'I could have killed my children' - Mum who crashed car into river after drinking two glasses of wine
A mother who crashed her car into a bridge after drinking two glasses of wine said she will have to live with the guilt of endangering her children for the rest of her life.
Judith Varley and her children struck a bridge and slid down an embankment into the river below after she made the decision to get behind the wheel after drinking.
Speaking on RTE’s Today with Maura and Daithi, Judith said her issue with alcohol first developed as a way to cope with her mental health struggles but quickly escalated over the course of two months.
"There was a lot of very uncomfortable things coming up for me and I found that I wasn’t able to cope with them. With a drink I was able to relax. You take that one drink and you think that will do it but inevitably that’s just leading you down the rabbit hole. Eventually you have to drink two glasses of wine to get the same effect, then three, then four and before you know it you are drinking a full bottle of wine to get the same effect that you once got from one glass."
The mum, who is from South Africa but is based in Co Mayo, said she had a "cavalier" attitude towards her drinking and said she felt able to get behind the wheel to collect her eldest child.
"I got in the car and I thought 'Oh sure it’s only back the road, I’ve only had two glasses of wine - I’ll just nip back and get the kids and it will all be grand'. I was coming home from picking my eldest child up and I hit a bridge and I went down an embankment into a river and I think I will live with that for the rest of my life. I could have killed my children and for what? This cavalier ‘It’s only two glasses of wine, it will be grand’. There are a lot of women who are doing this," she said.
The mum has been in recovery for several years now but said her battle with alcoholism shook her family and her relationship with her husband to the core.
"I lost my job, for two years it took a lot of child conferences, them calling to my house doing house searches, questioning my children alone. It was so traumatic for my family.
"It almost splintered us apart. It caused a huge rift because suddenly everyone was questioning my husband’s habits and he never had a problem. Everything became so inflamed and so, so difficult. It’s totally not worth going even two miles down the road, even around the corner,"she said.
Judith has set up a support group called New Choices 4 Her, which aims to offer advice and support other Irish women struggling with alcohol addiction.
The mum said women need to open their eyes to their drinking habits, which can develop within a matter of months.
"I’d say within two months, it creeps up on you so fast. You always think you have a handle on it. When you’re drinking like that, people don’t realise that you’ve had a bottle of wine because you don’t feel drunk. To other people looking at you, you definitely are intoxicated. I felt when I was getting in the car that day I was fine. The big message I’d send to women is do not do it, do not get in the car with your kids."
If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article please contact the Samaritans on 116123 for support or visit the website on www.samaritans.org.