Irené Winterburn’s Recovery Story

Irené WinterburnMy name is Irené Winterburn. I am an eating disorder, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse, twenty-year-cocaine-addict in recovery, and suicide survivor who lives with depression, bipolar disorder, and PTSD. I also suffer from sleep paralysis and fibromyalgia.

Both my parents abandoned me by the age of two-and-a-half years old. I was put into a children’s home. I was then placed into foster care at the age of three-and-a-half years old.

My foster father started sexually abusing from age four, and my foster mother started physically and verbally abusing from the same age. My foster father stopped sexually abusing me by the age of fourteen and my foster mother, and I parted ways when I was sixteen-and-a-half-years old.

I have also been raped by four different males. My eating disorder of bingeing started at the age of about nine years old. When I finished school and my studies, I got into a full-time modeling career.

It was in this industry that I started a cocaine habit which would stay with me for the next twenty years of my life until I finally went into a long rehabilitation treatment centre for a full year of treatment because of a suicide attempt.

I was forty-two years old at the time. I spent five days in ICU and went straight from there into treatment.

While I was in treatment, I had to face my life and past for the very first time in a sober state of mind. It was the beginning of the hardest journey I have ever had to take. I am currently forty-six years old and have been sober for three and a half years as of today.

I wrote a book about my life, which includes the strategies and actions that I have to take on a daily basis to help me to cope with what happened to me. I do not have my usual vices to fall back on anymore.

I have had to find new and healthier ways of being able to cope and live life on life’s terms. I still suffer from binge eating (sugar and white carbohydrates are my go-to), but I do not purge. I can easily gain five kilograms in the space of ten days when I go on a binge cycle.

I then start the whole process of clean eating and exercising again until I hit another binge cycle. This cycle is continuous, but I do have hope that one day, I will be able to break it completely.

I honestly believe that there is a disconnection that happens between your soul and body when you are sexually abused as a child. My body was disrespected and abused from such a young age.

I honestly felt like my soul was living on the periphery of my body as a spectator. I just continued the pattern of disrespecting and punishing my body through my eating disorder, cocaine and alcohol abuse, sleeping tablet abuse, and promiscuous behaviour.

Survivors of abuse all walk around keeping this dark secret under wraps because we feel ashamed and disgusted with ourselves. Eventually coming to the realisation that it was not my fault has not made the trauma that I suffered any less painful. Every day is a new day with its own set of struggles which I have to try and manage as best as I can.

I am not on any medication, but I have to manage my symptoms through daily exercise, a healthy diet, journaling, positive affirmations, meditation, prayer, and good sleep hygiene. I am still on this journey of healing and am not sure how long it will take to eventually reach a place of complete and utter serenity.

I think the most powerful thing that all us survivors of abuse can do is to share our own unique stories. Our stories shine a light into very dark places.

It helps us understand that we are not alone in this struggle. The fact that we are still alive and able to tell our stories makes us victorious!

Thank you for allowing me to share mine.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published July 3, 2019, on
Reviewed & Approved on July 3, 2019, by Jacquelyn Ekern MS, LPC

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.