News & Events
A Mum’s Personal Journey At Christmas Time
To the outside world, I look like a successful woman in my 40s who juggles an amazing husband, two wonderful kids, Derek (8 years old) and Louise (12 years old) with my work commitments. I seemed to have it all.
But if you looked closer, you could have seen the signs that I was not coping. That I was slowly drowning. I got the kids up, dressed and fed and off to school, then out to work. Took turns with my husband, my parents and the babysitter to pick up the kids from school. Cooked the meals, washed the clothes, cleaned the house, and most nights I’d tuck them into bed and read them a book. I’d have a glass of wine when I was cooking dinner, then I would have one with dinner. I don’t think I was drunk in front of the kids. I mostly drank after they went to bed.
I would fall asleep on the couch and my husband would go to bed, and wake up the next morning and do it all over again.
When you’re hungover, often the only way that you think you can make yourself feel better is to drink again. I was stuck in this endless loop of drink. I was keeping it together, that is, until Christmas last year.
It all just came to a head. I had finished the Christmas shopping and had cracked open a bottle of wine in celebration. The kids were home, it’s stressful. My youngest was screaming at me, the phone was ringing, the dinner’s cooking on the stove, the television’s going. It was all kind of snowballing.
I couldn’t get the right present for my son, my in-laws were all coming to ours for Christmas Day and I hadn’t even thought about how we were going to feed 20 people in our very small garden out back.
I felt like a horrible mum. I felt so guilty. I just started crying. I was so overwhelmed. I was falling apart. I felt as though I was just slogging through life. Trying to get to the next day. The exhaustion was bone deep.
I realise now, that I was definitely medicating with alcohol and I think at that point, I couldn’t tell you when it stopped being about feeling better and started to be very destructive.
I just made it through Christmas. Just pushed through the buying of gifts, driving the kids to and from all their holiday activities, hitting those end of year deadlines at work, having the family over for Christmas Day.
There are bits I cannot even remember. January came and I was back in my daily cycle of kids, work and drinking. I wanted to get help but did not know how. I wanted to have one day where I did not feel that no matter what I did that day, I was going to be a failure.
I spoke with my friends about how much I was drinking, but they said it wasn’t a problem. Not really. It is just how we cope. I eventually went to my GP. She talked to me about my options. Odyssey House was one of them. I felt I was not THAT far gone. I was not sure. I needed help but I could not leave my family, I needed to keep my life going.
But she told me that I could get some free counselling or at the very least get some expert advice.
I finally called and spoke with someone in their community-based programs. It was good to have someone just listen. I was soon booked into a group session where were met every week in the evening. I was also able to have one on one counselling sessions.
I could not believe how relieved I felt. This burden of shame and guilt was beginning to lift by just asking for help. By going to Odyssey’s community-based programs I created a time that was just for me. Somewhere I could go and be listened too and supported. I realised I was not alone. The others in my group had similar stories and we supported each other through it all.
My treatment helped me realise the underlying reasons for drinking. I was clamping down on the rage and anger I felt about my life. The feeling of being trapped and overwhelmed. The almost hallucinatory panic about money. I felt inadequate. I was so unhappy and I really could not remember the last time that I did something for myself. I don’t even think I liked myself.
It’s taken me a year to get to here. But this Christmas I am sober. I do not have the high levels of stress and anxiety that I had last year. I am sleeping better and I have the tools to manage my life. I’m not the image of an alcoholic, I’m not living in gutters and stuff, when I was drinking I could still hold down a job, I still functioned in every capable aspect of it. But I am an alcoholic. And with the help of Odyssey House, I am sober and am now living a healthier life. I am creating time for myself. I am saying ‘no’ more often. I am taking it one day at a time.
*Names have been changed for privacy.