Expat Life and Alcohol

October 27, 2010 by  
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Being an expat and a trailing spouse is tough. I am one. That is why I fully understood what this woman has gone/is going through. And I admire her bravery for sharing her story…Thanks, B!

To all Recovering Moms in Switzerland, this is for you.

I love red wine.  The way it looks, smells, and tastes.  I love the way it brings people together with smiles, toasts, and pleasant wishes.  Alcohol….a source of celebration and happiness for many. Not for me.  Alcohol brings me physical pain (in the form of hangovers or unforced self-injuries),  guilt (from drinking again after vowing to stop), and shame (from having done or said something I regretted while drunk).  I also feel shame because I want to stop but can’t.  

I have chosen to remain anonymous because I am not yet ready to tell the world about my horrible and dangerous disease and we all know how small Switzerland is. I have only recently shared this with my immediate family and the only reason I did was because I had reached the point of either getting help or dying.  My daughters are still young so dying is not an option. They deserve better than this.  I did not bring them into this world to leave them motherless in a few years because of alcohol abuse.  I wanted to speak up because I know there are many of you out there who are in the same boat as I and are afraid to reach out and get help. If you think you have a problem you need to know that you are not alone.  There are many of “us” out there.   I didn’t have a problem back in college or graduate school. I partied like everyone else did, I didn’t drink everyday (nor alone), and I excelled academically.  Drinking was a social thing for me.  My problems came later on when life got more serious and settled (when I married and became a mother).  

I love being a mom.  My kids are my reason for living.  I would do anything for them!  Unfortunately I started to drown in my home life.  Laundry, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, driving….there was no escape from my housekeeping duties.  Life wasn’t perfect with my husband either at times and that didn’t help. Being a SAHM (stay at home mom) or dad can be very isolating and lonely. My drinking problem started a few years ago when I would have a drink or two on some evenings (usually red wine).  I especially loved doing this while I prepared dinner.  Nothing wrong with that right?  I deserved it!  A small token after doing so much during the day and being stressed out with the kids and all of the activities I had to deal with.     As time progressed so did my drinking.  I went from one to two glasses a couple of nights during the week to several nights per week.  My alcohol intake advanced as well. One/two glasses were not enough anymore.  I reached the point (this year) where I’d end up guzzling a whole bottle and hiding the evidence from my husband deep down in the garbage bag.  My social drinking also changed: I’d continue drinking at home alone (behind my husband’s back) after we would return from a restaurant or party.  Something else I started doing? I’d chug a glass of wine while no one was watching and drink a new glass pretending to be one of them.  Yes…I would pretend to be a responsible and controlled drinker.  
A couple of years ago I started to wonder if I had a drinking problem.  Naah!  If I had a problem somebody would have pointed it out already right?  I thought: “I’m responsible. I take care of my kids and pay our bills.  I make playdates and medical appointments on time.  I’m doing my job!  I also don’t look like an alcoholic. My face isn’t red and puffy and I’m not living out of a box under a bridge, dressed up in rags. I don’t have the “shakes” or need a drink first thing in the morning.  How can I be an alcoholic?”     Oh! How I fooled myself into thinking I was normal through all of these thoughts and rationalizations!  The truth came loud and clear a few weeks ago when I got very drunk at a birthday party. I don’t remember much about the night (just little bits and pieces).  Apparently I lost it and went crazy when we arrived home. I made my girls cry that night because I had threatened to leave Switzerland (I said I would go away and never come back).  My husband had to get away from me so he left the house. My daughters started to call daddy on the phone because they thought he was going to leave them too.    After a couple of hours I ended up passing out on the couch and waking up at 2am.  I knew I had done something very bad.  I didn’t remember anything specific but I had the flashback of my girls crying big fat tears and my heart sank.  I was not able to go back to sleep and was extremely anxious the rest of the early morning.  That is when I said “enough is enough”. I knew I didn’t want to keep doing this anymore. I knew I was slowly killing myself and needed help.  So I made the decision to tell my husband about my secret drinking life and problem. I had no choice. I had wanted to do this before but I was afraid because to say the words “I am an alcoholic” is a very scary thing.  I was terrified but it was “do” or “die”.  I decided to choose life and get better for me and my family.

I am very lucky to be where I am right now.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease and it can turn bad and ugly very quickly.  The lucky ones get help before they lose their job, spouse, family or cause a major tragedy (like Diane Schuler, the mother who killed eight people including herself and four children on a NY parkway in July).  I am very blessed to still have my life and the people I love in it.
I have been sober for a few weeks now and am seeing things more clearly than ever. I urge any parent (mom or dad) who is struggling with alcohol abuse to talk to someone and reach out for help. You are not alone!   If you would like to meet other moms going through the same struggles with alcohol abuse (or if you think you might have a problem and would like to explore it further) please join our
Recovering Moms in Switzerland” online group:   health.groups.yahoo.com/group/recovering_moms_Switzerland/     (you can join anonymously if you wish)

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3 Responses to “Expat Life and Alcohol”
  1. Robby2001 says:

    For more years than I can count I have suffered from depression, some of the times I just felt down and others were so debilitating that I wasn’t able or cared to get out of bed. On July 21, 2008 it all stopped, I got sober thanks to alcohol rehab NC. I was given a new life without the horror of depression, until two weeks ago when it came back. I have to say it wasn’t as bad as it was when I was drinking and I didn’t feel the desire to drink again, but I know from dealing with it that it is a very scary place to be.

  2. Juliana says:

    This is a moving post and I identify with many aspects of it. I am an alcoholic and have been sober for many years. I know the feelings of guilt, being trapped and feeling worthless. I got well by reaching out for help from other alcoholics – but I needed alcoholics who were long term sober. Hanging around with other newly sober or still drinking alcoholics just enables the sickness. There is a saying “Two illies don’t make a Welly'”
    I encourage you to get as much help and support as you can from other recovered alcoholics. This is a progressive disease and there are so many ‘yets’ lying in wait for us.
    I do know that there is a lot of help available in Switzerland for both the suffering alcoholic and also their familes.
    There is hope if you are prepared to go to any lengths to get it. If you want to get in contact you can do so through my blog link.
    Smiles and blessings.

  3. Thanks for sharing and posting this story. Unfortunately, alcohol becomes one of the escapes that expats search out in response to isolation, overwhelm, stress, too many tolerations, etc. Recognizing the problem is a first and an extremely huge step – and finding people to support you in recovery is the next step. Good to know there is a group, dedicated to this kind of support.

    Margarita Gokun Silver
    Expatriate and Cross-Cultural Coach

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