Personal stories – Her marriage was disintegrating

My story goes back 26 years when, at the age of 16 and being a little chubby, my father made the comment that I was getting very fat and looked like a slob. This triggered a negative response in my head and I was determined he would never say that again after I had spent a lot of my childhood fighting overweight. I made a conscious decision to do something about it, which ultimately led to anorexia, although it was not called that in those days and very little was known about it, then to bulimia and finally alcoholism at the ripe old age of 21.

I was hopelessly out of control of my life in a very short period of time but would not admit this to anyone, not even my husband, whom I felt could not have handled it, anyway. He was somewhat of a perfectionist in his outlook to life and I was far removed from being normal, let alone perfect. I managed to hide my compulsions very well and satisfied them when I could, but oh, the mental pressure and physical exhaustion was enormous. It badly affecting my personality, which I could see, but refused to accept.

I was getting edgy if I couldn’t satisfy my desire to binge and drink and I was taking days off here and there to do just that, which left me feeling let down and unreliable. I didn’t like myself at all. My drinking went from enjoyable social drinking with friends at parties to finishing off after everyone had left — and my husband had gone to bed — until I was totally inebriated. My excuse to stay up was that I had to clean the after-party dishes! My husband was going away a lot on work-related business with mining contracts and the lonely void was instantly filled: a couple of bottles of wine to help ease the loneliness.

At this time, following numerous tests, we were told it would be almost impossible for us to have children. This hit hard. I wanted to be a mother and the news led me to total frustration and hopelessness. I couldn’t accept we would never have children! That was all I had been working towards — what now! This period of my life became a total round of working during the day and drinking during the evening. The drink blotted out my wants and desires. I didn’t have to think about anything or face reality.

After two years of marriage, my husband came into a few thousand dollars after a work accident. We decided to get out of the city for a while and travel Australia. We had a 4WD Toyota, a small boat, motorbike and caravan, and we picked up a stray dog at the dog pound and headed off. I imagined this would put paid to my compulsive lifestyle and things would be more manageable. It did for a few short weeks, but after a while the compulsion to drink and binge overwhelmed me again and I managed to consume more drinks than my husband ever knew about.

I would walk miles to get more drinks when the opportunity arose because I was at the stage when panic would set in if there were no alcohol around. I always made sure I had a supply for when I needed it. I was very dishonest with money, drink and food, just to be able to satisfy my needs. I was in inner turmoil with myself because I hated what I was doing. My outward appearance was really quite deceiving to people who met me and even, to an extent, to my husband, who probably had a few fears as to what was really going on but at that time chose to put them behind him.

Our travelling did control my compulsions to some extent because the life was very enjoyable and things were changing constantly. I managed to keep some control over my life but I was still drinking every day and occasionally binge eating to satisfy cravings. The deceit and monumental efforts to keep up the supply was very wearying on my body and mind and I needed to be constantly on guard in case my actions were noticed. It was a terrible feeling to have to live with. After 12 months of travel and much deceit on my part, we settled in a north Queensland town and both got jobs to boost our finances.

Wow! I had found a drinking man and woman’s town where it was normal to drink heavily, every day. In fact, you were the odd one out if you didn’t join the drunken revelry. My husband was still contract mining and he spent a lot of time away from home. This suited me as I had my job during the day and could drink at home after 5pm to my leisure, not having to cover up my condition. I am certain at this stage he had an inkling that there was a problem but because I just refused to acknowledge it he felt he could not possibly discuss it with me. It was easier to pretend it wasn’t there.

Then, after ten years of work and marriage, consultations and tests with a fertility doctor confirmed, to our surprise, I was pregnant. Wow, again! All my problems would now end…but no such luck. The problem was still there and only became easier to submit to, with this dependent bundle of need relying on me. This was even more stressful and my compulsions would not let up. I managed to get through the days somehow and give my son a start to life but after 18 months I was back at work and continuing to keep up my never ending supply of booze and food. I also managed to keep up a fairly respectable outward appearance until I got home at night and lost interest.

The pressure of living this way, and keeping it secret, was building, though, and left me feeling a nervous wreck. I was not happy, didn’t like myself, wasn’t doing the right thing by my family and to my way of thinking couldn’t do a thing about it. After four years, a little girl came along and oh, how I adored her. I instantly loved that bundle of joy and she did instill in me a certain amount of humbleness and contentment but not enough to stop the habits of long-standing.

By this time, my husband was busy working on a professional career and, understandably, spent as much time as he could away from home furthering his career and using this as an excuse for his absence. He loved his children very much but could not abide what I was doing to myself. He was never a big drinker so could not identify with me. Our marriage was slowly but surely disintegrating, but I was able to forget these obvious facts when drinking. I still had my respectable day job and was earning enough money to cover my compulsions and get through life without many outward hiccoughs. These were all inside!

One day, when my husband was away, the kids asked me if I was going to drink wine again and I thought: “What am I doing to myself…what have I become?” I didn’t like what I saw. I made an appointment with a new, unknown doctor in town and pushed myself to keep the appointment.

My story came tumbling out – the real story, not the one I went in to tell him…and he was a little more experienced with alcoholics and saw the underlying pain in my words. That doctor talked to me for an hour about what was really bothering me and the effect drinking was having on my relationship with my husband and children. It turned out he had been there too! How could I possibly be a responsible human being and bring up two children, when I was not even in control on a daily basis! What right did I have to put my family through this emotional time bomb all the time? I was made to feel very ashamed of what I had done with my life and my family. From that day, November 22, 1991, I have managed through the help of my Higher Power not to have a drink.

With their continuing support, and in spite of many ups and downs and many days of being tempted almost to the point of no return, I have managed to stay away from that first drink. The urge to drink just isn’t there any more and I make a conscious effort not to attend functions where I am going to be even slightly tempted. I don’t need to put myself through that. My life has never been happier, my marriage is great, my kids are thriving and I feel absolutely free for the first time in a long time.

Seeing my family as they are now makes it all worth while. There is still the odd occasion when I am tempted to binge eat but, thankfully, this is becoming a lot less often. I just don’t enjoy the feeling any more and I don’t need it. I now enjoy spending time talking to my husband and doing things with my kids, getting involved in their activities. I am honest in my financial dealings and try to be proud of my tidy house.