What it was like for us - A mother’s story
My descent into alcoholism marked the beginning of 6 years of misery for myself and my family, which included very young children.
Outwardly there was no reason for me to seek refuge from life in alcohol, as I was happily married with no financial difficulties, had two healthy little boys, and lived in a lovely house. The problem was in my head.
My emotional immaturity was at the root of it all
Looking back from a distance of many miraculous years of sobriety, I can see that my emotional immaturity was at the root of it all. There is no-one to blame, just a set of circumstances allied to my apparent inability to grow up. I was the only child of middle-aged parents who provided a loving and secure home, but who also indulged my every whim. (Now a parent/grandparent myself, I know what a fearsome task parenting can be). At the age of eleven I was sent to a convent boarding school near the sea, which was deemed to be good for my asthmatic chest. In strict contrast to my parents, the nuns were fierce disciplinarians exacting high standards – of stoicism, among other things, so that one never, ever complained, yet it be detected as a dreaded sign of weakness. Therefore, while deeply unhappy most of the time, I never mentioned it to anyone.
He had two glasses while I had the rest of the bottle
Outwardly mature, with a good education behind me, I eventually obtained a job in the world of journalism, where a culture of drinking suited me down to the ground, as I had learned to relish the taste and effect of alcohol, but at this stage my intake was at a purely social level. I married a gentle, courteous and cultivated man considerably older than myself, and before long we had two sons. This was when addiction set in. My husband worked long, long hours, during which time I was alone with the children, and I was bored, as in those days it was not customary for women to have a career AND children. My immaturity manifested itself in extreme self-centredness and self-pity. At one point both children had whooping cough, and my husband brought home a half-bottle of whisky “to cheer ourselves up just while the boys are ill,” he joked – poor man. He had just two glasses while I had the rest of the bottle, and that was all it took to tip me over the edge into dependency. No-one sets out to become an alcoholic; it simply ran away with me.
“You’re dying!” she said to me. “I know,” I replied
Despite the advent of a third baby, who mercifully was born unscathed, despite decreasing standards of family life, withdrawn children, tearful husband, guilt, grief, despair, I continued my affair with the bottle, although hating both alcohol and myself in equal measures. The last year of my drinking I can barely remember, but towards the end of it a doctor friend of mine from boarding school called unexpectedly, and was horrified by what she found. “You’re dying!” she said to me. “I know,” I replied. “I just wish it would hurry up.” That was what I truly believed: I was convinced I would never be able to stop drinking, and that the family would be better off without me. It was she who found the newly-opened treatment centre called Broadway Lodge, and persuaded me to go for help.
My own personal resurrection
After 3 months of intensive therapy and strict instructions to attend regular meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous, I was nervously ready to face the world again. My husband called it my own personal resurrection, and indeed that was what it became for the entire family. In direct proportion to the misery endured, our joy became unconfined, with children and family life flourishing anew. Through following the AA programme, sobriety, and increasing if somewhat belated maturity, have given me a life beyond my wildest dreams.