The power of lived experience

Meet Lianne, our Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Manager and the creator behind our Domestic Abuse programmes. Lianne’s story is one of great strength and resilience. Through the company, she has used her negative experiences to help hundreds of people escape domestic abuse and live happy lives, free from harm. It's a long one but it's definitely worth the read.

Think Pieces

By Daniel Thomas · November 30, 2023

 Lianne’s Story

Hello, I’m Lianne Bentley. So, where do I start? I’ve always led a fairly crazy life, some would say quite a sad life, but I’ve never really seen it like that, just a life filled with different experiences that have shaped me into who I am today.

As a young child, I witnessed domestic abuse at home and even at that young age, I somehow felt responsible for protecting my mother, but when Mum left, I felt abandoned even though I went to live with my fabulous grandparents.  My grandparents were the absolute best people, full of fun, full of love, lots of memorable holidays around the UK and rugby every weekend, but at age 10 when my grandma unexpectedly passed away my world broke, my behaviour changed – I changed.

When I hit secondary school the year after, with feelings of loss and abonnement, I sought attention through negative behaviour. I was bright but bored, so I disrupted every class and began to skip lessons I didn’t like. When doing this I hung around with people a lot older than me and at age 13 had a 23-year-old boyfriend (or so I thought) and had started taking class-A drugs. I became exposed to a life that no young teenager should be exposed to. I was bought new clothes, dressed up, taken around clubs, sneaking in drugs and partying In Manchester, Leeds, and Sheffield. I thought I had the best life! I was looked after by all the older people around me, feeling protected and invincible, something I now know was the complete opposite. I was being controlled and coerced by those around me.

At 16 I met someone more my age and outside of that life. I became pregnant and instantly felt a love I’d never felt before and felt a huge desire to be a good mum. I wanted to give my baby a better life than I had. I separated myself from my former life (not easily, but I did it). I sought employment at Debenhams Plc as a Christmas Temp back in the Millenium year of 2000 and from that part-time temporary position, I was offered a full-time role within the Oldham store and quickly decided that I wanted to progress within the company. I was determined that nobody would be able to look down on me being a young mother and wanted to be a good role model for my daughter. It wasn’t long before I progressed to a supervisor role, then later, a management role, some time spent in HR and then deciding to become a company-wide trainer. Gosh, I loved that training role!

In 2008, after a second child, my life took a dramatic turn. A personal event happened that shook me, and I started to find life difficult, I didn’t know what to do or how to cope. I started to use alcohol more and more, to avoid dealing with my difficult thoughts, feelings, and hard decisions I now faced. My drinking and behaviour escalated and it inevitably started to affect my work, and there would be days I didn’t go in at all. The costs of my choices began to quickly unfold, resulting in the police and community mental health team collecting me one morning and depositing me in a Mental Health secure unit, against my will.

The secure unit was so frightening. I feel for those who are seriously ill with varying mental health, but my mental health wasn’t the problem, it was my drinking. Once I had sobered up from the state I had arrived in, I was extremely upset and scared. I was surrounded by people who were seriously ill, volatile, and unpredictable, but when I tried to explain and they didn’t listen, I became angry. To control me I was just drugged. After 28 long and difficult days there, I was eventually let out, but let out to the loss of my children who had gone to live with their dad, no job and little hope. With the realisation I was now not that great mum I’d so wanted to be, instead of using the situation as an opportunity to stop, sort myself out and fight social care for my children back, I pitied myself, dug myself a great big hole and drank myself over a few years to near death.

In and out of substance misuse services as and when I felt like engaging with them, I spent years believing that I was now ill. I was told I was dependant and couldn’t just stop, so I didn’t plan to stop, I’d been given the green light. The effects of long-term, excessive alcohol use were awful. Shaking, sweating, being sick daily, seizures when I wasn’t topped up enough. Periods of that time completely blacked out of my memory, falls, breaks and gosh knows what else that I still cannot remember. Several suicide attempts later as I felt I couldn’t carry on, 3 unsuccessful detoxes, 1 in a detox unit and 2 in the community, still believing that after each one I was fixed and could drink again like “normal” people!

Then things changed. Before my fourth and final detox, I was made to jump through hoops to prove I deserved another chance, and I’m so thankful for that now. I learnt a lot about myself through the process and began to build a lot of bridges. Understanding my mother had also not had a great life in many ways, helped me to let go of a lot of built up hurt and resentment which has allowed us to now have a great relationship. She stood by me and helped me through whilst I attended every group and grabbed anything the services were offering me. Then they offered me the best thing ever, the Intuitive Recovery course! Even though I wasn’t in a very good state physically at the time, I learned so much! Ambivalence: I don’t think I was in ambivalence; I think I was its very definition! The course and what I learned had finally provided me with answers and the belief that I actually could stop! I had a brand-new perception and attitude toward what I was doing to myself and to those around me, I knew this next detox would work, or that I could make it work!

After that detox, I never looked back. I didn’t just have a new attitude to substance use, I had a new attitude to life, the skills were so transferable. Apart from the obvious of working on my relationship with my children, I had one other focus; and that was to work for the company I think I owed my life to. Six months after exiting treatment, I applied for a role at then Intuitive Recovery and here I am still today nearly 10 years on!

Being at Intuitive has meant everything to me, as it only further allowed me to implement and embed those life skills in me more and more. I became what I felt was a confident person who was loving life. I’d worked to get more access to my two girls and felt like a mum again and life was good. However, me being me, I had to have something going on in the background. My then partner didn’t like the new, confident, happy me and started to abuse me at home, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Daily threats to ruin my life through the control and coercion he was exerting. I clung on to my job and my children for dear life, not willing to sacrifice everything again, whilst not seeing a way out. When Intuitive became aware, as I divulged because I thought it was affecting my work, they were so very supportive. After the last attack from him in which he was near to success of taking my life, I fled. He’d isolated me so much that I had nobody else to tell but those at work, who supported me to a safe place until I was ready to tell my family.

Now Intuitive Thinking Skills, everyone at work supported me through this tough time. I was accompanied to the police to make a statement, right through to the hearings and visits to court. I was dragged through by everyone at work to see through the prosecution, even when at times I felt like giving up. Resulting in the person being convicted for his crimes and sent to custody, with safety measures put in place for life to protect me from any further harm. And that brought an end to any unhappiness.

From then on, not only did I develop from teaching at Intuitive, but they gave me the platform to turn my recent negative experience into something positive, by helping me to create a brand-new course around domestic abuse. I’d like to think that from my negative experience, we as a company have now helped hundreds of people escape domestic abuse and live happy lives, free from harm and free of the negative thinking towards themselves. I managed the domestic abuse element of our company for a few years, before developing into my new role of our Level 5 Strategic Safeguarding Lead, alongside Quality Assurance. I hope that I have repaid my debt and gratitude to Intuitive Thinking Skills through my work and in now protecting children and vulnerable adults from harm. Everyone deserves a life free from ill treatment, harm, abuse or neglect and I pride myself in being a part of this.

To end my introduction to you, I would just like to let you know that I am the happiest I have ever been. Through Intuitive, I have met my now husband, who has the most beautifully kind, caring, and loving soul, who makes my life what it is today. We are surrounded by our children and our large family and have a new addition; our little boy. Our son is what my eldest daughter calls “our Pooh, the family glue”, as he’s the link making us all one. I’ve found I’m still quite crackers and we have the craziest and funniest household, even down to the pets, but it’s crazy in all the right ways.

 

Lianne x