Jenny-Anne Southcott, aged 42, has just received a National Volunteer Award for her work at Addaction Cornwall.
The mum of three gives support and help to those tackling a substance misuse issue as a way of ‘giving back’ having overcome her own dependency on alcohol.
Jenny headed to the Palace of Westminster to receive the award yesterday (Nov 30). The ceremony was hosted by Baroness Stedman-Scott and the award presented by Oliver Brogue from the Marsh Christian Trust.
Jenny, from Liskeard, explains her own experiences with alcohol and addiction:
“I didn’t see it coming. I started drinking socially, drinking a bottle of wine a night and hitting it hard at the weekends. I thought I was fine – everyone else does it. I managed to get up in the morning, get the kids to school, put good meals on the table and dress well. Then it crept up to two bottles a night.
“In 2013, I was caught drink driving and referred to Addaction. I only went because I had to; I didn’t think I needed any help.
“My relationships started to suffer. Without realising it I was cheating the closest people to me even convincing myself of my lies to enable me to get my wine in for that evening.
“My eldest, Billy, and I were arguing, I thought it was his hormones, pushing his boundaries, typical teenage stuff. He’d always wanted to join the army until one day he said ‘I don’t want to, I’m too scared to leave you, I’m scared I’ll get a call while I’m away to tell me you’re dead’.
“He was nearly an adult, but still a child frightened, angry and frustrated seeing his mum on self destruct, slowly killing myself.
“After my grandmother’s funeral, where he was a bearer, I found him breaking his heart and all he kept saying was ‘I don’t want to be doing this for you mum, I love you, we need you.’
“Still I didn’t stop.
“Then social services started investigating, but I was good at hiding the problem. The day they closed the case I poured myself a glass of wine. I didn’t see the bigger picture. Billy came downstairs and asked what had happened and I told him, the look on his face showed he was devastated. Eventually the social services case was reopened and I realised too late that it was real.
“The inevitable day in court arrived on 29th August 2014. It was a blur, a really bad dream I felt sure I’d wake up from soon. My youngest two, Josh and Connor, were taken off me aged 9 and 8 and Billy, then 17, went to live with my dad. My babies were going.
“With social services escorting me, I arrived to pick them up from school for the last time. The first thing they said to me was ‘We are living with you aren’t we mum?’ I still remember their little faces looking so confused.
“Here was the deepest, darkest place I knew existed, but never thought I’d be.
“That night my friends came round and took all the alcohol out of my house and my dad gave me a sleeping pill to get through the night. I took the pill, drank a load of fresh alcohol I’d bought and hoped I wouldn’t wake up. I had lost everything I loved, the only people I breathed for. I felt shame and guilt that I had let my kids down.
“I was drinking earlier and earlier each day, trying to end it all, but still waking each morning. It was hell and I was there. It was like being in a wishing well looking up and the sides just crumbling down around me. This was rock bottom and this was my life from now on.
“I had a phone call, I don’t even know why I answered it. It was my Addaction support worker. I began talking to her and she convinced me to attend a group. The staff and volunteers were lovely, really supportive and encouraging, but then I’d return home to the emptiness.
“My support worker took me to Boswyns to detox and for once I actually felt safe. A place at Addaction Chy Residential Rehab in Truro was then lined up and it was terrifying the idea I’d have to face myself and all my demons. But it was the best thing I’ve ever done and after 12 weeks at Chy I felt ready to go home.
“Billy moved back home with me the same day and I only spent one day at home before heading straight down to Addaction in Liskeard to get involved in anything I could to keep myself busy.
“Billy is almost 20 now and we have a great relationship. When he tells me he loves me and is proud of me, the look in his eye is something I didn’t imagine I would see again.
“It’s been an amazingly terrifying and emotional rollercoaster, but I’m a better person now than I was before this happened.
“I’m happier with life. There are good and bad days, but the good really out way the bad and they are just another challenge.
“I became a Recovery Champion helping with different activities at Addaction and have now progressed to Volunteer. I love all that I’m doing and look forward to going in everyday to the unexpected, the fun and the fact that I’m learning is amazing.
“Offering support and being there for people is so rewarding. To be able to give something back is a honour and I can feel the passion growing to know more and do more. Going from the person that sat in the corner wishing, hoping, no-one would speak to me to now co-facilitating groups is such an achievement that would never have been possible without the fantastic support and encouragement I have received from the service and they always believe in you.
“I’ve just completed my Level 2 in Counselling and am starting Level 3 with an eye on becoming a support worker myself.
“My boys are back in my life at our family home, it’s full of fun and laughter and love again.
“My confidence and self worth is all back. Gone are the days of my curtains remaining shut and I now walk with my head held high, living a true and honest life.
“Addaction saved my life and gave my boys a mother they deserve.”