Women tell of their addiction horrors

© Nowra South Coast Register - Nowra, New South Wales, Australia

GLENN ELLARD

21/04/2008 

THEY could be your mother, your sister, your daughter, your neighbour, or even women you pass every day and barely notice as they fade into the background.

But the four women who came forward to push for a women’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation service in Nowra all shared a secret bond that came from battling to overcome addictions.

Well dressed and well spoken, the women defied the stereotype of the addict, yet all described themselves as alcoholics, while some also had histories of using and abusing other drugs.

Identifying themselves only by the pseudonyms Lee, Jean, Steph and Holly, the women spoke candidly about the horrors of life as an alcoholic where drinking, or thinking about drinking, filled all available time.

And all said they had been assaulted and sexually assaulted while drinking.

Jean remembered drinking from about the age of eight, saying alcohol was always available in her home and was even out in infant bottles to help babies sleep.

As a teenager she started binge drinking and ran away from home at 16, before she started taking what she described as “hostages”.

“I’d pick up someone to look after me, some poor sucker in a pub,” she said.

This led to a teenage pregnancy and several failed relationships and marriages, with heavy drinking continuing until Jean was 38 when she saw a relative with severe brain damage caused by alcohol.

“I thought I was going to end up like him if I keep drinking,” she said.

But her own brain had also been damaged by alcohol, leaving Jean with agoraphobia and making it difficult to leave her house and attend a detox facility.

“I couldn’t do it,” she said.

“I detoxed on the bathroom floor. I had seizures, came very close to dying.”

A rehabilitation program was another thing she was unable to attend.

“Even if it would save my life I couldn’t do it.

“I’ve never been to rehab and I’ve never been to detox. I did it all at home and it was horrific.”

Holly was also brought up with alcohol, and alcohol abuse, and said she had been “physically, mentally and verbally abused because of

alcohol”.

While she hated alcohol and alcoholism, she started drinking about the age of 12 - hanging outside a pub with friends and trying to convince people to buy drinks.

“That’s when I remember really getting stuck into it,” Holly said.

But the alcohol made her “quite aggressive”, and she got into fights at blue light discos every Friday night.

She was 13 or 14 when she passed out

while drinking tequila at a party, and a friend overheard a group of men saying how they were going to take Holly when people started leaving the party.

The friend woke Holly to warn her, “And I thanked her by punching her in the face”.

But when convinced of the danger she was facing the incident frightened Holly so much she stopped drinking, at least for a few years.

However when she started again “It came back ten-fold”, and she drank every night for seven years - mostly alone at home.

It started with a six-pack of beer and a litre of wine a night, and grew to 12 beers “and however much wine it took me to fall down”.

And the more Holly drank, the more difficult it became to face life and all its challenges, and the more she felt she needed alcohol to cope.

However she found the courage to stop when faced with the prospect of losing her partner, relationship, and her business, even her life as she became suicidal.

She also detoxed at home and started attending Alcoholics Anonymous two days later, but said, “If I’d known there was somewhere I could have gone to get well, I’d have gone”.

Steph also “swore and declared I’d never touch alcohol, because I saw the power it had over my dad,” but started binge-drinking at 17 and suffered alcohol-induced blackouts.

Later alcohol “filled the hole in my soul that I didn’t know was there”, as Steph drank her way through three pregnancies.

Fortunately the alcohol did no physical damage to her children, “but the emotional damage of my children seeing their mother drinking every day is something I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life,” she said as tears welled in her eyes.

Unable to go a day without alcohol, she tried several times to give up drinking, but “I couldn’t physically put the drink down”.

“I tried to put the drink down, I tried all sorts of things, but eventually I had to be taken to a place where the drink was taken away from me.”

Steph went through a detox and rehab program in the Blue Mountains, and while it was hard to be so far away from her family, it was even harder to deal with the stigma of being an alcoholic.

That stigma led to her telling people she went away “for my nerves”.

Lee did not take her first drink until the age of 21 and admits, “I didn’t like it, I became abusive and aggressive”.

However she later married an alcoholic and while “I used to beg and scream and kick and cry to get him to stop”, she put so much pressure on herself to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, she eventually turned to alcohol to help with her problems.

“After 17 years I thought stuff this, if you can’t beat them, join them.”

Lee said her husband was always calm and placid, increasing the attraction of drinking.

“I though that he’s got something that I haven’t got. He’s got peace, he’s got tranquillity.”

But instead of finding peace Lee became aggressive, and her husband left after four years, “so then I drank more”.

Her second husband was also an alcoholic and “a drinking partner”, but drinking Lee continued to be aggressive and violent, leading to a few arrests and a criminal record.

A suicide attempt led to a stint in a rehab unit, but it took a second stay in rehab before Lee was able to overcome the obsession to drink.

Had it not been for that, “I would be dead now, dead by my own hand, or locked in jail”.


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