How and why did you choose your career?
Both my husband and I were born into a cult and were forbidden from taking education beyond high school, so our careers have been a bit dictated by our enforced lack of eduction. We both went to university when we were able as adult, and I retrained to be a teacher in my mid 30s.
Can you share a little about yourself? And how you started the sobriety journey?
My husband and I married in 2019 in our late 40s, and this was a second marriage for both of us. Because it had taken us both 30 years from birth to escape the cult we both had significant alcohol problems. When we got married these came into sharp focus and we realised that our very young marriage would not survive if we didn’t stop drinking. We tried for a few months to reduce our alcohol intake but it became really clear very quickly that once we had one drink we couldn’t stop. We finally stopped after a week long bender when my husband got so ill he thought he was going to die.
How did you find your relationship with God & how did it help you with sobriety?
Because we were born into a cult based in the Christian faith, and we were blackmailed into not leaving at the threat of losing our entire family and social network, when we finally left in our 30s we both became atheists. We were not given a choice about a belief in god, and we were told that if we stopped believing we would be destroyed by god at Armageddon, and before that our family and friends would never be allowed any contact with us again. This is what happened, and losing our support network probably contributed to our alcohol problems. Our realisation that the cruel spiteful punishing god we had been forced to worship did not exist helped us start to take more responsibility for our own lives and eventually stop drinking.
Do you think ACOA’s ( adult children of alcoholics) should drink even though they don’t have an alcohol problem?
It’s a difficult question. I cant imagine anything worse than being a child reliant on an alcoholic parent, It must be terrifying and unstable. I think ACOAs probably go one of two ways, they either hate alcohol for what it has done to their family, or they copy the terrible pattern of drinking. I would never tell anyone what to do about their own drinking, as I know it never had any effect on me, until I was ready to quite myself, but I think in general drinking less is ALWAYS a good idea. Drinking only ever gets worse as far as I can see, and its a terrible slippery slope to get caught on.
What are your thoughts on the alcoholism addiction problem in America? I feel like it’s out of control.
My husband and I are UK and I think the UK has a terrible drinking culture. Everthing social revolves around alcohol and its hard to think of an activity that doesn’t have alcohol at its centre. Brits have a terrible reputation in Europe for being out of control drinkers. I don’t know what America is like, and I know the legal age to drink there is higher than in the UK so in that respect I find America quite old fashioned. I think reducing drinking needs to be tackled through good education.
Do you have any alcoholics in your family?
Oddly there is no history of heavy drinking in my family, but my husband had his two main male role models as regular drinkers, which in hindsight was probably a problem. Neither of them caused problems in the family though due to drinking, no instability or arguments, no lack of money or work problems. However, one of them died recently in his early 70s from alcoholism, so it became a problem for that man after he retired.
What are some of your best mindfulness skills that you have seen work on various people?
I personally try to exercise gratitude every day, I make a conscious point of noting small things that make me happy, a lovely tree, a nice cloud formation, a kiss from my son, the fact that i am healthy and can go to work every day and provide a nice home for my family, a good home cooked meal. I find this keeps me looking forward to being sober every day so that I can notice these things with a clear mind, and not through the haze and exhaustion of alcohol.
What are 3 signs of resilience you see in yourself?
Always looking for solutions to problems – I refuse to be beaten by life;
Having escaped a mind controlling cult and freeing my children to have a happy fulfilling life full of their own choices
Making a conscious decision to be happy and see the good and wonder in life
Which resources (books, blogs, etc) have you noticed have been helpful throughout your career?
The resources that helped me stop drinking were:
This Naked Mind by Annie Grace
The Unexpected Job of Being Sober by Catherine Gray
The book that has helped me most in my life is Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron.
What do you recommend for people that have no money to pay for therapy or unable to drive THEMSELVES to a self help class?
I would tell them to go to the Bottled Up website. Its free, its amazing, it is the most powerful compassionate caring loving programme to help people help themselves get alcohol free, and there is an incredibly supportive private discussion group there.
What would you say to a child that is having to deal with an alcoholic parent ?
This is such a hard question. Children are powerless until they can leave a toxic situation. I would have to say they need to talk to someone at school, but I know they would feel disloyal to their parents and they would feel scared of being taken away from their parents.
I would like to say they could talk to someone at church, but from my own experience and that of hundreds of people I know, religious groups are more invested in protecting the reputation of their church and god than of taking children’s allegations seriously. They are usually disbelieved because their parents are ‘respectable members or leaders of the church’ or they are co-opted into silence and told god will deal with it. If there is any neglect or emotional or physical abuse going on they really need to get external help from school or social services or the police..
What else would you like to share with our readers?
It is possible to stop drinking. It is possible to change, even if it feels impossible. at least 1/3 of problem drinkers are able to stop with no professional help.
What would you like to see on a blog that is for adult children of alcoholic parents? or a blog about sobriety?
Resources that have helped other people are always good to share. and inspirational stories of people who have found the joy in becoming alcohol free.
What are your thoughts in regards to diet and addiction?
I feel like all the same issues around dieting exist around drinking. It is not because people are weak or wicked that they eat and drink. We need to be more compassionate with people who are struggling with problems.
What would you tell someone who is to ashamed or embarrassed to get help ?
I would tell them to look at some support groups and discussion boards without joining in, and they will see how many people are happy to have stopped drinking and that there is nothing to be ashamed of, any more than someone should be ashamed of having cancer or another illness.
What are some tips you can offer to ACOA’s ( adult children of alcoholics)?
Unfortunately I don’t have anything to offer here because I was not the child of an alcoholic parent and I managed my own drinking in a way that did not have a big impact on my family when they were growing up. But I would say this has got to be one of the worst life experiences anyone could ever have, being the child of someone with a terrible addiction. I wish I could hug every ACOA and say sorry for the terrible things they have had to suffer.
For more from Louise, listen to her podcast, A Week Sober.