“If you have found a way to live with the awful shit that has happened, don’t keep that way secret. You’ll never need it again, and someone else is standing somewhere, with no idea that there is a way. Your feet have left the trail marks that someone else needs to see” – Matthew D. Eayre.


I get asked from time to time why I write about what I write about. It baffles some people as to why I can be comfortable about exposing my life in such a raw and public manner. How do I hold my head up walking down the street when half the world knows my secrets? And since my recent podcast with Chris and Jeff from KLĒN + SŌBR about my magazine and my story of recovery, I seem to have hit a few raw nerves in certain circles.

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Well good! It means I’m doing my job brilliantly. There’s nothing like a lash of negative criticism to stir up my enthusiasm to tell the truth. Truth. It’s what drives me. There’s that lovely saying in recovery circles “We are only as sick as our secrets.” Secrets. They’re lovely balls of evil tucked away inside every man, woman and child, remotely controlling us – our every thought and action precisely selected to enable this stomach churning society we live in to flourish.

Well not in my house I’m afraid! I am well aware how uncomfortable I make people feel. I’m well aware of the gossip and the pointing fingers, and the “that one is mad” comments, that follow me around since I started to write about the reality of my life. But that’s the way it is in a small town. I knew what I was getting myself into when I made a decision not to follow the crowd and be silent and compliant.

So I talk about the fact that, in my previous life, from the age of 13 until I got sober, I took enough drugs and drank enough alcohol to launch a rocket to space. And I loved every single second of it – until I didn’t love it anymore. And when I came down from space, my life was a living fucking hell. And I made my families’ life a living fucking hell along with it. Good for you if you managed to kick it up without the desolation of addiction. I didn’t.

I share about my ill mental health and the fact that I spent time in a mental hospital eight years ago. Do you know what it’s like to wake up your first morning in a mental hospital having lost your mind? Do you know what it’s like to have to be sedated at night because you cried so much being away from your children you couldn’t breathe? Do you know what it’s like to believe that you were fucked forever – that your mind would never have a clear, logical thought again? Do you know what it’s like to come out of that hospital and feel like the world is caving in on you and be expected to “get on with it”? I do. You feel fear like you cannot contemplate. You’re not afraid of death – you’re afraid of living. Of having to endure your entire life on this shithole planet. Believe me, if I wasn’t blessed with motherhood, I’d be dead.

I talk about the fact that I am a survivor of all types of violence, inflicted for a large part of my life. I have scars, mentally, emotionally and physically to prove it. If you’d like to see them you can come talk to me – I’ll show you. No secrets here.

Do you know what it’s like not to be able to look at yourself in the mirror because of such deep shame and desolation? Do you know what it’s like to feel filthy dirty? Some of what happened to me was definitely self-inflicted. Other things I had absolutely no control over. But all of it destroyed me to a level that is inexplicable most of the time.

Are you sufficiently cringing now? Too close to home for you? I’ve discovered that I am not unusual in any way. In fact so many people have come to me and shared their own stories privately that I’ve lost count. We walk by each other everyday, drowning in our own pain, not knowing that there are others like us. Why? Because nobody speaks up about it.

You know what else I can tell you about? Recovery. How to thrive. How to be the strongest fucking person you know. How to be so free in your mind and heart and soul you couldn’t give a shit what anyone says or thinks about you. How to value yourself so much, not another person in the world will get away with disrespecting you.

I can tell you what it’s like to have a burning desire and drive to help other people just like you, going through the same crap, with nowhere to turn. I can tell you how to raise two unbelievable kids, with that same sense of freedom and open mindedness. I can tell you what it’s like to love freely, without condition, or rules.

I can tell you what it’s actually like to walk down the street, feeling like you’re completely yourself, unaffected by negativity, full of dignity and self-respect – to be superbly authentic. I can tell you what it’s like to be a good person, a survivor, a giver of hope. I can tell you what it’s like not to be a liar.

