A Kiwi 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, now living in the Gold Coast, admits she once spent her days addicted to painkillers, alcohol and compulsive shopping.

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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," Hargraves 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.

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

With the benefit of hindsight, Hargraves 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.

Before and after photos show how far Hargraves has come. Photo / Facebook
Before and after photos show how far Hargraves has come. Photo / Facebook

"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," Hargraves said.

At the beginning of 2012, not long after she'd 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.

Within a matter of months, Hargraves 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."


Two years later, Hargraves 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, Hargraves experienced post-natal depression, and to cope, the "high achiever" said she threw herself back into full-time work.

Hargraves said she knew she had to make changes when her two daughters were born. Photo / Facebook
Hargraves said she knew she had to make changes when her two daughters were born. Photo / Facebook

"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.

Although working helped provide Hargraves 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 Hargraves 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,' Hargraves 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."

When Hargraves 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," Hargraves said.

She now uses her experience to coach others who are struggling with addiction. Photo / Facebook
She now uses her experience to coach others who are struggling with addiction. Photo / Facebook

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."

Today, life for Hargraves 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 Hargraves 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."