By day, Debbie-Lyn was working with a friend doing makeup for kids’ parties, but at night she was drinking herself to sleep with four bottles of wine. Once she had collected her four children from school, the drinking began until she passed out.
Still hungover, she struggled to keep her job and, after becoming a single mother, found it increasingly difficult to cope. She ended up losing her home, her children and her pets, but when she woke up in a hospital bed three years ago after a suicide attempt, she learned she had a second luck in life.
The 40-year-old asked for help and started taking care of her body and mind. She got sober and fought to see her children again, who are now proud of their mother as a successful MUA (Make Up Artist) business owner and makeup manager for a Lancashire fashion house. Debbie-Lyn is now sharing her story in the hope that she can inspire others who are going through a difficult time and that it is possible to make a difference.
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“It felt like I was living in hell all the time, my reality was so awful,” says Debbie-Lyn Connolly Lloyd, from Southport. “I started drinking, and drinking earlier and earlier.
“I was trying to manage on my own with four children. But my mental health only got worse, I couldn’t function anymore, I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t take care of the children anymore.
“I felt like such a massive failure in every sense of the word, I couldn’t pay the bills, I struggled to keep my job, I was constantly hungover. The kids weren’t going to school. , it was a mess. I just wanted to fall asleep and never wake up again.
In February 2019, the night of her daughter’s 10th birthday, Debbie-Lyn overdosed, something she’s been guilty of on every birthday since. “It felt like I was desperately trying to get to her birthday party and make sure she had a good day, and then it happened overnight,” Debbie-Lyn adds.
“When I first woke up in hospital, I was disappointed it didn’t work out. I was still really depressed. I felt like I had lost everything and there was no turning back.
“I spoke to the crisis team and they were really good, they said they had seen people come back from it, and little by little I had to start believing it was possible.
“It was a long road to recovery.” The first thing the mother-of-four did was join an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) group and Southport’s Recovery Circle, an addictions support service.
However, she had a few relapses, which caused Debbie-Lyn to binge on alcohol to return to the hospital. Her three older children, now aged 17, 13 and 10, had stayed with her family, while her youngest, aged six, lived with her father.
She couldn’t see them alone initially, then endured a two-year court battle to be able to care for her youngest son again. Debbie-Lyn, who was put up in a one-bed flat by her friend when she was discharged from hospital, continues: “I had to apply for benefits and then I got sober and started my own business – Miss Slay MUA – doing make up and makeup myself.
“I had to rebuild myself from the ground up, so I’m proud of that.” Her work resumed after setting up Instagram and Facebook accounts, and later she became head of makeup at Kingfisher Couture, doing makeup for their editorial shoots. She even appeared in series 28 and 29 of The Only Way Is Essex, doing the Halloween makeup for the cast.
Once she was able to move into a bigger flat, her three older children joined her six months later and she was assigned to a social worker, who fired her last year. Debbie-Lyn can now see her youngest son every other weekend and during school holidays.
“I had to be extremely vulnerable, saying sorry to so many people, to my children,” she says. “I’ve learned to always be open and honest with my kids about mental health and addiction. It can happen to anyone.
“I have a good relationship with them and have worked very hard with them. They are proud of me today. Debbie-Lyn, who says a difficult relationship contributed to her drinking, is single since her recovery, prioritizes her health and sees a personal trainer every week, saying she is healthier than she was at 40.
She manages her mental health with yoga and meditation, as well as medication, and since her depression, she has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. Although she is not a teetotaler and has a few drink socials, she has sworn to herself never to drink at home or around her children.
“I’ve always been arty, it’s my job but it’s my meditation at the same time,” she says. “With my diagnosis, just knowing that I have it, I understand myself much better.
“My head is so busy that anything I can get lost in can relax me. I used to drink because it was the only thing that calmed my head, but now I know how much it’s is dangerous for me. If I feel an emotion, I know it can pass.
Debbie-Lyn says she learned to love herself and gain confidence when she started plus size modeling, attending Fashion Weeks – something she had always wanted to do. “My self-confidence was non-existent, now I’m like a different person,” adds Debbie-Lyn.
“My family still hasn’t come, but I’ve met a lot of friends during recovery who have been very supportive. I’m quite vocal about my experience online and have been getting messages from strangers to say that I helped them.
“No matter how bad you think it is, there will be someone worse than you who has gone through it. People think the opposite of addiction is being sober, but in fact, it’s community.
“Addiction is extremely isolating, so it doesn’t matter what group, an arts group, AA, as long as you feel like you belong somewhere, you can turn it around.”
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