It’s a new phenomenon in the world of addiction — women who are allowing a glass of wine at night to become a bottle, then two, until it gradually takes hold of their lives.
A new addiction group in Cork called LifeRing has noticed the trend — half of its members fall into this category.
CHRIS DUNNE speaks to the people behind the support group, and to one of its members, a single mum who enjoyed a nightly tipple as “a crutch” until it became a “downward spiral of bedtime wine bingeing.”
PEOPLE with an addiction are torn apart by an inner conflict — they want to continue feeding their obsession and also want to stop.
“There is a voice telling them to continue to drink, to take prescription drugs, to binge on junk food just to get through the day. And then there is the little voice deep inside that urges the addict to stop and be free to live a better life,” explains Bev Cotton, who is a convener with LifeRring
LifeRing is a new concept in addiction recovery, now operating in Cork, which helps people to empower their ‘sober self’ and reduce their ‘addict self’ through fellowship.
Unlike Alcoholics Anonymous, there is no reference to a ‘higher power or God’, but it works on positive re-enforcement of qualities we already possess.
The simple motto is: ‘We do not drink or use, no matter what.’
Bev and his wife Miriam, who live in Clonakilty, both explored LifeRing, which originated in Dublin, when Miriam was trying to overcome an addiction problem. The couple subsequently both trained as conveners for LifeRing and brought the concept to Cork.
“We are delighted to bring LifeRing to Cork,” says Miriam. “The group is anonymous and adopts a different approach to recovery from substance addiction.
“We believe in shared discussion of a problem. Believe it or not, the meetings are a lot of fun a lot of the time, and the idea is that people go away feeling good about themselves and re-invigorated with a view to maintaining sobriety. We always learn something new at meetings.”
Miriam explains that ideas and strategies are discussed among the group for someone who may be facing an event or situation where they have to resort to substance abuse to get through it.
“These occasions, like weddings or holidays, can be dangerous triggers and we try and be positive about people’s efforts to deal with them,” says Miriam.
The group sit in a circle and no member is asked to identify themselves as addicts or alcoholics. They just need to display a desire to be clean.
“Everyday triggers such as stress or anger or loneliness can lead to using a coping mechanism like alcohol,” says Bev. “We try and face what’s driving the addiction and look at another way to fix it. The group discuss possible plans and we share the journey in putting it into practice. This might involve a new hobby, a new relationship, a new friend.
“Unlike AA, who have a 12-step programme to follow in order to give up alcohol, we try and find a positive element to replace the addictive substance with something good.
“For instance,” explains Bev, “If the drinker simply has to stop off at the pub every evening on the way home from work, we suggest he try something new like going to the gym or for a walk in the park. And members in the group will volunteer to introduce them to a new interest. It’s all about coming up with a new plan and supporting that plan to deal with the void.
“The positives are huge. There is more time, more money and much more possibilities and the addict gets that within the group.
“They are not losing something, but gaining something.”
Bev says in today’s world the advertising culture often promotes and glamorises alcohol and that a new demographic is emerging.
“Half our members are women who drink wine at home simply to get through the day,” says Bev.
“Wine is cheap and available and can be addictive. Many more women are coming forward with this problem and it is apparent it is a problem in today’s society.”
HILARY, a self-employed divorcee from Carrigaline, thought she could cope fine as a single mum and bring up her 12-year-old daughter without any help.
But she didn’t figure on the lure of the wine bottle in the midst of her loneliness and grief over her failed relationship.
“I started having a glass or two after work,” says Hilary (not her real name).
“I felt I deserved it, or like the ad says; Because I’m worth it.
“But the glass or two turned into a bottle and the bottle turned into two bottles,” says Hilary.
“I remember bawling my eyes out and wondering what to do. I didn’t want to go to AA because I felt I wasn’t an alcoholic. But I resorted to alcohol as a crutch to deal with my situation and feelings of isolation. I felt so ashamed that I wasn’t able to stop.
“In the end my daughter confronted me and said that I had to get help. LifeRing literally gave me back my life.”
At LifeRing, Hilary learned she was drinking wine to go into blissful oblivion and to forget the pain she felt. She drank to change her thinking that she was a failure.
Instead of being a failure, Hilary became an addict.
“At LifeRing I discovered that there were many secret drinkers and I faced up to the fact that I had become an alcoholic,” says Hilary.
“I faced my addiction in a non-threatening group setting among compassionate people. I was shown there is a different option and I was empowered to go down that route.
“Through the group I discovered that I had an addictive personality and that it kicked in when things went horribly wrong in my life. I had reached rock bottom and the only way was up.
“I came out of a dark place and came to a place where there was no judgement, but positive options to see the light,” says Hilary.
Hilary enlisted the help of Arbour House in Cork and joined a 12-week programme to aid her recovery. She is full of praise for LifeRing.
“I never miss a Monday night meeting at Quaker House,” she says. “I love the people, the chat and the wonderful feeling that you are not alone.
“I love the fact there are all ages, male and female, and that we can all engage. I enjoy the cuppa too. It is most welcome!”
Hilary goes to the gym now and has taken up swimming with her daughter.
“I am a new woman. One that has come out of the darkness and into the light.
“LifeRing was my lifeline and I want people to know that if it gave me back my life, then it can do the same for you.”