It’s October. Lots of chat about Sober October soooo … you might be feeling a bit sick of the preachy vibe that can come from the sober.
I quit drinking 5 years ago on 21st October. Five. Whole. Years! But please let me assure you that preachy vibes is not what I’m here for!
Yes, I flipping love the freedom and confidence I have gained from being sober. It has literally changed my life but if you’d told me five years ago that I would probably never drink again, I’d have reached straight for the tequila bottle.
It was just a try. To see what it was like. To prove that I could do it.
Partly motivated by a desire to lose weight … I’ve had chats with many of you since about the benefits of giving up booze on your waistline and I can assure you it did nothing for mine! In fact, I put on at least a stone when I quit because I replaced alcohol with sugar!
Partly motivated by a sober curiosity and the knowledge that booze had a hold on me … I wanted to see what life and my brain would be like without the constant pull of alcohol.
I will talk about my own experience with sobriety more next week but today I wanted to talk about the impact alcohol can have on relationships.
Alcohol, Abuse and Relationships
Since talking more about divorce and the transition from relationship to single life/single parenting, a BIG thing that has been coming up from this lovely community is the impact alcohol and addiction can have on relationships.
The stories I am hearing about what some of you are living through and enduring is nothing short of devastating. And, the crossover to abuse and narcissistic personality disorders is stark.
I’ve done a number of courses over the last few years both with domestic abuse charities and family support for the loved ones of addicts. I wanted to further understand and connect with the nuances of being in an abusive or alcoholic relationship.
There is an incredible array of support out there but still such a huge stigma around reaching out. Getting help.
I think an even more common issue is not even knowing you need help or support. Life feels normal. Addiction, abuse and the aftermath is just another thing to deal with, like making tea and washing the clothes.
Please, if you aren’t sure, reach out. Your relationship doesn’t need to be violent to be abusive. Speak to your local domestic abuse support. At the very least, they will be able to assure you everything is ok and, if it isn’t, they will be able to help you.
I answer some of your questions about addiction and domestic abuse on this week’s Happily Ever After, which I’ve called Dirty Secrets because we all have these secrets. The ones we feel alone with and worry that if anyone found out we’d be cast out of society … to live an isolated life … probably in poverty.
If you are living in a relationship with an addict and/or abuser, chances are you deeply love them and the addiction just happened over time. You’ve been slowly trained to put up with things, endure stuff, put out fires, protect your children and your families from their behaviour, etc, etc.
Over time, this becomes your very own dirty secret that you have to protect at all costs. You are complicit. You didn’t say no years ago. When the first awful thing happened.
And, because of the nature of addiction, abuse is very common (although it’s worth baring in mind that addiction is not a pre-requisit – alcohol and drugs is often blamed for abusive behaviour but it’s just that; an excuse). Gaslighting (manipulating you so you question your own reality), emotional and psychological abuse, financial, sexual and, of course, physical abuse is all a possibility when you are dealing with a person with addictions.
Perhaps you drink a lot too. And, you’re worried you’ll have your children taken off you. Or end up penniless. Or both. You can feel trapped and alone.
What if you do leave?
When someone has left a person with alcohol or drug issues, I often hear that the leaver feels guilty because ’nothing happened’ to end the relationship. No one cheated or it wasn’t that bad.
But that’s not true. Living in fear of ‘the next time’ (and let’s face it, who knows what is happening if your partner is staying out all night) is a real-life trauma, which can lead to PTSD.
Managing your partner and the aftermath becomes a subconscious thing. The duck on water. Calm on the surface – everything’s fine, great even … but below the water the legs are frantically flapping, preparing to change direction, pivot, dive to protect their young.
How to get help
I should state that I am not a therapist or expert. I have done some courses and these are my observations but, if this is you and you are living this life, I urge you to reach out to the myriad of non-judgemental, FREE support out there. This is not just your dirty secret. Millions of people live this life too. From all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds.
You do not need to struggle on your own.
You might not even need to leave your partner. The free course that I did with Escape Family Support was all about positive communication skills. To communicate in a way that encourages your partner to get the help that they need.
Escape is a local (to me – Northumberland) charity so if you are not from up here, reach out to your local domestic abuse support service, they will be able to help you track down the help that you need. All the links are in the show notes for Dirty Secrets episode here.
Equally, you might not be sure if this is you.
I mention in the podcast a few resources that might help to identify if this is you.
The most recent Tina Turner Documentary is incredible. She’s a wonderful, inspirational, strong women but she lived this life for years. She talks openly about her relationship with Ike in the documentary that may help to identify elements in your own life.
Another brilliant book is by Liane Moriaty, called Big Little Lies (made into an HBO series) – the nuanced relationship of Nicole Kidman’s character with her abusive husband was incredibly insightful and brilliantly handled. It may help shine some light on your own relationship.
Remember, there doesn’t need to be violence for there to be abuse.
I really hope this has been helpful either for you, or maybe a friend that you are worried about. You can always email me, completely in confidence, if you’re not sure – I’d love to hear your story and support if I can. Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or DM me through facebook or instagram.