And so the reason I do what I do is because I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t. What’s the point of my existence if I have answers to surviving the “awful shit that’s happened” and I don’t offer it to someone else? What use am I if I can’t hold my hand out to another human being and say, me too, I know, I understand, let’s be friends. I’ve lost too many people I love to suicide and addiction to sit on my ass and do nothing. I’m watching too many people I love, kill themselves slowly because they are afraid to hold out their hands for help. This is who I am. I am Nicola O’Hanlon, from County Wexford, Ireland in recovery from a lifetime of bullshit and finally, finally, becoming all that I can be. And so can you. We must bring our own light into the darkness.

I remember when I was little, and my school was making a collection of toys to send to Africa, as was the norm then. So deep was my level of compassion and empathy, I wanted to send all my best toys instead of ones I didn’t really play with. My Mother said to me “You can’t save the world Nic” – I’m still trying Mam.


Nicola is our Blog and Article Editor at InTheRooms.com. Her work has been published internationally in many recovery publications and poetry books. She is a qualified Reflexologist, Masseuse and Life Coach. She has created content for intherooms.com for 7 years. She was Editor at iloverecovery.com. She is also an author at The Girl God books. She has lived with type 1 diabetes since she was 7 years old.


  1. I love this. I am slowly accepting my darkness. Finding my way. You inspire me so grateful to have you along side me during the journey x

  2. Ryan Sirois Reply

    Nicola you kick butt. You have hit the nail on the head. I get asked the exact same question – “Why do you write this stuff. It’s so dark and depressing.”

    We have to shine a light on the uncomfortable shadows so other people can see the truth. The other side. Because what they don’t realize is the unbelievable beauty and hope in the struggle, the fight and an honest telling of the journey. The story.

    Thank you for what you do – and connecting with people like me who share the same mission of truth. You are awesome 🙂

    • Nicky Reply

      It’s been a joy to have connected with you Ryan – and yes – unbelievable beauty and hop in the struggle – couldn’t have said it better. Looking forward to your next piece xx

  3. Ryan Sirois Reply

    Nicola you kick butt. You have hit the nail on the head. I get asked the exact same question – “Why do you write this stuff. It’s so dark and depressing.”

    We have to shine a light on the uncomfortable shadows so other people can see the truth. The other side. Because what they don’t realize is the unbelievable beauty and hope in the struggle, the fight and an honest telling of the journey. The story.

    Thank you for what you do – and connecting with people like me who share the same mission of truth. You are awesome 🙂

  4. I don’t have to tell you how I feel NIC, you already know…keep being your authentic, brilliant, phenomenal self. Change for no one. Let them point their fingers. It’s laughable that anyone would judge or point fingers with all.their own ‘isms’…when’s the last time we saw someone in recovery without a dark past? One of my recent posts on here reads,
    ” thou shalt not judge because thou has fucked up too. ”

    I love you my nicky

    • Nicky Reply

      Thanks always for your consistent and endless support and love Jen.

  5. Amazing! While I’m not an addict, I do know the pain of addiction because I watched my brother drink himself to death, my sister get lost for YEARS in a crack addiction and my husband abandon both myself and our daughter while battling an alcohol & cocaine addiction.

    I know the LIVING HELL my family endure wondering when we were going to get “the call” telling us when our loved ones were gone.The pain, the frustration, the heartbreak…

    But I also know the joy and the pride from seeing my sister and husband get to and stay in long term recovery. I saw my husband become the man I always knew he could be and even more by going back to school, getting his degree and working in the field as a drug & alcohol counselor.

    I too share my story because I’m tired of the secrets and stigma, and I want to help as many families as possible avoid the hell we went through and get the help they need.

    • Nicky Reply

      I think it’s because of my endless family history of addiction that’s made me want to end the silence Nadine. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge.

  6. There are things in life we may experience and never speak of. And there is things that happen that forever change you inside and perhaps outside too! We as writers of prose, be it music, commentary, satire or comedy . . .are changed within! Some times we may look in the mirror and think, my God, did I really say that? Many times upon meeting people I’ve thought, maybe I shouldn’t have said what I said. But the fact is, if what was said is truth, then nothing hardly needs correction.

