What about me? – It’s not all about the drinker

AlAnonMeeting up with other carers whose loved ones, friends or colleagues are suffering from the effects of alcoholism is a very courageous step to take. You soon find that they too have lived with the denial, resentment, fear, anger, confusion, manipulation, chaos and deceit, all these behaviours played out daily within their lives with an alcoholic. It’s the realisation that these behaviours are not just those of the alcoholics that they have become your behaviours too that makes you see that you too are suffering from the effects of the illness of Alcoholism. Your life is out of control and you are fighting a painful battle and you are not winning.

Having spent many years trying to control and manipulate my alcoholic into giving up drinking I was exhausted and confused and felt very isolated, I was not winning the fight with my alcoholics need to continue to drink and there was no one willing to listen to my problems or to explain to me what was happening, to explain how this illness manifests itself in our loved ones lives. It became clear that no one really understood what the loved ones of alcoholics felt and went through every single day so how could I start to get better in this isolated place I found myself with no support, comfort or hope.

My alcoholic was a ‘stay at home’ drinker, drinking low volume lagers on a daily basis to help unwind from the stress of the day at work and the demands of his children. After a few years the lager did not have the capacity to help him relax so it was replaced by the largest and cheapest bottle of cider he could buy, even better if it was ‘extra fill’ bottle too. The increased volume and strength of this substance had immediate effect and soon became his addiction.

As the months and years passed the effects this substance was having on his health soon became evident. He found the family situation hard to live with so he moved out of his family home to find solitude and privacy to enable him to drink more heavily in his bedsit flat.

My alcoholic soon started to rely on me for emotional support as he became very depressed, he drank more to help ease his anxiety and unhappiness and his health declined rapidly. I was in total denial at this point that he was an alcoholic and tried to make his life happier, to give him a reason to stop drinking. We played the games of bribery, manipulation and control for many months and then years, his health was suffering badly. I was powerless and was clearly not winning this fight to get him to stop drinking. Many trips to doctors, hospitals, counselling sessions, many treatment centres for detox and rehabilitation had no effect at all because he was clearly doing what I wanted him to do and it was my need to keep him alive and not because he was committed to getting sober and finding recovery.

I was desperately ill by the effects this illness was having on me and had to surrender at this point, but where do I go to get better? There was nowhere to go. I was trapped in this lonely pit of despair, my home life, relationships, friendships and work were all disfunctional. Consumed with guilt, shame, anger, confusion and resentment I decided to attend an Al-anon meeting. Here I found I could learn from other people’s experiences, strength and hope about living with alcoholism and their desperate and sad stories were the same as mine, they felt like I did, they understood me and wanted to listen. I had found my safe place to start my recovery. Listening and learning about the illness of alcoholism was the only way to make sense of the chaos I had lived through and how by changing my behaviour, actions and reactions and my attitude to the illness I could find serenity to live my life again. I learnt how to love myself, my alcoholic and others around me again, to trust and forgive others as well as myself. The path of recovery can be painful at times but it is worth it and was clearly my only hope. I now feel the benefit and although my alcoholic is now sober and has his own recovery I will continue to maintain mine, I made the right choice, I can live in peace, the demons of the illness have been released and I can be happy again.

Anonymous.

Al-Anon Family Groups provide support to anyone whose life is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking. We believe alcoholism affects the whole family, not just the drinker. We are an international organisation with over 800 support groups in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Al-Anon is a fellowship of relatives and friends of alcoholics who share their experience in order to solve their common problems.

Al-Anon meets in Halifax every Wednesday 18:30 – 19:30 at Basement House, 10 Carlton Street, Halifax, HX1 2AL

Many more meetings are held nationwide. Check the Al-Anon website for more details www.al-anonuk.org.uk Or call the helpline: 020 7403 0888

Article featured in RecoveryTimes issue 2