Joanne Liddell - Case Study

In the spirit of indomitable courage.

Removed by the state from two alcoholic parents at age 3 and shunted between three foster homes before she was 16, Joanne Liddell was always going to need a miracle to escape a lousy destiny.


The miracle came in the form of an invitation from her social worker to join a 9-day voyage on the tall ship, the Alma Doepel.


At the time, Joanne was an insecure and lonely teenager with poor ‘academic’ grades, no real social network and no direction. In her own words, she felt ‘rejected and depressed.’

After taking some time to think about the invitation, she ventured onboard the Alma Doepel as a member of a new crew, from all ages and all walks of life, and quickly discovered a friendly and supportive environment.


“Everyone was kind and helpful. There were no putdowns. Everyone encouraged me,” she said. “I learned that I was worth knowing and likable.”


She said it wasn’t what was ‘there’ that was amazing, it was what ‘wasn’t there’ that was amazing.


“Sometimes you wouldn’t be doing much at all, yet in that stillness, you knew that you were not going to be kicked out or provoked. I loved the sense of freedom I felt on the boat and the dolphins who often played alongside us on the bow-wave. It was all a very positive experience that just gave me hope.”


Back then Joanne was the type of teenager who always wore a pile of makeup and this didn’t change on the boat. But she says she was given cause to think about it when one of the other crew members wrote a beautiful passage in her journal.


“He wrote that I was only going to get one shot at life, and I should enjoy it. I didn’t need to cover my face with makeup and that I was already a beautiful, wonderful person.”


Joanne admits she didn’t stop wearing makeup right then and there, but she’s since read and reread her journal, and that passage in particular, when she’s most needed solace. Other character-building experiences included learning how to sail and how to climb the mast which Joanne was always terrified of, despite having a harness on.


But with minimal social skills Joanne most struggled to socialise and speak up. “This one night I was on night shift when I noticed one of the gauges in the engine room showed borderline hot. It meant I had to knock on the captain’s door at 2am to ask him to check it.


“This took more courage than climbing the mast,” she added.


When the voyage ended Joanne returned to the life she’d left behind, and despite her glimpse into a different world, in less than a year she fell prey to a predator who encouraged her to leave school, so he could sponge off her earning capacity to feed his ‘weed’ habit.


One day, after ten years, despite the drugs, the suicide attempt and the constant emotional blackmail, she drew strength from her journal, rediscovered that same courage nurtured onboard the Alma Doepel, and she escaped. Today Joanne is in regular contact with her three sisters and their many offspring. She’s engaged to be married to a ‘good man’ she adores.


They have ‘two beautiful rescued greyhounds and a generous deposit saved’ to buy their new home. She has a full-time job in hospitality and she recently completed her Level 3 Master Reiki training, in preparation for launching her own natural therapy business.


She is happy, healthy and positive. And she is not afraid to try any new experience, including participating in television game shows and public


“Even throughout those years, I knew from my Alma Doepel experience that there was kindness in the world,” she said. “It was a critical break in the ‘weather’. I know it got all stormy again, but knowing there were good people in the world allowed me to later embrace other mentors who have since contributed significantly to my life.”


According to Joanne, being told that as a voyager she could always return to the Alma Doepel was momentous.


A few years ago, she did exactly that, which in turn, inspired her to write a song (her first ever) that expressed the value and importance of Alma, the mate ship of the voyage and the importance of that uniquely positive experience she had during her adolescent years.

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