By Anonymous, for Commission on Alcohol Harm, 2020
Names in the story have been changed
The SFAD service has been a life changer for me. Before I engaged with you, I thought the best way forward for us as a family was for me to deny my needs until the kids were old enough to leave school and then I could get out of the relationship. I knew that staying I’d just be putting up with the relationship, the co-dependency, the failings, the arguments, the cycle of him drinking and us arguing and not speaking and then finding a way through but none of us happy. And the impact on the kids. And my just sinking each time, unhappy, just having dreams of being free from this man and his family.
After the last holiday, where he completely stopped trying to hide his drinking issue and just went ahead without any thought or care for me or the kids, I knew I had to do something, get some support.
I asked at the Carers Centre for advice on where to go. They pointed me to you.
Your support, gentle encouragement, listening, helping me realise that actually his drinking wasn’t my issue, wasn’t me being ‘bad’ and all my problem for not accepting it. That I needed to stop coming from a point of ignoring and minimising my needs, but to come to a point of putting my needs on equal footing to others in the family. I didn’t think it would be possible. He took away my belief that I could survive with the children without him, he took away my belief that I could manage even with my challenging special needs child. Of course, I can do anything I know that. But that had slowly been eroded.
Over time, he disempowered me and you helped me realise I just needed to take back the power, take back the control and that there was support around me to be able to put my needs back on track.
The SFAD service readdressed the balance I had needed. He had coerced me into thinking I was faulty for not accepting his need to drink. I can see all that now. You helped me with all the confusion I had. I’m no longer confused.
I miss him, part of him, or is it being in a couple. But I don’t miss his drinking, or his wanting to be drunk. I don’t miss the fear I had of going out with him, and eventually the not going out because the anxiety of going out with him was greater than the desire to go out. I’ve been out lots of times since. The support and friendship all around is amazing, I realised I have been missing out on life, on friendships, on living, on happiness. Some wobbles like when booking the holiday to Lanzarote. I so want him to come and have the happy family time. But it can’t be because the stress and temptation of cheap beer is all around. And if not for my anxiety of him just turning to drink, it’ll be a stressful time for [Daughter] as she’d be so anxious too about him turning to drink. So we’re going without him! Friends are travelling the same time and booked the hotel next door. We’re so looking forward to the break. It’ll be a year since I realised things had to change. It’ll be hard the first holiday to Lanzarote without him as that was always our main holiday as a family, that we’ve (usually) loved for over 6 years. It’s what we look forward to every year. And this year, it’s about doing it differently and the kids are now seeing mum having fun, happy, smiling, being herself again, playing. I’ve never seen the kids bond like they have as well since we made the move. They are more caring, more kind, we are like a family unit – a loving caring family unit. The three amigos. And we are so happy for much of the time. [Son] is learning to accept the move but I think we have a long way to go. He misses not his dad, but the old house. He doesn’t like change. He wants to be back at the old house and he tries to make our life difficult because of it at times. But over time, hopefully, he’ll accept the change.
I dared not dream of being in this place. I didn’t want to be a single mum – but that doesn’t mean to say I will be forever. But I dared not dream that we could be actually this sorted, this happy, this content and without all the pressure of living with a man who’s life revolves around his own selfish need to drink.
I’m hoping one day he will wake up and smell the coffee. But if he doesn’t then it’s not my problem anymore.
I can’t keep holding back my needs so he can drink himself to an early grave, or wait for him to have the desire to explore with professionals his drinking relationship.
You helped me realise this. You gently and kindly helped me see it wasn’t my fault. That I was actually being too reasonable, not unreasonable as he had always suggested. The support from friends more so has been immense. And many many new trips to reacquaint myself with long friends I’ve barely seen continues. I’ve just reconnected, for example, with my friend [from overseas] after 35 years! Me and some friends are hoping to travel there at some point in the future.
Thank you SFAD for getting me out of the toxic relationship fuelled by alcohol. Thank you Gill for helping me see. Thank you for giving me myself back, my laughter and smile back. And my children back. We have so much fun and laughter, and feel a bond now like no other. My skewed sense of loyalty, my sense of commitment and wanting so much to not allow my kids be from a broken home was driving my needs down, my own self-care and self-belief down.