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Using drink to cope – a Carer’s story: Alcohol Awareness Week 16 – 22 November

Caring for someone you love can be extremely rewarding but for others it can be incredibly demanding and all encompassing with a glass of wine at the end of the day a welcome release. But what if just one glass of wine becomes more and starts to become so bad that you start hiding your drinking habits? One Carer candidly shared her experiences in an article in The Independent. Here is her story.

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has told me they admire me for the sacrifices I’ve made to care for my dying mother. Their praise makes me feel sick with guilt. Few people know that sometimes, I resent my role – and drink an entire bottle of vodka most nights after my mum has gone to bed.

I became a carer – if I dare call myself that – three years ago when I was fired from my job in sales and, unable to afford my rent, returned home to live with my mother. It soon became apparent her health was deteriorating: whenever she got out of a chair, her joints seized, and she shrieked in agony.

Our relationship also became tense and frequently erupted into furious arguments, which typically centred around her disapproval of my drinking a bottle of chardonnay every night. One night, she screamed at me that my father, who died when I was seven, had been an alcoholic and I was just like him. I still don’t know if this is true.

Not long after this incident, my mother was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in her spine: although the condition is terminal, she could live for years and will require full-time care. Despite our arguments, she is the most important person in the world to me and the thought of losing her is devastating.

My two brothers (who my mum refers to as her “pride and joy”) have been little help, which left me with sole responsibility for cooking, cleaning and dispensing her cocktail of medication.

As her health declined, I needed to help with bathing and take her to the toilet. The sight of someone I love being so frail is devastating. On nights when her pain is particularly severe, she asks me to sleep in her bedroom, which doesn’t offer much privacy when you’re 40 years old.

I would do anything for her, my mum, but the stress can be relentless, and the house sometimes feels like a pressure cooker. My drinking worsened and I switched from wine to litre bottles of vodka. To disguise the extent of my drinking, I hid these bottles in the laundry room.

The first time I shoved a bottle of vodka in the laundry basket, I could no longer deny to myself that I was, and still am, an alcoholic.

However appalling my actions sound, I’m convinced my habits never place my mum in jeopardy – I’d move out if they did. From the research I’ve done, I now know I fit the profile of a high-functioning alcoholic: I always care for her well no matter how much I’ve had to drink.

I hope anyone thrust unexpectedly into a caring role lets people know if they’re struggling. Things could have been different for me (and my mum) if I’d been honest sooner.

If you are a Carer and are struggling, please know that you are not alone, support is out there. Please call the Birmingham Carers Hub on 0333 006 9711 to explore the whole range of support on offer to help you in your caring role. We are here for you, every step of the way.