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 help.
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!
LOU AND JOHN SAYWhen 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.
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.