A mum-of-four has spoken about losing her home and children after regularly drinking herself to sleep with four bottles of wine.
She told the Manchester Evening News how she would work as a children’s face-painter during the day, but after picking up her kids from school she would drink until she passed out.
Once she had collected her four children from school, the drinking would start until she passed out.
Always hungover, she struggled to hold down her job and, after becoming a single mum, 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 an attempted suicide, she learned she had a second chance at life.
The 40-year-old sought help and began to look after her body and mind.
She got sober and fought to see her kids again, who are now proud of their mum as the owner of a successful MUA (Make Up Artist) business, and head of make-up for a fashion house in Lancashire.
Debbie-Lyn is now sharing her story in the hope she can inspire others going through a difficult time that it is possible to turn things around.
“It was like living in hell all the time, my reality was so awful,” Debbie-Lyn Connolly Lloyd, from Southport, says.
“I started drinking, and drinking earlier and earlier.
“I was trying to cope on my own with four children. But my mental health just got worse, I wasn’t functioning, wasn’t getting out of bed, I couldn’t look after the children anymore.
“I felt like such a massive failure in every sense of the word, I couldn’t pay the bills, I was struggling to hold my job down I was constantly hungover. The kids weren’t going to school, it was a mess. I just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again.”
In February 2019, on the night of her daughter’s 10th birthday, Debbie-Lyn took an overdose, which she has felt guilty about every birthday since.
“It was like I was desperately trying to make it through to her birthday and make sure she had a nice day, then it happened during the night,” Debbie-Lyn adds.
“When I first woke up in the hospital, I was disappointed that it hadn’t worked. I was still really depressed. I felt I’d lost everything and there was no way back.
“I spoke to the crisis team and they were really good, they said they’ve seen people come back from it, and slowly, I had to start believing that was possible.
“It was a long road to recovery.” The first thing the mum-of-four did was join an AA (alcoholics anonymous) group and Southport’s Recovery Circle, a support service for addiction.
However she had a few relapses, which saw Debbie-Lyn binge-drink her way back into hospital. Her three older children, now 17, 13, and 10, had been staying with family, while her youngest, aged six, lived with his dad.
She couldn’t see them alone initially, and then endured a two-year court battle to be able to look after 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 claim benefits, then I got sober, and set up my own business – Miss Slay MUA – doing makeup and face painting on my own.
“I had to build myself up from the ground, so I’m proud of that.” Her work picked up after she created Instagram and Facebook accounts, and later she became head of make-up at Kingfisher Couture, doing make-up for their editorial shoots.
She even appeared in series 28 and 29 of The Only Way Is Essex, doing the cast’s Halloween make-up.
Once she was able to move into a bigger flat, her three older children joined her six months later and she was assigned a social care worker, who signed her off last year. Debbie-Lyn is now able to see her youngest son every other weekend and during the school holidays.
“I’ve had to be extremely vulnerable, say sorry to so many people, to my children,” she says. “I’ve learnt to always be open and honest with my children about mental health and addiction. It can happen to anyone.
“I have a good relationship with them and worked very hard with them. They’re proud of me today.” Debbie-Lyn, who says a difficult relationship contributed to her drinking, has been single since her recovery, prioritises her health and sees a personal trainer every week, saying she’s the healthiest she’s been at 40.
She manages her mental health with yoga and meditation, alongside medication, and since her breakdown, was diagnosed with a Personality Disorder. While she isn’t teetotal and has the odd social drink, she has vowed to never 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 I’ve got it, I understand myself a lot better.
“My head is so busy, so anything I can lose myself in can relax me. I used to drink because it was the only thing that would quieten my head down, but now I know how dangerous it is for me. If I feel an emotion, I know that it can pass.”
Debbie-Lyn says she’s learnt to love herself and gained a confidence boost when she began plus-size modelling, taking part in Fashion Weeks – something she had always wanted to do. “My self-confidence was non-existent, now I’m like a different person,” Debbie-Lyn adds.
“My family still haven’t come around but I’ve met a lot of friends through recovery who were a great support to me. I’m quite vocal about my experience online and I’ve had strangers message me to say I’ve helped them.
“No matter how bad you think it is, there will be someone worse than you who has come through it. People think the opposite of addiction is being sober, but actually, it’s community.
“Addiction is extremely isolating, so it doesn’t matter which group, an art group, AA, as long as you feel you belong somewhere, you can turn it around”.