'I was an alcoholic mother'

Niki Shisler

Journalist and author Niki Shisler, from London, sought help for her alcoholism when she realised she could no longer take care of her son.

“I was never a binge drinker. I was very much a 'maintenance' drinker. I was drinking round the clock. My friends afterwards all said, 'We never saw you drunk,' and I told them, 'No, you actually never saw me sober.'

"At first, like most people, I enjoyed alcohol. There's a reason why you get addicted to something. It's because it's fun at first.

"It's hard to say when I crossed the line from social to problem drinking but by the age of 32 it had reached a point where I'd find myself sitting in the bathroom at 8.30am pouring hidden vodka into a cup of tea.

"Once you get to that stage, denial becomes impossible. Nonetheless, even then it took some time to find the courage to deal with the problem.

"It's hard to face up to the shame of something like that, especially when none of the people around you know how bad it is. I was very good at hiding my drinking.

"I had my first son, Joey, when I was 24 and split with his father a year later. My next relationship, and the one where my drinking really took off, was abusive and violent.

"I tried to shelter Joey from the worst of it, but there's no doubt that on occasion he saw things he shouldn't have. He saw me get hurt physically, as well as all the emotional abuse I got.

'So unhappy'

"By the time he was seven, Joey was pretty much living with my mother full-time. I had split with my partner by this point, but it was my inability to care for Joey that was the final spur to get me into recovery.

"A few days after my 33rd birthday I was going over to visit Joey at my mum's and as I started to walk towards her house, I got the feeling in my throat that I was going to cry. I could feel the tears rising, almost like I was going to be sick. As soon as I got in the door, I burst into tears.

"I was sitting on the floor with my mum, crying and just saying over and over, 'I'm just so unhappy'. That was the point when my mum said, 'Why don't you phone Alcoholics Anonymous?' I went to my first meeting that evening and I haven't had a drink since.

"Joey was eight when I got sober. I moved in with my mum rather than uproot him. I had to rebuild my relationship with him, to make him understand that I wasn't going to let him down again, and that he could trust me.

"I don't miss alcohol, but I do miss the taste and experience. I miss having a nice crisp rosé on a lovely summer's day, or a really nice glass of wine when you're having a great Sunday roast. I can never have another drink. It's never too late, but the sooner you tackle your problem the better."

Page last reviewed: 24/10/2014

Next review due: 24/10/2016

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Media last reviewed: 07/08/2014

Next review due: 07/08/2016

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