Hair & Makeup Artist Heidi Sheaks overcame addiction and anxiety to reinvent herself and her professional career.
The California native worked in the film industry for 20 years as a makeup and hair styling artist. After graduating from Joe Blasco make up school in 1992 with a fashion merchandising degree, Heidi began working as an assistant, "learning the ropes and building a portfolio". After building her resume and credibility she worked her way into more prestigious, union makeup positions, and began adding credits in film and television projects ranging from Disney to Dick Wolf productions. As head of makeup departments for various titles, her credits include a broad range of categories and skills, making actors look younger, older, tired, injured, wounded, and sometimes dead, as in the case of crime or forensic scenes. Her work can be seen in over 30 films and TV shows ranging from comedies, dramas, horror, and everything in between. Click here for an IMDB list of Heidi's credits.
A self-described shy, reserved person, Heidi struggled with self-confidence and the insecurities and uncertainties of the entertainment business. She always put her all into everything she did, and work was no exception. But it wasn't difficult to succumb to the highs & lows that often go along with the entertainment world. Heidi was introduced to cocaine at a St. Patrick’s Day party, and began using it with increasing frequency at celebrations, parties, and events. She remembers thinking it was "disgusting and gross", but felt the pull to do it more often, and in greater quantities, slowly becoming an addict. Her work afforded the habit, and she saw several of her friends and colleagues fall into the same bad habits.
Her ability to balance the growing addiction with work enabled her denial for a while, and she even found a certain routine in drug using around her other commitments. But the variety of drugs, frequency, and dependency grew. And along with it the costs associated with the financial, physical, and other disruptions. Heidi began acknowledging the problem when she began lying to herself and others, in order to cover up the unintended consequences of her dependency. "There were times I would flush drugs down the toilet, only to call my dealer within minutes for another fix." She could tell it was starting to take over her life, and affect every aspect of her personal and professional spheres in a negative way. She started to look into 'solutions' on her own, mostly by researching online. She sought medical help and advice, and was prescribed anti-psychotics and anti-depressants by a doctor. But treating drugs with other medication was only compounding the problem, and driving her deeper into the cycles of depression and desperation.
Road to recovery
Heidi's brother worked for a hospice at the time, and suggested she consider a 'program'. So after some research, Heidi found Studio12, a 12-step rehabilitation program that offer support meeting groups for recovering addicts. That was the turning point! Heidi was able to focus her usual dedication and threw all of her energy and effort into attending the meetings on a daily basis. She had tried to quit 'cold-turkey' before. But the program meetings gave her the daily structure, support group, and inspiration she needed to stay on her path to recovery. Her first 30-days sober was her first big milestone, as she recalls it. "I felt I was making real progress, creating good new habits, relationships, and motivations." She found a job at a hair salon, and began finding purpose again.
Around the same time, her husband Greg, who used triathlons and swimming as a means of exercise, inadvertently changed Heidis's life-course again for the better. "He came home one day with a gift; a swim cap, bathing suit, and goggles. And he said to me: "I want us to be able to do this (swim) together." That was in 2005.
It's been16+ years now, and Heidi now owns her own hair salon, West Coast Cuts & Colors, in Woodland Hills, and uses swimming for her physical, social, and mental wellness. "To say that swimming changed my life would be an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that my life changed, and swimming made it manageable. It helped me find balance, and most importantly, find myself. It is through swimming that I am able to bring all of my life’s stresses and problems under control".
Heidi is thankful to have had a loving, supportive network of friends and family that helped her thru the tough times and her recovery. Her exercise routine keeps her focused, fit, and healthy. It also helps her find short and long term motivation. She can pursue daily goals, and work towards more seasonal objectives with a positive group of similarly positive, motivated teammates.