I’m not entirely sure why I’m sitting here, ruminating about this and getting so upset but I am, so I’m writing.
In Sydney last week, something really struck me. Every single one of the women I met, who had various alcohol issues, had stories of partners who had, at one point or another, made comment on their drinking habits or tried to stop them. One beautiful woman had her husband sitting in the audience, watching on, as proud as proud could be. In her comments on the program and then again in private, it was evident of the love they shared and the absolute commitment her husband had shown when she was in active addiction and then in recovery. Another lady spoke of how her husband would suggest she’d had enough to drink and the story was pretty much the same across the board. All of these stories got me thinking about my own situation.
When I met my Exhole, I was the life of the party and he would happily join me. The girl who could out-drink anyone — men or women — and was always a laugh a minute. He’d come down from Melbourne to stay with me on the coast every weekend. He’d bring flowers and grog and we’d get shit-faced for the entirety of his stay. If I ran out of grog, he’d get me more. If I had no money, he’d pay for it. If I fell over drunk, he’d pick me up. When I behaved badly, he fobbed it off. When I was unable to recollect the night before, he’d happily fill me in so I didn’t look stupid in front of our friends. What a fucking legend, right? A guy who would do whatever I want, whenever I want and doesn’t care if I mouth off all fall down drunk. A guy who doesn’t care that I’m far from thin, broke and completely out of control. What more could I ask for?
As the years went by and I neared the end of my drinking, I would often make promises to myself about how or when I would drink. The greatest challenge for me was to stay sober on a Friday night. If I could achieve that, I could achieve anything (so I thought)! Every day on his way home from work, my Exhole would call and ask if I needed anything. Wine or groceries but mainly wine. Frequently, especially on a Friday, he’d call and I’d say ‘no, I’m not going to drink tonight’. ‘Are you sure?’ he would reply. ‘Yes, I’m going to try not to drink’ I would say. ‘I’m happy to get you wine, I don’t mind‘, he would again reply. If I managed to stay strong and not give in to his offer, I’d more often than not get to about 8.30pm and say ‘I wish I’d got wine’. On more than one occasion, he’d jump out of his chair and exclaim ‘don’t worry, bought you some, it’s in the car’. At the time, I thought this was loving, thoughtful and kind but a couple of years with a clear head and I realise it wasn’t at all, it was enabling.
I recall hungover days where I’d call friends and shamefully explain the events of the night before. Nights where I’d fallen and torn ligaments, the night I had tripped over backwards and subsequently broken my ankle, the night I’d consumed well over a cask of wine and couldn’t remember a thing. In my mind, my confessions were a cry for help. I mean, if someone came to me and relayed the same stories, I would be asking if they were okay. But I was met with giggles and flippant responses of ‘oh Kate, you’re hilarious’ or ‘we all do silly things when we drink’. But how many silly things do you need to do before someone steps in and tries to help you? How many times do you need to reach out for help before someone realises your behaviour is out of control? How many times do you have to relay horrific stories before someone stops laughing at your antics and points out that this sort of behaviour isn’t ‘normal’? I don’t want this coming across as hateful, because I have so many beautiful friends around me, all of whom I love dearly, and perhaps they just didn’t realise the enormity of the situation. However, my Exhole was living with it. He saw the falls, he witnessed the behaviours, he drove me to the emergency room, he knew EXACTLY what was going on, yet he didn’t say a word.
Despite him ceasing to drink around me when I decided to stop (for which I am grateful), on my hundredth day sober, he turned to me and said, ‘you’ve changed. You used to be so much fun. You used to drink and know how to have a good time. Now you’re just boring’. After I recovered from the shock of what I had just heard, I questioned him briefly. ‘I’m not able to get up for our kids in the mornings. I’m driving to school, probably still over the limit from the night before. I’m wetting the bed most nights. I can’t function any more. If I don’t stop, I’m going to die. I’m scared. Aren’t you worried about this?’ His response was, ‘I really don’t see a problem’. That was the day I asked him to leave.
So after listening to the stories of the other women in Sydney last week, I’m feeling sad, disappointed and angry. Where was he when I needed help? Where were the people who cared, reaching out to have that uncomfortable conversation with me? Why were people laughing at these ever increasing behaviours and fobbing them off as funny, or silly. I know my Mum (and probably Dad) were extremely worried about my drinking and my health but I’m not sure they knew exactly how bad it was. I hid a lot from them, for many years, not wanting them to worry. I wish I had reached out and been honest with them earlier. As it turned out, only one woman, who I hadn’t known for all that long, actually sat me down and asked, ‘are you an alcoholic?’ I openly said ‘yes, yes I am‘. So I’m sitting here today, wondering why it isn’t like in the movies where people stage interventions, pin down their loved ones and insist they go into rehab immediately. Why wasn’t my Exhole worried that I was killing myself? In fact, I just sent him a text and asked him that exact question. His reply was ‘Kate, I could never help you with your drinking, you are the type of person if I told you to stop drinking you would drink twice as much, it happened when you realised you had to…’ Why didn’t he even try?
I know my sadness and anger are superfluous but to quote the saying I detest the most, ‘it is what it is’. I guess, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that nobody reached out to me and the important thing is, I came to rock bottom, completely and utterly broken and desperate, all by myself. I reached out for help, all by myself and although my recovery is mine alone, I have support around me to keep me going. My family, friends and colleagues all know my story and support my recovery as much as they possibly can and for that, I am eternally grateful. Dwelling on what could have been is pointless and getting it out of my head by writing it here, certainly lifts the weight a little.
If you are struggling with alcohol or drug issues, please contact your GP or reach out to the wonderful people at Alcoholic’s Anonymous Australia or Narcotics Anonymous Australia and please remember, you are not alone.