Irish-born photographer, Fiona McCosh, has been in long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction for the past five years and celebrates her 5th year of sobriety on 19 September 2016, a significant milestone in her life.
Fiona came from a family with a history of alcoholism and depression. Fiona always felt different and when she got drunk for the first time she took to it with such enthusiasm that she got alcohol poisoning! Later, Fiona went to Art School and worked in a pub in the evenings. Speed, ecstacy and cocaine all featured in her life and boyfriends tended to share her enthusiasm for drugs and alcohol.
At the age of 36, someone introduced her to GHB. Fiona used this drug to try to moderate her alcohol intake. For four years she was using alcohol and GHB (which is also called the ‘date rape’ drug as it causes users to pass out). One day, she dropped some GHB on her laptop and it melted the keyboard!
Her ‘rock bottom’ lasted for about a year. She was living with a boyfriend and they would be awake for about two hours at a time – get high – then pass out again. They didn’t wash or clean their teeth or go out.
One day, she rang her mother who was so shocked by her appearance that she took her straight to the Priory – a rehab centre in the UK.
The Priory didn’t work for her but they suggested a rehab in South Africa. After 28 days in the South African rehab she was still a mess so she extended her stay for three months. After another two months in a sober house, she relapsed and managed to nip down the road and drink a bottle of vodka. There then followed a further four months of ‘research’ into why she needed to put down the red wine.
It took yet another stay in one more rehab centre in SA for her to finally get clean. The relapse had given her the necessary rude awakening she needed and she was able to work the “12 steps”. She still go to about four meetings a week and have an addiction counsellor but she has absolutely no cravings now and feel totally secure in her sobriety. She can socialise with people who drink although most of her friends are in recovery. She appreciates the laughter of people who have ‘suffered’ – somehow it’s more authentic. Cape Town has a vibrant recovery community and Fiona now lives here permanently. Fiona says she feels like she has been given a new lease of life – a second chance.
Last year, Fiona had the idea for the calendar, called Sober & sexy. Her passion for photography had been re-ignited and she was inspired by the Calendar Girls story based on women posing for a calendar in order to raise funds for a cancer charity. She actually had no trouble finding people to pose for her, so will probably publish a calendar every year!
Her passion with the calendar is to spread a message of hope. Fiona believes that If she can get clean, then anybody can! Fiona wants to raise awareness as well as money for a good cause. She is grateful for the gift of recovery and want to start a dialogue and encourage people to seek help. As Fiona say, she is hoping that the Sober is Sexy show and calendar will help make it clear that there is a solution, that recovery is not only possible, but pleasurable – and even sexy sometimes!
Fiona has just launched her Sober & Sexy 2017 Calendar as well as her new business called Sober & Sexy Pty, based in Cape Town. A start of a new and exciting journey where she plans to scale her impact in the recovery community.
Faizal chats to Fiona on the show about her journey through addiction.