“My daughter told me she didn’t like the fact that I always smelt of wine. That was probably the point I thought I may have a problem.”
What started as a few glasses of wine in the evening with her husband quickly developed into full-blown alcoholism for Alice, a mother of one from Birmingham.
She’s one of a growing number of women dealing with a drink problem, with recent statistics showing women are nearing equality with men in alcohol consumption.
But as the shame of her addiction eventually forced her to seek help, she found several barriers in her way as a woman and mother seeking treatment.
Her problems with alcohol started at the age of 33 when she married and had a child.
“My then husband used to like popping to the local for one or two drinks before bed. Once our child was born this led onto opening a bottle of wine each evening and this is when the pattern started.
“Over the years it went from sharing one bottle to sharing two-plus. Then it moved to having a drink as soon as I got home from work about 4pm.”
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Her marriage eventually broke down, and Alice sought more comfort from the bottle.
Alcohol was no longer a treat in the home, but became part of her daily routine, regularly drinking alone. She didn’t see as dangerous at the time.
“We hear horror stories of binge drinking but not about the middle class consumption of wine or a gin and tonic in the evening.
“When I grew up men went out to the pub and drank, women less so because alcohol was not generally available in the home except for special occasions. Things have equalised.”
Alice was signed off work with depression whilst dealing with her divorce, and after a day of drinking would often be inebriated by the time her daughter came home from school.
Her daughter often had to do the household chores she was unable to complete. “She made tea on a number of occasions,” recalls Alice.
“I had taken an ‘overdose’ on a couple of occasions – never serious attempts just feeling drunk and wretched. My daughter was about 12 at the time and she was becoming increasingly fearful about how much I was drinking.”
This, combined with GP blood tests, made her realise how much damage she was doing to herself and those around her.
Alice initially tried to seek help at AA meetings, but struggled with their ‘male dominated’ environment and could never find childcare for her daughter.
“There needs to be women only groups and support groups to help with childcare so they can attend appointments and meetings.”
“I think that women, especially single women, have more of an issue because they fear social service involvement and losing their children”.
After finding AA unsuccessful, she was referred to a support worker from the charity Care, Grow, Live who helped her with recovery on an individual basis near her home in Birmingham. They helped Alice set goals to help her see beyond drinking.
“One of the goals I set in early recovery was to join a choir, which I am still enjoying. I have now had a whole raft of excellent experiences.”
Knowing the risks
Defeating alcoholism also made Alice find some compromises in her life, which involved stepping back from career aspirations to focus on her family.
“I don’t need to overdo it by working full-time. I spend more, and less stressful, time with the kids.”
The theme of Alcohol Awareness Week 2016, which ends on 20 November, is “knowing the risks” – getting people thinking about why they drink, and “how it affects us as individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.”
Sian Warmer, head of services at CGL, the charity that helped Alice, says they help people identify why they are turning to drink.
“The reasons people use substances, whether they are drugs or alcohol, are endless and often very unique to the individual.
“We recognise that these people may have complex needs, involving things such as domestic violence, pregnancy, mental health and sex work.”
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37823764