    So many times while reading Nicky’s stuff I’ve felt like I’ve been there, shed a tear, laughed or quipped fuckin right on! Just now I got out of my seat, did a few paces with a big grin and feel the love of truth. Truth sets you FREE! There’s so many things going on within our world that are extreme and difficult to deal with. And who desires to mention them? Very few it seems . . .

    So to all the “Finger Pointers” in our lives, here are the words I was strongly compelled to post on my bedroom door! If I ever leave the dwelling I live in, I’ll still leave it there! It’s as follows;

    Stop pointing your finger at me because there’s three more pointing back at you. When a person asks, “How are you feeling or doing.” and the answer to that question is obvious, why ask it to begin with? Unless of course you’re ready to receive the Truth of that answer! Or reply with the status quo of “I’m OK!” Everyone has his or her own crosses to carry and bare in life. Do you really desire to add the weight of another? That answer is always within . . .yourself! Amen!

    It’s a beautiful feeling when the desire of truth dwells within your heart. Ah but now I’m feeling Mystical . . . and the Poles are melting so fuck em anyway*_*

  7. Thank you Nicky!

    I started participating in recovery groups after I realized I was lying to myself about my addictions. Unfortunately, the realization came after I was arrested.

    I was surprised by those (more than a few) in the groups who would say, “I’m blown away by your honesty!” It made me think I was doing something wrong by opening up about the train wreck I had made of my life and the twisted way I thought about it to rationalize the process. It gave me the feeling that those people had a “I have problem, but that dude is FUCKED UP!” mentality. And to be honest, they wouldn’t have been wrong. I dug myself a deeper hole than almost anyone who spoke was willing to admit to the group.

    At any rate, I’m blown away by your honesty! I have a problem, but you were FUCKED UP! LOL

    Thank you so much for being honest. I’ll continue to do the same.

    • Nicky Reply

      You made me laugh out loud! After writing this and editing it – my very thought – and I said it out loud – was damn Nick – you were one fucked up lady! Thanks for the comment!

  8. I love love love you, Nicola.

    This is so brave and beautiful, just like you. I feel the same way, in so many ways–I want to help just that one person struggling. To know that my experiences were not in vain and that they have meaning.

    But I struggle with being a people pleaser and caring too much about what others think of me. That, my friend, is a lesson I need to take from you! To not give a flying EFF.


    • Nicky Reply

      Well I think you’re pretty terrific, and authentic, with a heart of gold. But it doesn’t matter a shit what I think – only what you think of you! And if you’re fulfilling your hearts calling, eventually you will get past caring what others think of you. I promise xx I love love love you too!

  9. Kathleen Russell Reply

    Wow Nicky This surly paints a perfect picture of the hell and isolation once it was no longer fun. Thank you for your honesty and such great expression of what it used to be like what happened and the transformation of life in your authentic beautiful sober women! Love and appreciate you! Xo

  10. Well done Nicky. Keep walking the walk and talking the talk. Your words will save lives. x

  11. Daniel Cryns Reply

    Now I know why I got that nasty comment on my piece. It was so that I would check in and find your piece – beautiful, angry, true, naked, cleansing and healing.
    What a breath of fresh air comes available – when the pollution is spewed out and dissipated with such eloquence, courage, abandon and strength by only one brave soul.
    Thank you for your enduring commitment to recovery and truth, Nicky. It calls to mind the little boy in the fairytale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes”.
    I paraphrase: “What the hell’s wrong with you people? Can’t you see the King is buck ass naked?”
    You’ve ignited my courage to share a little more of my truths, fears, dreams and reflections. Thank you so much. Love

    • Nicky Reply

      Thank you Daniel. Please do share your talent and thoughts with the world. And fuck who doesn’t like it – right?

  12. “How to value yourself so much, not another person in the world will get away with disrespecting you.”.

    Life theme for 2016 – so powerful! Thank you!!

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