Saturday 25 May 2019

Dear Mary: Trauma of finding my wife's vodka bottles

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Mary O'Conor

I find myself yet again lying here on my own in the spare room, ready to pull the trigger on some revenue-spinning lonely hearts website. But it never amounts to anything - I either don't push the 'Pay now' option or if I do, I end up burning up my credit chatting about my situation.

This evening, after the shock of finding another empty vodka bottle while rummaging around the hot press, I spent the rest of the evening going about the house playing happy husband and happy dad, all the time thinking, "here we go again".

Another empty bottle of the cheapest floor polish money can buy. The same empty bottle of vodka I found while looking for a vase a few weeks back.

I wanted to surprise her on Valentine's morning from me and the lads. Flowers, homemade cards hand crafted from cereal boxes - little mementos of love from her three amigos.

I'm a gentle giant of a man whose family is his whole universe. But it is a world of depression, wine, antidepressants and, of course, vodka.

I have tried talking about it and I have gone for counselling, but when you are told that you will be thrown out of your home by your very angry, very drunk wife three or four times a year for the last seven or eight years just because you put your foot down, what the hell do you do? Leave her?

What happens? Who watches over my kids while she slips down the rabbit hole?

We live in rural Ireland, miles from family. We can't afford to move and as for getting help - one 'expert' told me I could always get the children's welfare agency involved. But having Googled them, I didn't like what I read. The GP just keeps prescribing antidepressants, saying she should treat them like an umbrella and only take them when she needs them. Really?!

I love her. I miss her so much. In these dark times, it's getting harder to see the light to navigate home by.

Mary replies: Your letter had a profound effect on me and it stayed in my mind for days after receiving it. I think it was the sense of sheer desperation and the enormous effect that your wife's drinking is having on your family.

The image of a lonely, heartbroken man in the spare room, paying money for human contact, not even sex, is extremely sad.

There has been a lot of publicity recently regarding the increase in women's drinking in Ireland. But it's not just drinking - your wife is in the grip of alcoholism and it sounds like an addiction to antidepressants as well.

You are my main concern because you are at the centre of your family and it is because of you that it functions at all.

So it is imperative that you function properly. Do you have somebody with whom you can share all of this - a family member or a close friend? You need support for all that you are going through. You should also contact AlAnon which is for families and friends of alcoholics. There are branches of AlAnon all over Ireland so check www.al-anon-Ireland.org to find the branch nearest you. There is also a Helpline (01-8732699) and even a Helpmail on their website.

The image of a young mother in charge of small children while taking medication and drinking a lot of vodka is very disturbing.

Does she drive them to or from school or after-school activities? If so, then they are in danger every day of their lives. You cannot allow this situation to continue, as you are enabling her by putting on a brave face and trying to get on with life.

Your wife isn't going to change her drinking habits until she acknowledges that she has a problem and this is at the root of your difficulties.

You may think I am being too simplistic but until she gets to this point, there will be no progress, just the empty promises to which you have become inured.

You are going to have to talk to her once more and spell out the different scenarios that may occur if she doesn't seek help. I don't understand why you disapprove of Tusla whose aim is to put children first and who promote the development, welfare and protection of children.

Perhaps you fear that if somebody reported your wife's drinking to them, some action might be taken. But this is one of the possible outcomes that you have to discuss with her. It is time for another intervention but this time she has to understand that she cannot continue drinking.

You should also contact your wife's GP and alert him or her to the real story - your wife is obviously not telling it like it is when she visits for her prescription.

It is all so very worrying. An awful lot depends on her agreeing to get help, both for your sake and for that of the children.

I sincerely hope that she does.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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