A life in the shadow of drink

FOLLOWING Hannah Gray s recent Last Word column about binge drinking, a Comet reader got in touch to tell us about life with a problem drinker , and to let other people know that help is out there for those who need it. The reader from Stotfold, who does

FOLLOWING Hannah Gray's recent Last Word column about binge drinking, a Comet reader got in touch to tell us about life with a "problem drinker", and to let other people know that help is out there for those who need it.

The reader from Stotfold, who does not want to be named, lost her husband on 2003. He had been sober for 15 years before his death. Together they had two children, now aged 36 and 38. This is her story...

"In these enlightened times, alcoholism is not only recognised, but is given considerable media coverage.

What is not so readily recognised is the plight of those of us who love a problem drinker, whether that be parent, partner, child or friend.


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I was more fortunate than many I know in that my husband was not a violent, aggressive, abusive drunk.

In fact, I was married to him for a very long time before I realised that all our "problems" stemmed from his addiction to alcohol.

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When I look back I can quite clearly see what, in my denial, I failed to identify for close on 30 years of marriage.

You see, my husband was what is described as "a functioning drunk"; one that is known as a "top up" drinker, and he operated quite well at a consistent level of intoxication that was not so evident as that of the "binge" drinker.

He never lost a job directly through his drinking, although he was made "redundant" quite a few times, he was never prosecuted for drink driving or jailed for drunken behaviour - or for any illegal act, though I could name some.

So how is it that I became the neurotic, despairing woman that I was by the time I came out of denial and saw the truth of my situation - I was married to an alcoholic?

As my husband became more and more unable to face reality, unable to take responsibility, unable to form bonds with his children, unable to make decisions, unable to keep a job, unable to see my needs, unable to communicate, unable to handle finances and finally, unable to function, I took on every role in our family and made myself totally responsible for holding everything together.

And it all became too much.

I think if I had been able to recognise and name the tumult of emotions that I lived with I would probably have said that I felt rejected, insecure, afraid, resentful, angry, desperate and more.

But, I never looked at what I was feeling, I just went through life reacting to those unacknowledged feelings and making not only my life, but that of my children, a misery.

Fortunately for my sanity, I was introduced to Al-Anon Family Groups, an international network for the family and friends of problem drinkers, and I began to attend local group meetings.

There I learnt, through the experience of others, to understand the disease of alcoholism and how I could work my way out of the black hole that I felt I was in.

Slowly, with the love and support of group members who understood where I was coming from, I was able to replace my negative despairing emotions with healthy positive ones, and today I can choose to be happy.

# There are Al-Anon Family Group meetings in Stevenage, Letchworth, and Shefford. For more information, contact the helpline on

020 7403 0888, from 10am to 10pm, email enquiries@al-anonuk.org.uk, or visit

www.al-anonuk.org.uk

# The Living Room in Stevenage is another charity which helps people with addictions and their families. For more information,

ring 01438 355649

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