see that?”

A shuffling old man. Yellow teeth, face like the wrong end of a bus crash. Lurching, and muttering.

“He’s a frequent flyer. We pick him up twice a month, and he swears he’ll get sober. His daughters pick him up, and take him home, and he escapes to the offy, or the pub, and then he’s back here again. He seems happy enough, the fool, but…is that what you want?”

Of course I didn’t. Nobody does. But I wasn’t HIM. He was, well he was disgusting. Sick with addiction. Ravaged by booze. 

That wasn’t me.

Then, I looked down at myself.

My partner’s blood was streaked across my shirt. My wrists were cut and bruised from the hours of twisting in panic against the cuffs. My eyes swollen, puffy, lifeless. Clutching my slippers that I’d been taken away in, wearing Devon & Cornwall’s finest police issue sweats and plimsolls. Blue and black bruises over my body, with no idea how they’d got there.

I thought about the last time I had seen my eldest son’s face. It seemed forever ago, less than 8 hours in reality, but still stark and clear. 

He was afraid of me.

A skinny, trembling teenage boy – one arm shielding his younger brother, the other raised with a glass in his hand thinking he could throw it at the monster downstairs.  He heard screaming and the sound of breaking. He thought he could save Mum from the monster.

Mummy was the monster. 

He crumpled, and ran. Barricaded him and his brother in their room and rang their dad in hysterics.

I looked down at myself.

Mummy is a monster.

My name is Sara, and I am an alcoholic.

I couldn’t chase this monster away like I did when the boy had a nightmare. I couldn’t charge into his room to be there, to smooth his hair and soothe his fear. 

No family to hold me. No partner to forgive me. Nothing left to hide behind. Just raw shame, aching guilt and only the strands of sanity tethering me.

That’s when “They” found me.

I’d been on their radar long enough for me not to be a surprise.

It was her voice on the end of the phone that broke me though.

Brutally honest. Matter of fact. Harsh, in the way that only lived experience can make you be.

Her name was Sandra, and she said “Let’s do this Together”.


Not “Alone.” Not “You fucked up.”


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