Accepting addiction

Mary Parkinson

After drug addiction left her homeless and isolated, Mary Parkinson finally got clean 26 years ago. She has learned how to befriend the most difficult aspects of her personality – and to treat herself with compassion

My ‘active addiction’ was a long time ago, but a big part of my recovery was realising I couldn’t act as if my past hadn’t happened. I spent a huge part of my early 20s trying to do just that, and it really didn’t work. I ended up back on drugs for about four years.

At the end of my using, my possessions were in black plastic bags; barely anyone in my family was talking to me, I was homeless, completely unemployable and I could barely string two sentences together. My life had narrowed down to drugs. If I had £20 in my pocket, I would buy drugs rather than anything else. My sole focus was the next ‘high’. Where I slept and if I ate or not were all incidental. Happily, I didn’t do it for very long but it was long enough.

Most drug users are not kind – we would all throw each other over the cliff for a bag of drugs. I was so lonely. I think isolation is the worst thing about addiction. Going to Clouds House [a recovery centre in Wiltshire run by the charity Action on Addiction] opened up a world of empathy and of understanding. The kindness was so important, and feeling like I was part of something. Some people with addictive tendencies respond well to being in a community and thankfully I am one of them. I need to feel as though I belong somewhere and that my life is truly meaningful.

I was 30 years old when I finally stopped using drugs and was given a second shot at life which I have grasped with both hands. At Clouds, I started to learn to live one day at a time, take responsibility for myself and to do the next right thing – which is what I still do today. At Clouds, they talked about ‘a life beyond your wildest dreams’. Mine is certainly that.

I’ve learned to befriend the most difficult parts of myself, the things that really trip me up

I am a yoga teacher, a fundraiser and an active member of a recovery community. I am completely reconciled with my family and have many friends and other interests. Helping others trying to stop or stay stopped is a big part of the community I belong to. Yoga works for me too. It is a daily spiritual practice and has enabled me to get ‘connected’ – mind, body and heart. I teach all sorts of people including in a couple of drug rehabs. One of the men I teach, who comes from a particularly tough background, said to me after a class that it had been one of the best hours of his life. I felt like crying.

Practising and teaching yoga helped Mary Parkinson to “get connected – mind, body and heart”

My mother is one of the co-founders of part of Action on Addiction so fundraising for the charity completes the circle for me. It is a relatively new job and I love it.

I’m still an ‘extreme’ person and that’s something I’ve learned to accept. I’ve learned to befriend the most difficult parts of myself, the things that really trip me up.

I try not to take my life for granted or myself too seriously. Addiction is horrible but it is definitely possible to stop and turn your life around if you are prepared to work at it.

Mary now works as a yoga teacher, and as a fundraiser for Action on Addiction


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  • Deborah Doherty

    What an amazing transformation! Very inspiring. Going to share this in the hope that it helps somebody else who is struggling to take heart and try again.

  • Rudy

    That’s nice for you and all, but you didn’t much say HOW you accepted or befriended your addiction. That would have been more helpful.

  • Mary Louise Fletcher

    Totally in awe of what you have achieved Mary – bless you hun!

  • Mary Parkinson

    I stay clean a day at a time, I am a member of a mutual aid group, I help others and have done a lot of work on myself, accepting that I need to change. I believe I have an illness/condition which can never be ‘cured’ but that it is is possible to arrest it by doing the above stuff. Let me know if you want to know more. Happy to share the information.

  • Rudy

    Thanks Mary. I didn’t mean to sound bitter before. I guess I was just hoping for some new information. I take it a day at a time, too, but I struggle with acceptance.

  • Mary Parkinson

    No worries Rudy, it is hard sometimes. Do you do meetings too?

  • kimirap .

    An inspirational woman. Thank you.

  • Rudy

    Ta. No, there’s no groups for this stuff here where I live. But I have other activities that help.

  • mike owocki

    Mary, thank you for your outstanding example. We interact with people everyday from all walks of life. Addictions can cause massive dysfunction (to put it mildly) across the spectrum of folks; Rich, Poor, Tall, Short, every creed, and inclusive of the entire human race. They can bring down what would otherwise be healthy marriages and nuclear families filled with love, kindness, self-control, and all good virtues for which we all should strive. They sneak in, and become the number one priority in our lives, over spouses, kids, parents, friends, and so on. If you’re reading this, you probably know all this well. I do, and I’ll be following your example. Lamentation is fine, but self-forgiveness and accepting forgiveness from others are two mountains that must be scaled to win the fight. Peace and love to all, -mike o

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