I am a singer/song writer and counsellor living in South
West England. I have two children, now
in their early twenties and was married to my first husband for nearly 30
years. He was a good man, who really
loved me and his family and did everything in his power to enable and support
my singing career, which at one stage was of my life was pretty successful,
doing TV work, recording albums and performing regular concerts.
However between us we had a dark secret that only those very
close to us had any idea about. My
husband had a real problem with alcohol.
When he drank, which he did on a regular basis, his intake was too high
and affected his behaviour, particularly in the evenings. When he tried to do without it he managed it
for a while. He would then go on binges
that left the entire household traumatised and distressed.
Don’t get me wrong; when I look back I see now how badly I
handled the situation at first.
Understandably I was angry, so I screamed and shouted. Understandably I was upset, so I sobbed and
pleaded. Understandably, I felt helpless
so I bullied and threatened.
Understandably, I felt betrayed by the lies and broken promises so I
sulked and withdrew from him.
Understandably, I was confused because I knew he loved me so I felt that
if I could find the right words, the right plea, the right moment, the right
sort of help, HE WOULD CHANGE and our family life would be saved. I dedicated my life, on one level, to making
him better and it felt, at times, he was dedicating his life to evading my
My situation began to improve (sometimes quite
considerably!) when I started to own and identify self-defeating cycles and put
my energies into areas open to change and growth. My husband died sadly (but courageously!) of
cancer in 2007. By then we had learned to reduce the problems that drinking was
causing and the stormy times, though not completely absent, were much less
frequent and nowhere near as devastating to me or my family.
Although my circumstances have changed dramatically over the
last few years since his death, these years have shaped the person that I am
now and left me with two strong legacies; a deep empathy with those who walk
this particular path and a desire, in some way, to reach out with maybe help,
maybe information but definitely support, understanding, connection and
interaction. I want to help with
directing the energy away from what is illusive to what is possible, helpful
and life changing.
If you are reading this, I want to say first of all welcome. I know at least a part of why you are
here. You may be interested, probably a
bit desperate, almost certainly confused at what is the best way forward. Above all I know the secrecy that surrounds
this issue. You probably feel guilty
that you are reading this website; will maybe feel even more guilty if you sign
up. You probably feel guilty that you
should be seeking help and almost definitely feel guilty that by seeking help
his/her issues are also exposed. All
this I have felt and known.
My own desire is that you no longer need feel alone, that
you have ongoing help which is relevant and accessible and that we steer you
away from behaviour which, although hugely understandable, will wear you out
and effect little lasting change.
It is often said that there is ‘no gain without pain’, but
the ‘pain’ does not always have to be ours.
We can learn from the pain of others and save ourselves and those we
love considerable suffering!
In 1994 I graduated with a PhD in psychology from the University
of Glasgow. My wife and my mother looked
on proudly as I paraded in my rented gown (I didn’t want to return it
afterwards). The sun shone and everyone
had strawberries and champagne on the lawn, everyone but me that is. Few people realised that behind this very
happy scene was a story that was best summed up by the wife of my supervisor
when she said that I had gone from “A drunk to a doctor in a decade”.
I was in a good place; I had a couple of jobs to choose from
and was awarded a large grant to continue my research. The next 15 years I spent on research,
teaching at masters and doctoral level.
I wrote papers for prestigious journals and regularly presented work at
conferences around the world. I also
helped organisations to train therapists and design their treatment regimes.
However the one thing I kept secret through all of this was
my own past and my experience with alcohol and drugs. For about 15 years I had used alcohol and
drugs heavily. In fact I was treated on
numerous occasions by my GP for alcohol problems and he consistently suggested
that I should attend AA. I
disagreed. Finally I was hospitalised in
a dreadful state. The doctor treating me
diagnosed brain damage and liver damage and gave me 6 months to live, if I did
not stop drinking.
From that day onwards I attended, hospital, AA, group
therapy and anything else that was available and I have been clean and sober
since, over 25 years now. I went back to
studying, completed an honours degree in Psychology and then a PhD. My intention was to get away from alcohol
and drugs but even in my studies I was drawn to it, in fact my thesis was an
investigation of what motivated people to stop drinking.
All through my academic years I hid the fact that I had had a
drink problem. I did not hide it because
of the shame or stigma. No; I hid it
because I wanted to be taken seriously as a researcher and an academic, which I
was. Ironically, now I find that this
personal experience may be one of the most powerful qualifications that I have
to help people.
My desire through this and other website(s) is provide
people with the help and support that they need to transform their lives. Having been given the opportunity to change
my own life, I now want to help others where I can. Sometimes people just need a little help to
mobilise the strengths that they have within.
My dream is that this website provides that little help.
Lou and John say
When we came together as a couple (it is a long story that
we may share with you one day), as you can imagine we talked a lot about
alcohol and its effect on our lives.
Obviously we were coming at this topic from different perspectives, Lou
suffering from her husband’s drinking and my suffering was self-inflicted. Also the counsellor and the academic then
kicked in and all in all the subject was examined from every angle.
We found that we both learned from each other. Lou learned how her very understandable
reactions (described above) would be received by a drinker and why they did not
have the effect that she wanted. John
learned about how his behaviours had probably impacted his ex-wife and how
important the issue of trust was to the relationship.
The more we talked (and we DID talk a lot) the more we
recognised that others might benefit from our experiences. We recognised also that our combination of
qualifications and experience may not be unique but they are certainly
not common. This fusion of experience
and theory, research and training, life-history and therapeutic intervention,
backgrounds and perspectives, from both sides, make a powerful combination.
These talks led us to try and make best use of this fusion by
mapping out a program of change that was solid and workable but also flexible
enough to capture the individual differences of people’s life
circumstances. This program we call
SHARE and is introduced in this website.
It is a program that is simple in essence but can grow with you. It is designed to help you to take a
different approach to your problems and arrive at new solutions.
Do you live with an alcoholic?
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