Linda Woodbridge, a former Armidale resident, has just published a book called From There To Here. It’s a book that explores the impact that alcoholism and self abuse had on both herself and her loved ones. Most importantly, it talks of her triumph over these illnesses.
Where were you born, and what was it like growing up there?
I was born in Burbank, California, over the hill from Hollywood. The movie and TV studios added to the wealth of the town, and so our public schools were some of the best in the nation. That education gave me privileged opportunities. I excelled in music, but my mother didn’t want me to be part of “that Hollywood crowd”.
Interestingly, one of my clearest childhood memories after viewing a reproduction of The Last Supper was kneeling at a renowned statue of the Virgin Mary and praying. Now, this was a bit extraordinary for a 7-year-old child who had never been to church and knew nothing about religion from a non religious family.
And so – throughout the two streams of my life, there was always the passion to get close to God, to know ‘truth’. I use the term ‘two streams’ of life, because there was the one that the public perceived – a well brought up, independent young woman destined for success – and then quite apart from that, a confused young woman lacking strength of character showing addictive personality traits, starting at nine with eating disorders, graduating into smoking, diet pills which were amphetamines … and then the alcohol, which for a time was my best friend.
What prompted your move to Australia?
At 20 years of age I was at a loss as to what to do with my life, and I joined the airlines as a flight attendant for an international carrier. This was a fun and glamorous life – so good, that after 5 years, when my body was having trouble with the time changes, plus my alcohol consumption was out of control, I needed to change direction – but I couldn’t see how. And this is where I say there was no inner strength. I couldn’t see myself going back to study, I couldn’t see myself in a 9 to 5 job; I didn’t have the stamina, faith, maturity, or whatever to say, “Enough” and get myself on track.
So I did the most sensible thing a lost person does – I looked for a life boat; I got married. Seemed like a good idea. He happened to live in Australia, and that was an advantage. I could smoke in peace (I couldn’t let my parents know I smoked), there was more alcohol consumption in Australia than almost anywhere else, and there was someone who would take care of me. And he had a job that ensured regular trips to the U.S.
Well, best laid plans – he quit his job two weeks after we arrived in Sydney, I had to support us both with a 9 to 5 job, and rather than travelling on aeroplanes, I was now using the bus.
One image stands in my mind one evening after work … standing at the bus stop with groceries, when the bag broke and cans rolled down the gutter. And I remember my utter desolation. I was miserable – but I had this trunk that I shipped from the US to Australia, and I didn’t have the energy to repack it and send it back. So I stayed.
That was 40 years ago, and in that time I raised a family on the beautiful NSW South Coast, left my marriage after 26 years – and that literally almost killed me. Divorce rips a person’s guts out. After struggling on my own for a couple of years, I had a total breakdown – alcohol induced – and entered Selah, a Salvation Army rehabilitation centre on the Central Coast. That was the making of Linda Woodbridge, and I use the word ‘making’ because I came to understand that there may never have been a person in that body until I ‘stopped’ at Selah and looked inside.
How long did you live in Armidale, and what did you do while you were here?
From There to Here describes the journey after I left Selah. I was directed to Armidale, and that was a funny thing, because it was against my counsellor’s wishes. But Armidale offered the AA meetings and the security I needed.
I quickly found work through previous real estate experience, but it was in working with the Aboriginal community through Pat Dixon at the Aboriginal Medical Centre that took me into the work in Moree for which I was destined.
How did your move to Moree come about?
I really love Armidale – everything about it … the seasonal change, the university, the people of course, and my dear little house on Dangar Street. The book explains how I found my church, my spiritual growth, and eventually became a Salvation Army Officer serving in Moree.
There I found the challenges in our communities that the welfare system along with substance abuse develops, and with my background, I could minister in such an environment and feel a natural affinity.
If we think we are in insurmountable battles overseas, I say, “Look around.” We are in the toughest battle in our own neighbourhoods – substance abuse and the welfare mentality.
Tell us about your book?
From There to Here tells the stories of the people I met along this journey and explains my own experience in not only recovery, but in discovering joy, fulfilment, and truth. I am constantly awed by the wisdom and truth written for us so long ago.
So many answers are in the Bible. However, often times people themselves hinder the revelation.
I have already written my next book about memories from the Ojai Valley, ‘Where My Soul Rests’. It is both uplifting and enormously fun, sad, esoteric, and thought provoking. I promise a good read.
How can our readers purchase your book?
From There to Here is available at your nearest Salvation Army Family Store and from my website: www.spiritualwritings.com.au for $20. It is also available at Angus and Robertson Book Store in Armidale.
Proceeds to The Salvation Army.
Thank you Linda.