A photo of Renee Claire from 2012 at her lowest point. Photo: Facebook/Renee Claire
A photo of Renee Claire from 2012 at her lowest point. Photo: Facebook/Renee Claire

Addict mum’s jaw-dropping transformation

A mum-of-two has opened up about the horrifying toll her "hidden addiction" took on her life - and the unconventional path that helped bring her back from the brink.

Renee Claire Hargraves, 32, from the Gold Coast admits she once spent her days addicted to painkillers, alcohol and compulsive shopping.

It was an addiction the "functioning addict" managed to hide from co-workers, friends and her husband for years.

She said as a 24-year-old she was known in the office as "bright, bubbly Renee", but her life behind closed doors couldn't have been more different.

"Everyone thought I had my sh*t together," Renee Claire told news.com.au, adding: "But as soon as 5pm hit it was on.

"I would come home and smoke cigarettes all night, drink close to a bottle of wine and take one or two Panadeine Forte.

Renee Claire Hargraves has spoken candidly about what her life was like as a functioning addict. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
Renee Claire Hargraves has spoken candidly about what her life was like as a functioning addict. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

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"It might not sound that much compared to some, but the mix left me feeling pretty woozy."

With the benefit of hindsight, Renee Claire said drinking and drugging was very much a way "to numb" herself and to escape chronic feelings of low self-esteem and worthlessness.

Impulse shopping, also part of her addiction, was a problem, and she racked up credit card debt to the tune of $40,000.

"I would go out and buy things on impulse. Large items or clothing or shoes. It didn't matter what I bought, I just knew I had to have it," Renee Claire said.

At the beginning of 2012, not long after the former New Zealander had moved to Queensland, she met the man who would eventually become her husband.

She explained at the time he was "wrapped up" with his own issues - he had recently declared bankruptcy - and she was able to keep her problems under the radar.

This photo of Renee Claire was taken in January 2012 at one of the lowest points in her addiction. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
This photo of Renee Claire was taken in January 2012 at one of the lowest points in her addiction. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

Within a matter of months, Renee Claire discovered she was pregnant, a situation she said helped her to stop drinking and taking drugs - at least initially.

"I realised after having the baby, I didn't feel fulfilled," she said.

"I thought the life of being a mum was going to make me happy, but I still had all the same feelings - if not worse - because I wasn't taking anything."

The newly married mum said the intensity of her raw emotional state pushed her back towards drinking and pills as a way to cope.

"I wouldn't touch anything during the day. But once my partner was home, I'd have a glass of wine and then some pills, and before I knew it, I'd be gone."

The mum-of-two said she thought having children might help her overcome her addiction permanently. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
The mum-of-two said she thought having children might help her overcome her addiction permanently. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

Two years later, Renee Claire discovered she was pregnant again with her second child, Ruby.

She immediately stopped drinking, as she had done in her first pregnancy; however, she continued to take pain relief - on the advice of her doctors for neck pain.

"I was taking the medication as prescribed during this time, there was no question about that, but I believe, at least on an unconscious level, I was using the pills to help me get by," she said.

After her child was born in 2015, Renee Claire experienced post-natal depression, and to cope, the "high achiever" said she threw herself back into full-time work.

"I am quite a high achiever naturally and have always thought success would make me happy. I went back to work quickly because I thought this would help to give me some purpose," she said.

BEFORE: Renee Claire says this photo of her taken in 2010 shows the depth of her sadness. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
BEFORE: Renee Claire says this photo of her taken in 2010 shows the depth of her sadness. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

 

AFTER: Having found a way through her addiction, the mum-of-two now helps others through her coaching business. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
AFTER: Having found a way through her addiction, the mum-of-two now helps others through her coaching business. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

Although working helped provide Renee Claire with some direction, there wasn't any "relief" after long days because she was breastfeeding and unable to drink.

"I was struggling with the same feelings. I just didn't feel good enough, and no matter what I did I still felt the same," she said.

It was around this time Renee Claire spoke to her doctor and admitted she had a problem.

Soon after she saw a psychologist but revealed the turning point came only after noticing her eldest daughter had started acting out.

"She had a very loving relationship with her dad, but she seemed to be seeking more love and attention from me,' Renee Claire said.

"It was in that moment I realised I was doing the same things to her that had been done to me in my childhood."

Renee Claire said the catalyst for change came after realising the impact her behaviour was having on her children. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
Renee Claire said the catalyst for change came after realising the impact her behaviour was having on her children. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

When Renee Claire finally reached out for help - for her daughter primarily - specialists asked her "what was going on at home" - a question she said pushed her to finally take responsibility.

Her journey to health hasn't been conventional. Rather than taking the well-hewn path of abstinence offered through 12-step groups, the-then 28-year-old sought change through coaching.

"I got in touch with people who did coaching who specialised in rewiring the unconscious brain and started to recognise repeated patterns," Renee Claire said.

"IT ALL CAME BACK TO NOT FEELING GOOD ENOUGH"

One of the biggest breakthroughs she said she experienced was coming to terms with persistent feelings of worthlessness.

"Again, it all came back to not feeling good enough, not feeling worthy," she said.

"Even though I had an amazing husband and two beautiful healthy children, I couldn't see that because I was constantly beating myself up."

Renee Claire with her two daughters, Ruby, 4, (centre) and Lyla, 7. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire
Renee Claire with her two daughters, Ruby, 4, (centre) and Lyla, 7. Picture: Facebook/Renee Claire

Today, life for Renee Claire and her family couldn't be better.

The 32-year-old uses her experience in overcoming addiction to coach others who are seeking to transform their lives and has sought out a professional qualification in this field.

"It all changed because I stepped up and said 'enough is enough'," she said.

She and her husband also have a far healthier relationship with alcohol, with Renee Claire revealing the pair enjoy a glass of wine together every couple of weeks "or so".

To those who may find themselves struggling with a similar situation, the mum-of-two-turned coach said to remember there was always help on hand.

"When I was in that depressed anxious state I couldn't see past me. And the one thing I felt more than anything throughout it all was that I was so, so alone," she said.

"I want to let people know that they are not alone; they can break through; they can come to a beautiful place of inner peace and happiness.

"If I can get through, I believe anyone can get through."

 

 

Do you have an inspiring story to share? Get in touch at emilia.mazza@news.com.au or you can continue the conversation on Twitter @emiliajanemazza



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