Maura (not her real name) has been talking to journalist Letitia Fitzpatrick, about recovering from alcohol addiction.
“My father and my brother were violent alcoholics and I wasn’t going to be one. I was afraid of alcohol; I didn’t like the taste,” she said.
Growing up, Maura was extremely shy and very sensitive. She got married and had two children, and says she promised her babies that they would never have the life she’d had.
On occasion, she drank socially but not much. Her husband had a good job and the couple entertained regularly.
“My husband drank and he was a real party boy. Eventually, I went to counselling, and the counsellor suggested that we have a wine together when he came home from work.
“I started to have a drink before he got home, and then it progressed very rapidly. It made me feel part of the human race. It eased anxiety I had and made me feel I could take on the world.
“I drank wine. I knew if I drank spirits, I would probably be dead in no time.” Within a year, Maura was drinking every day.
“My drinking was abnormal, over the top, I was needing alcohol more and more.”
She began to hide casks of wine in the linen cupboard, and anywhere else she could.
“My husband didn’t challenge me. He didn’t want to know, because he didn’t want to have to look at his own heavy drinking.
“My marriage broke down, and my drinking accelerated, because I had the freedom to drink as much as I wanted. The guilt and the shame were hell because I was a mother of two children.”
Eventually, Maura had to be hospitalised several times, because it was unsafe for her to detox at home due to alcoholic seizures.
“In the end, I was suicidal. Someone must have called the police around and I remember them going through notes I had written to my children, and a policeman asked me who I thought would find my body.
“I was so drunk, but I remember him saying that. I found myself in the psychiatric unit and I thought I was taking the bed off a sick person.
“I started going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, to make people happy. I was blaming everybody for my misery. I kept telling myself it was just a bad patch, and I would drink again.
“This went on for most of a year. I realised that nobody was going to help me unless I helped myself. It was the loneliest time before I put down the bottle.
“I needed a rehab. I had no discipline left. I needed that time away. I lay there thinking of the things I had done when I was drinking – driving the car drunk with my children in it, and how many people I had met over the years who had killed someone that way.
“I had always thought that I was only hurting myself, and being there gave me the opportunity to reflect on how my drinking affected others. When I got out, I continued to go to AA meetings.
“Eventually the mental obsession to drink was removed, which was an absolute miracle. AA works because of the support of other people who have been through the same journey. Helping others who are still suffering keeps me sober today, 20 years on.”
Maura has very close friends in AA who she trusts totally. She attends regular meetings, and says the fellowship has taught her to live one day at a time.
She says tough times happen regardless of whether you are drunk or sober, but how she copes with life has changed.
“When I see young women out drinking to excess these days, it seems the thing to do. And a lot of young mothers are counting down to ‘wine o’clock’ because their lives are so busy, and that can get out of control,” she said.
“Now, 20 years sober, I don’t need to prove myself or to be liked. I don’t need to be anybody but me. At last.”
If you have a problem with alcohol and want help, phone 1300 222 222, or 6582 0865, or go to www.aa.org.au