27 May 2008

The Early Years

He has not always been an alcoholic. We were married 32 years ago and knew one another for 5 years before we married, so that is a shared life of 37 years so far. We met as students studying the same subject at university and we married in a very hot and humid summer of the mid 1970s. I should have known the omens were not boding well when we picked our honeymoon in Cornwall - the only two torrential rainy weeks of that summer. Some people joke that for a honeymoon it shouldn't matter what the weather is doing. Then, it didn't!! In retrospect, that was a sign I should have heeded! Until 4 years ago, the majority of our 37 years together had been fine. It had had its ups and downs, like I suspect most marriages, but we never doubted we would stay together forever. We had so much in common, both before we met and afterwards. Too much to lose if we drifted apart. It would be like losing a leg. Little did I know that the concept of legless would take on a different connotation!

As soon as we married, we spent the first three years in Germany, where Greg was employed by a media company. It was the done thing, certainly in those days in German households to have a crate of beer in the house, to drink with a meal, or if guests called unexpectedly by in the evening. If we turned up at German friends' houses, beer was offered to us too. Or we would go out in a group to a beer keller or jazz keller. For a change we bought Rhein or Mosel wine as it was ridiculously cheap compared with what you have to pay in the UK. We did not over-indulge, but it was there all around us in abundance, if we wanted it. We hardly touched it. We were young, living and working hard abroad, making a wide circle of German and English expat friends.

When we returned to London in 1979, we were busy settling down into our new jobs and starting out belatedly on the housing ladder. I had returned to my former employer, but in a different office. Greg was working for an entirely different employer, but still in the media. We were in our very late twenties. It took quite a few years to nestle into our professions and acclimatise to being back in Britain. It took many (too many) more years, after giving up all hope, before we were blessed with a beautiful healthy baby daughter at long long last (in my fortieth year). We were gloriously happy.

Greg's job was getting more and more stressful and he had to cope as a matter of routine with deadlines at hourly intervals. His unit had high standards to keep and every word had to be checked and double-checked, as a mistake in the reporting could literally mean life or death to their audience. For this reason, he was very pedantic at home about the correct usage of words and would shout at the TV when the News was on, if they got something wrong - in his eyes. He found it very difficult to switch off from work when he was at home and in any case, the very nature of his job meant keeping abreast of international news all the time. His office was run in three shifts (mornings/afternoons, afternoons/evenings or nights) and he had to work a week of night shifts once a month on a rota, as well as bank holidays. He worked four shifts and then had four days off. It is a well-known fact that shift-work can play havoc on your health, particularly night shifts, and he seemed desperately to need his days off, particularly after night shifts, to get back on an even keel again. There was a staff bar in the building and it was not unusual for him and his colleagues to gravitate there during the lunch-hour. Or they would slip across the road to one of the many bars in the area. After a night shift, he would often come home at breakfast time and have a glass of wine or a shot of whisky. It was his way of relaxing and winding down ready for bed. On the last day of his night shift patterns, he would often stay up during the day instead of going to bed in order to acclimatise to the day shifts again and do some DIY which he found relaxing and therapeutic. We had just moved to a house which needed a lot doing to it. Rather than call in professionals, he liked to do the work himself. Often he would have the door of our integral garage open and would potter in there with his designs and work tools with a glass of wine or whisky in his hand. Often he would emerge from the garage and do some carpentry on the forecourt in front of the house.

One day, I was driving home in the early evening with my daughter from a Brownies (Girl Scouts) meeting, when a neighbour who lived opposite us approached my car as I was parking it. I barely knew her, except to nod good morning from a distance or comment on the weather. She was clutching a small leaflet which she shoved hastily into my hand, so as not to alert my daughter's attention to it. "This", she said, "is for you. You might need it because of your husband." She scurried off across the road, before I could say anything to her. When I got inside, I took off my coat and looked at the leaflet. On the front title page were the words "Alcoholics Anonymous. Advice for families living with an alcoholic".


blogthatmama said...

I think modern living is very stressful for men - my husband's job makes him very depressed and once he's down he finds it very difficult to get back on an even keel. I also worked for many years in the drinks industry and have seen what can happen, some of my colleagues gradually became alcoholics - some of them have been cured though and are leading very happy lives after a tough time. I wish you all the best and I'll spell your name correctly in future Rosiero!

aims said...

So he was doing things in public that the neighbours noticed.....

I imagine you were a mortified when you read the title of the leaflet. It's horrible when their addictions embarrass you in or with the public.

I'm glad to see you have such a response from so many. Blogging does bring a large number of concerned friends.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosiero,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. When I clicked on yours I was initially slightly surprised to find someone who was not a weight loss blogger reading mine, but thus is the power of the internet.

I think what you are going through with your husband sounds much worse. It's difficult enough when you are the person dealing with an addiction yourself (whether it is addicted to food and binge eating or drugs or alcohol) but if you are the innocent party trying to cope with the behaviour of someone else's addiction that must be very hard.

Best wishes,

rosiero said...

blogthatmama - yes, I agree there is much more stress in all our lives these days - even our children are under pressure to be successful and contribute to good school league tables. Thanks for your good wishes.

aims - unfortunately embarrassment comes with the territory - his appearance, gait, what he might say or might even might happen while we are out and about. Nine times out of ten it is embarrassing!! I am new to blogging,as you can see but I am heartened by the response I have received and it helps me blow a gasket to stop me going quietly insane. But for Stinking Billy, I might never have had the courage to write all this.

goodbyetoallfat - I have replied on your site, but I did have the need to lose a couple of stone in the past, so Rosemary Conley was a great success and now I am interested in anyone who has problems losing weight, as I am a Rosemary Conley convert!!

laurie said...

ah, this is all familiar for various reasons.... you're bringing me back in time....

Anonymous said...

I won't pretend to know anything about alcoholics but I am keen to know more from your blog. I do however, understand how difficult it must be. My mum's friend has an alcoholic husband who is know in a wheelchair after have three major strokes leaving his right hand side paralysed. It is tragic but she lives her life as best she can, what little of it she has left. I hope I will find sympathy for your husband eventually but excuses always seem far too often and far too many.

You have a great blog here and I look forward to reading regularly.

Best wishes, Crystal xx