Michelle Bridges needs empathy, not a public shaming
When I read Michelle Bridges had been done for drink driving with her five year-old son Axel in the back of the car, I felt sick.
The Twitter trolls were quick to condemn her, as they always are - baying for blood, calling her a bad mother, claiming she is irresponsible and selfish. Saying that for someone who has made millions for selling a healthy lifestyle, she certainly messed up.
How quick we are to judge, to hate, to condemn.
But I felt sick. Not with anger or judgment or contempt. Not because she could have crashed, caused injury to herself, her son and innocent people. But because that could have been me.
According to police, by the time Bridges was taken to Waverley Police Station, she returned a breath test reading of 0.086. It was late morning, still before noon.
Almost immediately, Bridges admitted she had been struggling with "emotional turmoil" and has been devastated by the recent split between herself and Steve 'Commando' Willis, and called the drink driving incident an "error of judgement".
It doesn't sound like Bridges was hammered the night before dancing on the tables at a nightclub. It doesn't sound like she was having fun. It sounds like she's going through an incredibly tough time and made a stupid mistake. Like most of us have.
I've made no secret of my battle with the booze. I am days away from one year of sobriety, the longest time I have been sober since I was a teenager. I've also outed myself as a proud member of a 12 step program, where without the support and daily connection, I would still be struggling.
I hold no shame in admitting my imperfections. I have no shame in being human. And since talking about sobriety and addiction, hundreds of people have contacted me wanting to know how I kicked the habit, how I got sober, and sharing concerns that they too might have a problem with the booze.
Talking about addiction makes it real, less shameful. If we talked about it more often, more of us would know how, where and when to get help. We would know it can happen to anybody, no matter your age, sex, profession and status.
Bridges is a celebrity, yes, but she's also a mum who is going through the breakdown of a relationship.
We live in a society where drinking is celebrated, normalised and encouraged at almost every turn. Yet addiction to the same stuff is somehow seen as weak. And alcoholism can progress pretty damn quickly when it wants to. My drinking ramped up in my late 30s, and once it got its grip around me, I was powerless.
I'm not saying that Bridges is an alcoholic or has an addiction, but hopping in the car after some heavy drinking is not healthy behaviour, even if it was a one-off. But I know what it's like to be struggling, sad and to hit the bottle to fill a very empty void.
Alcoholism isn't just about the way we drink, it's also about the way we think. It's about that 'hole in the soul' that needs filling with booze, drugs, or whatever else we can get our hands on to numb the pain.
I know what it's like to get into a car and think I'll be OK. I know what it's like to blackout and not remember how I got home. I know what it's like to wake up shameful about my behaviour and to make apologetic phone calls. I know what it's like to pass out in the hallway of my home only for friends to come in and find me the next day.
I know what it's like to be in a very, very dark place.
Bridges has learnt a lesson this week, and she was lucky.
Those quick to tut tut her should hold a mirror up, look at themselves and consider if they see a perfect person living a perfect life as a perfect human.
I know I'm not.