Ocean Hill staff: Liz Webster – walking the walk of sobriety & giving back to people with addiction
On weekends, guests at Ocean Hills follow a more relaxed recovery routine from the busy, therapy-focused weekdays. Yoga, nature walks, biking or bowling and hot pool visits are led by Weekend Programme Facilitator Liz Webster.
“We start the day with a lot of practice around gratitude, do daily recovery readings and then have a nice breakfast, which usually includes a green smoothie. It’s good to introduce a healthy diet with great nutrients to clients as part of self-care. A lot of our guests aren’t in a regular routine when they arrive at Ocean Hills.”
Walking the walk of sobriety
Liz is a qualified yoga instructor and is studying addictions but she also has a unique connection with Ocean Hills clients – she is in recovery from alcoholism and has been sober for 8.5 years.
Her recovery was a challenge and ultimately led to a mental health crisis which brought her to her knees. “I had a complete mental breakdown a couple of years ago. I was doing all the right things in recovery but I didn’t think I was ever going to ‘get better’ emotionally”.
Liz i in recovery from alcoholism and has been sober for 8.5 years.
After a lot of support to regain strength, new skills and a fresh perspective, Liz decided to completely change her life. “I sold my house and did a trip to India, where I did my yoga training. I wanted to give something back to society and had a strong desire to help people with mental and addiction issues.”
Then Covid happened, which put a halt to her travel. Liz returned to NZ and her career as a hairdresser. She then got in touch with Elaine [Atkinson - Founder of Ocean Hills] about working with her.
“I love working with Elaine and I’m really grateful that she gave me a chance – it’s an incredible gift for me. It’s a lovely team and we’re all there for the same reason: we care about the people that come in.”
The change of career has led Liz to formally studying addiction.
Codependency – dysfunctional relationships that cause chaos
Another tool in Liz’s teaching repertoire includes educating guests about codependency, which is when people have dysfunctional relationships, often around addiction issues.
“Codependency is learning about relationships and really getting inside yourself to find out why you behave like you do. Doing that been an absolute game changer for me. I used to use alcohol as a tool to deal with emotions but once I got sober, I still struggled with relationships. I often got myself into abusive situations and then ended up feeling sorry for the abuser!”
'I can't live without you' is an unhealthy attitude in relationships.
We’re surrounded by codependent attitudes – from love songs declaring ‘I can’t live without you’ or thinking of ourselves as an ‘other half’ of our partner, says Liz. “We need to be whole ourselves and grow together, or grow apart.”
Overcoming her codependent tendencies involved new patterns of taking responsibility for her feelings and emotions, instead of losing herself in reacting to other people’s behaviours and problems.
“I was brought up thinking that you put everyone else first. I used to give, give, give and have nothing left for me. Then I was full of resentments and I used to think, ‘I am a really nice person and don’t deserve this!’”
Recognising her part in codependent relationships was key to her recovery. “I learnt that a lot of my dysfunctional behaviour was actually about my childhood: I needed to be taught how to actually love myself and build proper boundaries.”
Mental health issues and trauma common in addiction
Addiction experts estimate that 75 percent of people who are in recovery or trying to get clean and sober have a background of trauma and mental health issues. “I believe that we are highly sensitive people. We often feel other people’s pain as well as our own, and this can lead to problems with addiction.”
Once free of substances, Liz says it takes time for people to calm down emotionally. But with the right support and tools, therapies and time, people in recovery learn that slowing down is the key to sustainable sobriety.
“As addicts, we’re used to a lot of drama and we lead such a fast life. But most of the things that we need are free. It takes a while to realise what serenity is.”
If you feel you might have a problem when addiction, call Elaine on 027 573 7744 for a confidential chat to see if Ocean Hills is right for you.