The mum-of-five who beat addiction, twice!

Emma knows what it's like to come back from the brink
Willie with Sienna and Mercedes, me holding Rosalia, Maya and Chiara (white dress)

Emma Fahy Davis, 35, Ryde, NSW

I lay in bed shaking as cold sweat dripped down my face. My body ached and I was vomiting.

How have things got this bad? I thought, gazing up at the ceiling of my parents’ spare room.

I thought about my four daughters at home with their dad. I couldn’t let them see me like this.

But I wasn’t sick. I was an addict…

After getting a taste for booze aged just 12, I used to steal gin from bottles at home and top them up with water.

My parents weren’t big drinkers, so they never noticed.

Looking back, I think I used alcohol as a way of escaping my fears.

Aged 16, I tipped the scales at 120 kilos.

My self-esteem was low and I had few friends.

But if I brought some drink into the playground, people wanted to hang out with me.

By the time I went to university, I was a full-blown alcoholic. I partied hard and soon dropped out to spend my days drinking.

One day, when I was 21, I woke up with the worst hangover of my life.

My head pounded and I felt sick to my stomach.

I’ve really overdone it this time, I thought. I need a break.

As I lay in bed, I thought back to an innocent comment a friend had made a few weeks before.

‘You’re sober!’ she’d laughed. ‘I haven’t seen you sober in ages!’

I realised it was time to change my ways. 

At my heaviest, I was 173 kilos (Credit: Kylie Pertell)

‘I’m going to stop drinking for a bit,’ I told my partner Willie, now 57.

Then, just one month later, in June 2002, I found out I was expecting our daughter Maya.

There was no way I was going to risk hurting my bub, so I was forced to stay off the booze. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Since then, I’ve been sober.

In recovery, I graduated from uni and got a job I loved.

In 2006, Willie and I were delighted when I found out I was expecting twins.

When Sienna and Mercedes, now nine, were born, I really had my hands full.

But I was worried my feelings for them were different to how I’d felt about Maya.

As I cared for my two beautiful babies, that rush of love seemed to be missing.

I felt numb, as if the babies weren’t really mine.

When they were seven months old, I was diagnosed with post-natal depression and anxiety.

I made some steps towards recovery, but then I found out I was pregnant again.

After Chiara was born in 2008, I started seeing a psychiatrist but I was also having problems sleeping.

As a busy mum-of-four, I needed to get a good night’s rest. So I asked for help.

‘We can give you some sleeping pills,’ the doctor said. ‘Take half a pill and see if it helps.’

Thankfully it did. But as time went on, I started to need more pills to nod off.

I also took painkillers containing codeine to help me sleep.

Eventually I was taking up to 12 pills a day.

If I didn’t, I felt awful.

My weight was also creeping up.

One evening I ran out of sleeping pills and I was so distraught at facing the night without them that I had my prescription brought to my house.

At the time I believed I was being a good mum, and doing well in my full-time job.

But the reality was different.

My work was suffering and I wasn’t giving my girls the attention they deserved.

Willie with Sienna and Mercedes, me holding Rosalia, Maya and Chiara (white dress) (Credit: Supplied)

 Then, in March 2011, I caught a 24-hour bug. I was forced to have a day off the pills, and the next day I felt sick and faint at my desk.

I’m suffering withdrawal, I realised suddenly. I’m an addict.

Asking my mum Sheila for a lift home, she was horrified at the state I was in.

I was scared too. Enough was enough.

‘I don’t want the girls to see me like this,’ I told her. ‘Can I come to your place?’

‘Of course,’ she said. ‘We’ll support you.’

I was determined to go cold turkey.

‘I’m never taking another pill,’ I vowed. ‘If I can kick the booze, I can kick this.’

Coping with the withdrawal symptoms was horrendous.

I suffered night sweats and sickness. But after a week, I felt able to go home.

‘I’ve missed you,’ I cried, pulling my girls into a hug.

I joined therapy groups and faced my insomnia without the pills. But I struggled to stick to a healthy lifestyle.

Exhausted, I would often collapse onto the lounge at the end of the day and tuck into junk food or a block of chocolate.

I was clean of drugs, but now I started to pile on the kilos.

After I gave birth to my fifth daughter, Rosalia, now three, my weight gain continued.

At my heaviest, I was a whopping 173 kilos.

My turning point came when I was hospitalised with an infection in January last year. I had to act.

I knew from beating my addictions that I had to be committed to losing weight.

So I started walking at least 10,000 steps a day and began following a healthy eating plan.

The weight began to fall off.

‘You look great,’ my girls said, and Willie loved my new-found confidence too.

As I got fitter, I started to run. Getting up at 5.30am and pulling on my trainers was tough, but I was determined.

In 18 months I’ve shed an amazing 82.5 kilos. I can’t believe how much I’ve changed! I’ve even completed three half marathons.

After everything I’ve been through, I feel better than ever. My friends say I’m an inspiration, but the truth is that if I can do it anyone can.

You can read Emma’s blog at

I can’t believe how much I’ve changed (Credit: Supplied)

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 21 – May 26, 2016

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