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Jeannie's Story

Our eldest son is an alcoholic. We have recognised that fact for the past 5 or 6 years and have sought help for him during this time. As a child he was an above average student, bright, articulate and loved by not only us but the extended family. We did not use alcohol much when the children were young as it was expensive and my upbringing was such that excess alcohol use was frowned on even though I had an Irish Catholic background. I had an uncle who was an alcoholic and there were various members of my mother’s family who were confirmed or functional alcoholics. Mum was a strong woman and left us in no doubt as to the danger of drink. Dad’s family did not drink and he was openly critical of men who spent their pay on booze and their families went without. We were a bit of an anomaly in rural New Zealand in the 50s and 60s. My husband’s family were more traditional, father worked in a government job, drank most nights and the 6 o'clock swill was normal. His mum whilst a strong woman accepted the status quo as did so many women in her position. As our children grew up it became more of the norm to have a wine and a beer with dinner and so the children were more exposed to this than I had ever been. As our four sons grew up we had heavy involvement in school, church, scouts and their sporting lives. We were busy committed parents providing a stable loving environment for our kids. We had a strong extended family and a great base of friends. Our oldest son whilst a bright achiever at school was not sporty or athletic like his younger siblings so at an early stage he started working at holiday jobs. He was a hard worker and always had someone wanting him to do work for them. This period of time when he was 16 or 17 coincided with his dad having the first of several major depressive episodes. I began a full time job which entailed more responsibility and he began working for a wine company as a merchandiser at weekends and one night a week after school. A friend of ours had approached him about the job and for a few years he did very well in the role. We failed to notice his increasing dependence on alcohol and how he was making poor decisions. He started university but left after a year and started working full time for the wine company. Within 2 years he had his first DIC. Imagine my shame, I’m a nurse and have strong opinions on responsibilities relating to drinking and driving. Unfortunately, the spiral down was just beginning. Failed relationships, lost employment, a fraud charge and still drinking. We were despairing. He met up with a woman he had known before and developed a long term relationship with her, and they moved away from Christchurch following the earthquakes to start again. Sadly, like many who are addicted to substances he continued to drink. His partner chose not to keep family informed as to the extent of the problem. He became a consummate liar and was in complete denial regarding his problem. His brothers were becoming increasingly frustrated with his behaviour. Then his wife became pregnant, we were all convinced this would be the turning point, how wrong we would be.



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