An Awesome Recovery Story to Start 2022

‘Lockdown imposed the solitude from which I had been running’ … Jamie Klingler with her dog, McNulty. Photograph: Sarah Lee/The Guardian

I couldn’t resist posting this article by Jamie Klingler—I spent years trying to drink and eat myself numb. Then I began a year of intense transformation—which I found in The Guardian today. Here is the article in its entirety.

Who, at my age, truly starts over? But I did. I gave up booze, took up running and found the strength and stamina to fight for a better future.

At 42, I believed that my food and alcohol dependencies defined me. In my mirror, I would always be as I saw myself then: fat and drunk. I was over the hill and past the point of any meaningful change. Who, at my age, truly starts over? I had clearly missed the opportunity to be one of those healthy, mindful people I mocked on Instagram. I was who I was: destined to remain in those cycles of dependency and to be unhappy, discontent and stuck. Then disaster struck.

The pandemic began as a drunken month of worsening depression, but I have since quit booze, taken up running and lost 7st (44kg). I am in the best mental shape of my life. It turns out booze – and a million social and work engagements – was covering up how unhappy I had become with myself and my life. I was hiding from spending time alone or thinking about who I had become: someone who regularly drank two bottles of wine a day, was medically obese and had done no exercise in four years.

From the outside, the life I had built as a writer and events manager in London looked glamorous and cosmopolitan. But it was all tits and teeth. Inside, I was grieving and trying to drink and eat myself numb. My mother had died in 2018 after a six-year illness with cancer, and I had spent three years pursuing rock bottom and experiencing very little joy. The numbness almost killed me.

Lockdown, however, imposed the solitude from which I had been running. Of course, I tried to avoid it using 10-litre boxes (yes, plural) of rosé. Then I got sick with shingles. I was terrified it was Covid and that I was going to die in this state.

So, I used the opportunity of the pubs being shut to end my lifelong relationship with booze. This led to huge changes. Five months later, I tackled the Couch to 5K programme. Then, on 15 October 2020, I took the plunge and joined an app for cognitive behavioural therapy and calorie-controlled weight loss. My original goal was to lose enough to place me in a normal BMI for the first time in my adult life. I had been size extra‑large since I was 18. I didn’t know anything else, so I wasn’t trying to regain some perfect figure from my youth. But I ended up losing enough to put me in the middle of the healthy weight band.

None of it was easy; in fact, it was a daily battle. I had to make decisions every single day. To get outside. To eschew Deliveroo. To sit with my grief, rather than wallow in it. To sit with myself. To do 20,000 steps. To make soup. To dance. To cry. To feel. To get therapy.

During the course of the year of my transformation, I ended my eight-year relationship with a man I loved, and still love, but from whom I had grown apart. I went on a solo honeymoon to the Maldives and came back to London with a new outlook.

Then, within a month of returning to London, Sarah Everard went missing. I, along with the rest of the country, was watching and hoping that she would be found. As a single woman, living alone during Covid restrictions, I was furious when I heard that the police were telling women the only way to stay safe while alone was to remain in their own homes.

Was I not meant to get groceries in case the delivery man was dangerous? Was I supposed to avoid taxis? I had tweeted about being devastated for Sarah’s family and that, as urban women, we deserved the right to walk home. The tweet blew up. So I tweeted that I would organise a vigil and I was put in touch with a group of women who were doing the same. Reclaim These Streets was born.

Many readers will know what happened next. We planned a vigil in Sarah’s honour, but the police banned us from gathering, even though a serving police officer was suspected – and later convicted – of murdering her. We raised a legal fund and sued the Metropolitan police for our human right to protest. We went to the high court the day before the vigil and were told that we were permitted to protest within the parameters the police set, but the police refused to set parameters. They threatened us, as organisers, with £10,000 each in fines and prosecution under the Serious Crimes Act.

We decided that, instead of wasting our money on such penalties, we would raise funds to serve the people who needed it. Many people attended the vigil anyway – and the police manhandled attenders and arrested four.

The days that followed were some of the most intense, emotional and rewarding of my life. The women I worked with were, and are, incredible.On 19 March, we donated the £526,000 we had raised to Rosa, a funding group for women and girls, and created the Stand With Us fund.

I would not have had the emotional capacity or stamina to have done the work if I had still been drinking. I would not have had the headspace or courage to put myself forward if I had not been in the best mental and physical place in my life. Raising my hand to be counted, and standing up for the safety of all of us, was only possible because I felt strong and confident and had a clear head. I did more than 70 radio and television interviews over the course of that week. It was exhausting, but, along with my amazing cohorts in Reclaim, we changed the conversations about women’s safety in the UK and the world.

The work continues. In January, we will be back in the high court to try to have our human right to protest, regardless of lockdown restrictions, argued into law. We have become a women’s safety campaign group and are offering consent workshops with the social enterprise Shout Out UK. We are working on legislation and education reforms for women’s safety.

In June, I went home to Philadelphia for the first time in three years. But I went back a changed woman; I had discovered who I was. I don’t believe everyone needs to burn their life to the ground to start again. But making little changes and addressing dependency issues can unleash happiness that you no longer thought was possible.

It isn’t only about avoiding snacks or a second glass of wine. What really changed my relationship with food and my body was cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A daily stack of decisions, starting with a sports bra on a door knob every day, has made my old lifestyle unrecognisable. But the most revolutionary change is that I now want to spend time in my own company (well, with my dog, McNulty).

After a full MOT on my body recently, I learned that I had added a decade to my life expectancy. My metabolic age was 49 in October 2020. It is now 39. I am Benjamin Buttoning my life. I still miss my mom daily – the grief is still there – but it is counterbalanced by so much more. I still have work to do, but the results of the work I have done make getting up so much easier than I ever believed possible.’