‘The final straw was when he drove our children in the car while drunk’

I would start to dread Christmas from about the middle of October. My husband is an alcoholic and I’d known that for some time.

To other people he’s a character, the life and soul of the party; a big drinker but still able to hold down a job.

Behind the façade our lives were unraveling.

Weekend drinking stretched from Thursday to Sunday and then it was every night of the week – few cans to watch the football, bottle of wine with a dvd - any excuse to have a drink.

He may be pleasant and jovial in a pub but at home he was angry and withdrawn, lashing out at me and the kids for no reason.

He was a danger to us and himself and I’ve lost track of the nights I’ve spent lying awake listening, terrified he would set the house alight or fall and seriously injure himself.

Christmas was the worst. It was his chance to drink day and night and nobody cared because it was Christmas.

I stopped going to family parties or any kind of function for fear he would create a scene or cause some sort of altercation.

He would never admit he had a problem.

We were in financial difficulties and his drinking was affecting our young children.

The final straw came when he drove our children in the car while drunk.

I knew something would have to change but I had no idea where to start. ’

Taking the first step to reach out for help was difficult.

I was frightened, embarrassed and I didn’t want people judging me or my family.

I contacted the Columba Community and arranged to attend a support and information weekend for people in my position. It was a revelation.

Through the weekend and the counselling which I attended afterwards I learnt an important lesson – I didn’t cause my husband’s problem and I couldn’t control it.

What I could do was change how I dealt with it and create a healthier home both for me and my children.’

For the first time I felt confident to speak openly and honestly with my husband about his drinking and my fears for our future.

It has been painful and difficult but I feel stronger and better equipped to cope.

Dealing with addiction is a marathon, not a sprint and nobody has a magic cure but we are taking it one day at a time.”

The programme Joanna attended was a Support and Information Programme for people concerned about a friend or loved one’s use of alcohol, drugs or gambling.

This two day programme (with follow up counselling available) has been designed by the Columba Community, the Christian charitable organisation which established the White Oaks Rehabilitation Centre at Derryvane , Muff, Co Donegal.

From their bases across Derry and Donegal the Community has over 30 years experience supporting people and families in crisis situations.

Harry Rowan is the programme facilitator. “It’s not just alcohol and illegal drugs which family members are concerned about.

“We have experienced a significant increase in people seeking advice for addiction to ‘over-the-counter’ medications in particular those that contain codeine.

“This is an analgesic which, if taken regularly, can lead to a serious dependency issue.

“Often people are not aware of the problems that exist with this drug until they are physically addicted to it.’

He continues: “It’s important to recognise how changing your own attitudes and behaviours can be the key to breaking the cycle in your family.

“If one family member acknowledges that there is a problem and reaches out for help this can begin a process of change for the whole family.

“As Christmas approaches with all the added pressures and stress it brings, this is the time to get the information and support you need to change things for you and your family.’’

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ Claire McLaughlin from Columba House said: “Funding from the International Fund for Ireland has enabled the Community to provide support for people affected by addiction and their families and loved ones.

“The two day support programme has been designed specifically for people who are worried about a friend or relative and are seeking honest answers on addiction and recovery.

“The programme deals with issues such as Enabling, Denial and Relapse and also introduces ways for loved ones to cope with the pressure and stress which addiction creates.

In addition to this programme an Addiction Advice Clinic, facilitated by a specialised addiction counsellor, is run from the Community’s base at Columba House, 11 Queen Street every Thursday.

“The Clinic provides an opportunity for people to meet with a counsellor on a one on one basis to discuss any concerns they may have and find the appropriate help either for themselves or for their loved one.

“These services are free and all enquiries are treated in the strictest confidence.

“The Clinic operates every Thursday and the next support programme will take place on Saturday 30th November and Sunday 1st December.

“Counsellor appointments and support programme places are limited and must be booked in advance via our office.’’

For further information on either of these services or to book an appointment contact Claire McLaughlin or Harry Rowan on 02871 262407 or email: columbacommuntiy@hotmail.com.