Daily Archives: 15/02/2016

I was drinking a bottle and a half of wine a night after my husband walked out

wine binThis was in The Telegraph in December and much like Xmas can be a flash point for relationships (like a husband walking out)  so can Valentine’s Day so this article felt appropriate for today.

Champagne used to be the highlight of my Christmas,  but this year I raised a glass  of non-alcoholic wine – something I never thought would happen. I used to believe that alcohol helped me cope with a difficult marriage; now I think it kept me there.

My husband was unfaithful for eight years.  I felt worthless. I was taking antidepressants, knocking them back with a bottle of  wine every day. We worked in the same law firm, but he struggled and was asked to leave. I became the main breadwinner. I thought if I tried hard enough, it would be all right.

I was desperate to save our marriage.  I’d always taken alcohol  a little bit further than my friends. It was the means by which I was able to feel confident in social situations. The first time I drank, I got drunk. I was 15 and it was at a friend’s party. Her mother was ladling out home-made punch – I thought it was fruit juice. 

You kid yourself it’s fine because you’re not sitting on  a street corner. I’d entertain friends; the wine would flow and flow, and once I started  I couldn’t stop. The next day friends would say, ‘I’ve got  a serious hangover.’ Not me.  The more I drank, the more  I was able to drink. Four years ago, after 26 years, my husband left.

After the divorce, I gained two stone.  I could drink a bottle and a half of wine a night. My personal trainer said, ‘All the exercise in the world won’t help if you drink all those calories every night.’ She was right. I was frightened about my health, but I couldn’t stop.  

My son had always liked that I was good fun, but that changed last summer. He lives in New York, had recently got engaged, and invited me to hear him sing solo in his choir. I flew out from London, and went out with a friend the night before the concert.

The next day I went to the wrong concert hall, and missed it. I claimed it wasn’t because I was drunk.  He replied, ‘But you were. All you want to do is drink all day.’  I felt deeply ashamed. The turning point was when I went away with him, his fiancée and her parents, and I could see that he was on edge in case I drank.  I thought: enough. 

I had the details of a counsellor who offered a cognitive behavioural therapy-based programme for women worried about their drinking, but I hadn’t contacted her because that would mean I was an alcoholic. When I rang, she said, ‘You’ve done the hardest thing, and now it will be fine.’ 

She changed the way I see alcohol. I started asking, ‘Would this situation have been better or worse with alcohol?’ Giving up had always felt like deprivation but I realised that everything I’ve regretted, from staying too long in a miserable marriage to upsetting my son, was because of drinking.

Recently, I attended his wedding. People said, ‘Why don’t you have a glass of champagne?’ I said, ‘I could. But I don’t need it any more. I’m having a great life without it.’

If booze has become your bad lover – maybe it’s time to kick him into touch too? 🙂