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  • Emily Watts

Escapism: Emily's story

Emily is EA and Head of Communities at Grimshaw, and the practice's global wellbeing lead.


I think my journey started in 1990, when my Dad, (my hero) came to me one evening and owned the fact that he was addicted to alcohol.


I vaguely remember him saying to me – ‘Emily, promise me, never go down that road’.


16 years later, guess what? That’s exactly what I did.


I unfortunately met someone and stayed in what I can only describe as a toxic relationship for 12 years. I knew damn well he was constantly cheating on me, looking back now the mental abuse he put me through was disgusting.


Calling me at work if I hadn’t boiled his eggs quite right, telling me to stop smiling in photos as my teeth looked like a horse, even not speaking to me for 3 days because I offered the AA man who came to fix my car a cup of tea as it was cold out.


I truly believe this behaviour contributed to my addictions.


To gain confidence I turned to drink and drugs. I found a comfort that I’d not felt for years. It enabled me to feel numb, block out the way I felt and stupidly I thought I was coping. To outsiders, it was a completely different picture.


Not sleeping for days, walking around like a zombie, not turning up to work, passing out at family events. I was a shadow of myself. Eventually my family encouraged me to get help. I ended up on the 12 step programme. Coincidentally, the same programme as my Dad. Some elements of it worked for me, some didn’t.


They refer to your ‘higher power’ as God, my higher power is my family. So, for those of you that know me well, that’s why I have those initials tattooed on my wrist, it’s my family, I constantly carry my higher power with me.


There are people and programmes waiting for you when the time is right. Life is tough, but it’s also a beautiful thing, I now wake up and feel blessed that I’ve got a second chance at this.

The relationship ended with me returning from a work trip to an empty flat, he’d taken everything including my dog and moved in with the woman he’d been seeing. Looking back now, I thought that left me with nothing. But, actually, it left me with everything. I had my life back.


I still like the occasional drink, but I know my limits. When I make a hasty exit at work functions (something I’m renowned for doing), it’s because I know I’ve had enough, and I know what I’ll lose if I go too far. My job, my family, and both of those things mean the absolute world to me.


Please don’t suffer in silence, I realise all too well, that you need to be ready to accept help, but there are people and programmes waiting for you when the time is right. Life is tough, but it’s also a beautiful thing, I now wake up and feel blessed that I’ve got a second chance at this.

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