I never saw drinking as a problem

Growing up in KZN and had a childhood where I did not want for anything materially. My father was an alcoholic and although intellectually, I knew this, I did not really understand what that meant. But seeing the unhappiness this brought my mother, I swore I would never be like him.

drugs and drinking as a problem

My father was, and remains a very social animal. We were always surrounded by his friends and heavy drinking was the norm. Although I despised my father’s drinking, bizarrely I never saw drinking as a problem, or a danger, for me.

I studied law at a university that was classified informally as one of the big “drinking varsities” and I took it upon myself to do my bit for the maintenance of that reputation. For the most part, though, I was a good student – I attended classes, I never failed any subjects and I tutored younger students.

By the time I started varsity, my parents had divorced and I lived with my mother. I moved to Joburg with my husband (boyfriend at the time) in the early 2000s and started my articles at a prestigious law firm. But not living with my mother meant that I had the freedom to drink as I had never had before.

Fast forward a decade or so, I was married to the man I had dated since varsity and was now a partner at another prestigious firm. That role came with heavy pressure and I started drinking heavily, mostly in secret, to cope with the stress and to dull the constant anxiety I felt. It got to a point where I couldn’t leave the house in the mornings without having a drink. I excused this behaviour by convincing myself that I had to do it to deal with what had now become overwhelming anxiety. The more I had, though, the more I needed just to get through the day.

I was caught out drinking at work by one of my colleagues, who told my husband, and my secret was out. I attended an outpatient recovery program so that I could, in my mind, regain control of my drinking. I still didn’t understand what being an alcoholic meant, and I had absolutely no intention of quitting for any length of time. On the face of it, I was a model patient in the program, I jumped through the hoops and said all the right things. But as soon as I was done, I started drinking again.

A couple of years later I fell pregnant and gave birth to a little girl. I found the first few months of being a mother very difficult. I returned to work and being a perfectionist, I struggled to find a balance between being a good lawyer and a good mother, not to mention a good wife. I think that was the first thing to go. Before long I was back to my old drinking tricks – although this time I thought I was smarter. When I was confronted about my drinking, I simply denied it. Never mind that I reeked of alcohol most of the time.

Eventually, I couldn’t take the pressure anymore, and I resigned from my job, citing the reasons as not being able to cope with the stress and wanting to spend more time with my daughter. But more time on my hands and no professional responsibilities meant that I drank from dawn until dusk, and continued to deny that I had a problem. I basically handed over the raising of my daughter to my husband and our nanny and devoted my energy to drinking in “secret”.

drinking as a problem

Early one morning, about a year after I had resigned, my brother arrived at my house and told me he wasn’t leaving until I agreed to go to rehab. By this time, I was out of excuses and out of energy to try and think up any more. I was terrified. I knew my marriage was going to end and that I would lose my daughter if I didn’t do something drastic. I finally had the gift of desperation.

I checked into Houghton House on a cold afternoon in the middle of winter. I was scared and felt beaten. During the month I spent in the in-patient program, with the help of the counsellors and my fellow addicts and alcoholics, and the love and support of my family, I was finally able to get honest and face the reality of my disease. Being in a safe space, surrounded by people with the same affliction meant that I could drop my pretences and reveal my true self. I was ready to fight. Fight for my daughter, fight for my marriage and fight for my family. But most importantly, I was ready to fight for myself.

Today, over four years later, I am grateful and proud to say that I am still clean and sober. But I know that I can only stay this way with hard work, humility and vigilance, so I still attend weekly group counselling at Houghton House. I continue to enjoy abundant gifts of recovery. I have a beautiful daughter, a husband who is one in a million, a happy home and a job I love. I know that whatever I put before my recovery I will lose. Life is still stressful and motherhood is still hard, but Houghton House and my program of recovery have given me the tools to deal with life’s challenges without turning to alcohol.

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