Having struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder, bulimia, alopecia and drug dependency — which she wrote about in Mad Girl, her second novel — she admits she will never forget the “horror” of beginning rehab for alcohol addiction the day before her four-year-old daughter started reception.
Since then, the 41-year-old writer and mental health campaigner has had regular therapy to combat her demons and even interviewed Prince Harry about his own mental health struggles on her Mad World podcast.
On August 26, she embraced her sobriety on Instagram with an inspiring post. It read: “Milestone reached, August 26, 2021. Sober time 4 years. At 10:30 this morning, this flashed up on my phone – that must have been the time, four years ago, when I desperately reset my sobriety counter for (hopefully!) the last time. Man, that last drink at 10am was grim… but in a way I’m glad it was, because it got me here. If you’re struggling today, please know that recovery is not only possible…it’s a complete joy.”
Now that Edie, who recently turned eight, is about to embark on a new term at her local state school, Bryony wants to reassure parents who might be struggling with addiction, or are feeling anxious about their child’s return to the classroom after a long lockdown, not to be too tough on themselves.
“Many parents feel they are not ready for school, but when are we ever? We shouldn’t put unnecessary pressure on ourselves,” says Bryony, who lives in south London with her daughter and husband Harry Wilson.
“Whenever I stress about this, I remind myself how much tougher life was four years ago when I had to go into rehab, but looking back it was the best thing I ever did.”
“My life then was so chaotic and I was full of shame and regret because I had begun treatment for my alcoholism the day before Edie started reception.
“I had to try to explain to her what was going on. That mummy wasn’t particularly well and needed to get better, while also trying to support her through one of the biggest things to happen in her life.
“I have a memory of blurting out what was happening to one of the mums I had just met at the prestart picnic, and then to the teacher. But I was determined to give up my habit because I wanted to be the best mum I could be.
“I’ve come so far since. Only the other day, one of the mums said to me, ‘Bryony, I find it really funny to think that you used to be on a bender because I cannot imagine you doing that or being anything other than the boring woman who goes to bed at 8pm with a book!’
“I thought about it and I replied, ‘I know. It’s quite mad really’.”
Bryony is supporting vitamin brand Haliborange’s back to school campaign to highlight that all families have different experiences, and that there is “no such thing as normal”.
Having written a best-seller with the same title, she admits she still adheres to the same philosophy.
“It is now my mantra, and I wish it had been more so four years ago when Edie started school,” she says. “Because if I’ve learnt anything, it’s that not a single parent or carer at that school gate is arriving without their own baggage.
“You may not be able to see it and they might look immaculate but everyone feels insecure in their own way. It’s only now I have come to terms with the fact that perfection doesn’t exist.
“Children are precious to us. So we worry if we don’t come across as a perfect parent that they might be taken away from us. I get that.
“But the more honest we are about our imperfections, the more helpful it is to our children. We have always taught Edie that everything and anything goes.”
For more on Haliborange’s #ITSALLNORMAL campaign head to @HALIBORANGEUK’s Instagram page