I am married to a gorgeous man who had to give up drinking for good a couple of years ago, when he was 50.
James had always been a party animal, great fun, but with a self-destructive streak. His drinking came in stops and starts: he wasn’t hiding bottles in his desk drawers, just drinking socially. But it was to excess, regularly, and until the point where he was occasionally out of control.
His job, two gorgeous children and a generally very happy personal life put the brakes on his ‘out of control’ tendencies for years.
There was a brief tricky period when he gave up smoking while I was pregnant with our second child, and compensated wildly with red wine. But otherwise we functioned pretty well.
Then, a couple of years ago, he suddenly, visibly disintegrated, physically and mentally.
It was like watching a diabetic reacting badly to sugar: he would have a couple of glasses of wine and would practically dissolve, becoming suddenly and obviously ‘flooded with alcohol’, slurring his words and wildly insulting everyone around him.
It was so upsetting and stressful. Fights would break out at dinner parties and good friends would mysteriously stop speaking to us.
I would get hysterical when things went awry, prompting sneering comments from friends who were convinced that if their husbands were behaving like this they would cope much better (grrrr!).
How I got my husband to stop drinking
He became irrationally angry with our son at a party one night and that was the last straw for me.
I managed to get everyone home in one piece and the next morning I told James, in no uncertain terms, that he could not stay in this family unless he never drank again.
He went to a local Travelodge for a couple of nights and thought about it. And that was it: he came home and agreed.
Our life since has been fine. It is not fantastic, but it is fine. It was very hard at first, having been self-medicating for years, with alcohol, to help him deal with the stress of normal life.
Now that he did not have this wonderful bandage available, it took him a while to get used to it.
Instead of winding down with a large glass of something chilled, after a stressful shopping trip when you can’t park and then you find a meter but it’s broken and the thing you need is actually in another shop in another part of town, James would sometimes have to take to his bed, sometimes at two in the afternoon. But he stuck to his word.
About a year afterwards, having myself continued to drink, both alone (I have always been a ‘glass of wine while I am cooking’ woman) and at dinner parties that James bravely attended, I wondered why I carried on drinking. So I cut down.
My alcohol alternatives
I discovered that Copella Apple and Elderflower juice, to my ridiculously unsophisticated palette, tastes exactly like white wine. To me, a glass while I am cooking gives me just the same feeling of release that I looked for from wine. My only caveat is that it has to be served in a wine glass.
My enjoyment of parties is almost always the same on fizzy juice as it was on champagne, but without the hangover. This pleasing realisation led me to give up alcohol too.
I have even managed a holiday in France on juice.
James really appreciates the support and I definitely feel healthier. I didn’t give up with him from the start as I felt that the fewer dramatic flourishes that accompanied this life-changing decision, the better.
It does burn slightly when friends on Facebook post pictures of a champagne bucket and two glasses and label it ‘date night’, but, tough. Having said that, I am certain our sex life has improved and will continue to do so.
The benefits of going booze free
I sometimes dread a girls’ night, though, as it involves explaining that I don’t drink. I often feel it would be easier to just have a drink.
But once I have explained, that really is the end of it. And anyway, what difference does it make to anyone?
I definitely have more time. My husband certainly does: he has a whole extra day a week. For his whole adult life, Sundays had been written off; he could do nothing more than watch the Grand Prix after a long lunch.
There is something peaceful about not drinking. It sort of makes life simpler. I would love to think we are there for other people in a way we were not in the past, particularly our own children.
I have to say we have not both turned in the Good Samaritan overnight. But one day we might be able to help someone else out, in the way that friends of ours (who know who they are), were there for us at our darkest moments.