Bottled Up

Help and Support for people living with an alcoholicProfessional therapists bringing you their 
unique experience of both sides of the problem.

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Living with an alcoholic: Secrecy and shame

18 Jun 2013 7:46 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)
Here is another in our series of videos.  This is one that we believe people in who live with an alcoholic will identify with - the secrecy and shame.

As before please leave us your comments, we always like to hear from you.


  • 19 Jun 2013 1:33 AM | Stephanie
    Excellent Very helpful Thank you
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  • 19 Jun 2013 7:08 PM | Rosy
    First of all let me say I love your necklace Lou. Secondly, I got a lot out of this video. Even with a drinker son there is great secrecy and shame as every conversation no matter how short or lengthy with him becomes an argument that is not intended, however within earshot of those around me either in-house or outside or in public. I have tended to shut-down and to not discuss anything with him. The shame is that I don't want others to hear what would be a nice and normal conversation turn into a brawl if I don't retreat. The secrecy is to not let others know there is a problem and to talk in public to my drinker or not to invite my drinker with us on excursions. Even a simple car ride can turn into an "event". I don't allow my son's drinking to ruin things for me and my husband but I tend to keep things under lock and key. Is this wrong? Exposing my drinker would ultimately cause a great deal of upheaval in the neighborhood and escalation on his part. I've learned not to escalate but to walk away. Even so, it's a tricky and sticky situation to endure. I don't wish to expose others to my problems but tend not to deal with it and as you mentioned this is not necessarily the way to go about things. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome.
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  • 21 Jun 2013 4:36 PM | Anonymous
    My husband is a solitary drinker and usually doesn't get drunk in social situations so I don't worry about that. He was a problem drinker long before I met him so I have never felt any responsibility for his drinking even on the very few times that he tried to make me feel like I contributed to it because of a fight or something. I've always told him I will never, ever take any responsibility for his drinking. I never had any real experience with alcoholism before I met him.

    The problem is that people are VERY judgmental about alcoholism so I feel like people will think I'm stupid for marrying him. It's not like I didn't know he was an alcoholic. I didn't think I was going to change him, but I guess I did HOPE he would improve. In fact he has cut back quite a bit but is still struggling. He isn't denying the problem and what it does to him and us, but he hasn't reached the point of being able to stop.

    I have mentioned it to about 3 people we both know. He doesn't know that and I feel like I betrayed him, but sometimes you feel so upset you just have to talk to someone. He DOES know I have mentioned it in counselling. I told him if I'm going to get counselling, I have to tell them about our relationship and what affects it or there's no point in going.

    There are a lot of assumptions made about someone who has chosen to stay with an alcoholic. For example, one counsellor (whom I only saw once) assumed that i had low self esteem because I was with an alcoholic. Well, I don't. I'd say I have pretty normal self-esteem. The counsellor made me feel like I was some kind of an idiot for being with this person. Not helpful. They also assume that all alcoholics are abusive, either verbally or physically. That is not my personal experience.

    I also try to hide it when I'm reading about alcoholism and stuff, but he has seen me do it from time to time and it doesn't hurt as a reminder that though it's his problem, it has an effect on both of us.

    Sorry for the rambling post. In a nutshell, I'm secretive about it because he is. I'm secretive about it because I don't want to be judged and I don't want him to be judged. I feel shame because that's what I'm supposed to feel according to society.
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All material copyright Lou Lewis and John McMahon © 2013

All photographs by Cassia Lewis
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