Testimonial: Stepping away from the chaos
Updated: Apr 5
Jillian Elliott stayed at Ocean Hills in 2020. Here, she shares her struggle with alcohol and her experience at Ocean Hills.
When did you first realise you had a problem with alcohol?
I was about 14 years old when I first held a can in my hand. I grew up in Scotland which probably has the same kind of culture that New Zealand can be, where drinking heavily is quite a normal thing to do. It was all about, ‘Let’s all fun and get drunk’.
How did drinking affect your life?
Not so much until about 20 years ago, when I was in my early 20s. I was getting drunk and was hungover, every day. I’d been trying to keep a handle on it, knowing that it was a problem.
I was going to work, going home, getting drunk and getting to work, hungover. I knew I was out of control.
When did you realise you had hit rock bottom? I was going to work, going home, getting drunk and getting to work, hungover. I knew I was out of control. I own my own business and I was also drunk during the day. An employee of mine said, ‘I don’t want to work for you anymore Jilly.’ I knew this person had problems at home and then she was coming to work seeing me drunk. She said it was too chaotic. That was really devastating for me and a massive punch that this person was willing to leave her job. I could do myself some damage but when I realised I was affecting other people who were not even family, I knew it was far more reaching than I wanted it to be. That was rock bottom for me.
How did you end up at Ocean Hills?
I’d go on benders, sometimes for five days. I was comatose in bed one night after drinking my usual two or three bottles of wine and my wonderful partner, who I’ve been with 20 years, started looking up rehab places. Elaine answered the phone and we talked. What really mattered to me was hearing that voice on the end of the phone. It wasn’t an answer machine. They really comforted me and that was me, I was on the flight to Ocean Hills in the Hawke’s Bay. Once I got there, I never looked back.
What did you learn when you stayed at Ocean Hills?
I learnt that there is no shame in recovery. One of the best things about being at Ocean Hills was stepping away from the chaos when your life has been spiralling out of control. It’s almost as if you can put your life on hold and you can ask yourself, ‘What am I doing?’ I was there for 3 weeks.
At Ocean Hill, I felt at home. Everyone ‘got’ me and felt so close.
Favourite things about staying at Ocean Hills
Almost everybody who works at Ocean Hills has been there [addiction] and it helps being around people who understand. If they were not a recovering addict themselves, they had very close contacts of people who are. Their story was my story. I’ve been in therapy and stuff like that before and they just didn’t ‘get’ me. At Ocean Hills, I felt at home. Everyone ‘got’ me and felt so close.
What is life like now that you’re sober?
It’s getting a lot easier but it’s definitely a daily thing and I need a lot of support from my family. They’re really supportive – nobody in that bubble drinks, for whatever reason. I go to a couple of support group meetings a week and I really love the weekly Zoom meetings for the Ocean Hills aftercare with Elaine. I’m still on Naltrexone and I’m under no pretence that popping into Ocean Hills and popping out again was easy. I’m not freewheeling and I’m still not out of the woods but I don’t think about alcohol that much anymore.
You have to open up and tell people that you’ve got a problem – you can’t do it on your own.
What advice do you have for others who are struggling with alcohol?
You have to open up and tell people that you’ve got a problem – you can’t do it on your own. I thought I could handle it on my own. I would cope with the hangover because I could just have another drink. I’ve tried a thousand times and I thought I was on to it and I’ve got it under control but I just didn’t. I lied to myself primarily and then everyone else in my life.