Alcohol Awareness Week

Every year, Alcohol Awareness Weeks invites us to share and discuss society’s relationship with the nation’s favourite drug.

Often conversations focus on the individual at the centre of problematic alcohol use. But like ripples in a pond, the impact of this behaviour is felt just much by those closest to the person.

Sophia is in her mid-forties and has been to her husband Tony for over 15 years. Like many in her situation, the harm she experienced as a result of a loved one’s problematic alcohol use was overlooked for a long time. For half their marriage Tony’s problems with alcohol had caused significant strain on their relationship and their family’s lives. It had undermined trust and left both of them terrified about what the future would look like. Even with these daily challenges, Sophia wanted to be a supportive partner and believed her husband could change his behaviour.

“Tony’s alcohol addiction began when he lost his job and started drinking as a way to cope with stress and depression. His drinking escalated and he became increasingly dependent on alcohol, which led to financial problems and the loss of other jobs. I was devastated by the change I saw in him and the impact it was having on our marriage and family life.”

Despite the desire to help Tony, Sophia knew the risks and emotional effect his drinking was having on her and their child. After speaking to her GP, Sophia arranged an appointment with the Concerned Others service at Project 6 to find some support for herself.

“It was a relief, I didn’t think I could talk to anyone about it. I felt comfortable and safe sharing my thoughts and I started to educate myself about alcohol addiction.  At first I was frustrated, I wanted to know I could fix what he was doing but I needed time and support for me more than anything, you can’t change people by yourself.”

With the support of the friends and families group, she learned about the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for her husband to seek help. Sophia learnt how to open up effectively to her husband about his drinking and express her concerns and willingness to support him as well as putting in clear boundaries to protect herself and their child. Over time Sophia was able to encourage Tony to seek professional help and accompanied him to therapy and counselling sessions.

Sophia remained a source of strength and support as Tony began to make changes, both understanding that recovery is a long and difficult process.

Although Sophia’s family was able to address this challenge together, for many people their loved one is not in a place to make the changes they want to see. Having a supportive space for the family and friends experiencing a loved one’s substance use is vital to ensure they have the resilience and tools to manage their own wellbeing. If they have access to a strong network of support, they are the ones best placed to help their loved one when they decide they want to make changes themselves.