Welcome to the bottled-up public blog

In this Blog we hope to be able to discuss some issues that are relevant to living with an alcoholic.  We invite you to make a contribution to the discussion through the comments facility on the Blog.  However we must make it clear that, much as we might like to, we cannot provide detailed answers to personal questions through this Blog.  So please do not leave personal questions in the comments section.

This is a website for people dealing with serious life issues.  Please be respectful and do not post spam or adverts for unrelated services.  If you do they will be deleted immediately!

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  • 07 Sep 2017 4:14 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    An alcoholic affects at least 3 other people. Here 2 of them talk about the aftermath of alcoholism.

    Ironically, it all started with Big Bang Theory - The Guitarist Amplification (Season 3, Episode 7).

    Relating to a character in a comedy isn't something I expect to happen. Even more so something that would emotionally affect me in the way it did. What I'm talking about is Shelden Cooper's problems with arguments. The whole episode revolves around everyone he knows arguing and him bailing or trying to block out the noise. There is also mention that his dad drank (and was probably an alcoholic), his parents argued a lot and also, while not mentioned in the episode but still relevant to me is his dad died when he was young. It's the only time in the show's 10 seasons that I've really related to him on a sense of alcoholism and his parents’ behaviour affecting him. What for most people would seem like a laughable collection of incidences of Sheldon blocking out arguments for me was a truly relatable 20 minutes. Showing how events from your childhood can imprint on you. I recently found myself zoning out while watching another TV show in which two adults (parents) we're arguing.  I ended up turning it down and focusing on something else, because the whole scene made me uncomfortable… no, anxious, terrified. 

    I'm not a confrontational person, I hate arguing and I hate being around arguments. In any format or sense. Even outbursts of anger or frustration towards menial things can be a trigger. For me it's a strange experience, it's almost like I lose 20 years. I'm a child again trying to find any way to block out or escape the noise. I remember as a child I'd either go to the top of the stairs, shut the door and just try and zone out, or I'd end up in my mum's music room because it felt like a safe place. I could not tell you how many times I had my head buried under pillows while I curled up on the sofa. Even now at 28 when I feel remotely attacked or like someone is trying to argue with me I feel myself shrinking into my childhood state of fear. I'm crying before I can even register it, I'm scared, so scared of the situation I'm in. 

    In a way I think it's beneficial that I'm not argumentative, that I will try to solve problems by talking. I have been known to get really snappy and scream in these situations because I'm so freaked out that it's almost a reflex reaction. However, if it's reciprocated in any way I almost find it unbearable. At this time, I always try and remove myself from the situation. What often looks like me snapping and then refusing to actually address it is my way of not only defending myself but protecting other people from my reactions.

    On the other hand however, I think it's very unhealthy to be this way, I think it leaves you open to being taken advantage of. Which without going into detail, I have been in this situation many times. It also leaves me unable to fight for or defend myself, because the fear or raised voices is worse than setting someone straight or worse, losing them completely. 

    But where does this leave me? I let myself get bullied because it's easier then defending myself, I've lost partners because It's easier to walk away than to challenge them and find out why. I'm scared to make eye contact with strangers in case they take it the wrong way and try to start trouble.  I've resorted to snapping when I'm anxious and then wishing more than anything I could take it back. I'm terrified of having children, for many reasons, one of which is how would I challenge them, or discipline them? I've joked to my husband numerous times that'd I'd leave him in an instant if he cheated on me. Would I? Would I even fight him? I don't know, but I'm trying and that's what's important. It's a problem that I need to overcome, I will not let it defeat me.  Not today anyway.

    Lou (mum) writes

    Hard though it is to read what my daughter has written, as a therapist I know it is time for her to process those very painful family years of my late husbands’ alcoholism. For a long time, because she adored her father and greatly mourned his death, maybe it felt disloyal to his memory to own these tangled and difficult emotions. Sadly though, the psychological toll of our family life is still painfully present in the depression and anxiety she has courageously battled. Like all of us, she is a survivor. Like all of us she needs to process the pain and let it go. So the therapist within me rejoices.

    The mother heart of course dances to another tune!! To view how much she struggled, of course is a great ache and distress to me. In the end, I learned to stop those endless remonstrations with my drinker; the “punishing” and “pleading” that I realised were making matters worse not better.

    But I was often beside myself with what I can only call vexation at a deep level. Let rip I did; and long and loudly at times. The fact that my hurt, hurt her, was another awful aspect of an already awful situation. My daughter (with whom I thankfully have a deep and close relationship,) understands I did the best I could in often horrendous circumstances. Just as we both understand that it wasn’t enough to protect her from those times that she now eloquently and agonisingly expresses in her reflective writing.

    However; I choose to protect her now. I choose to stand steadfast of heart whilst she expresses her pain and not allow myself to go into self-recrimination, or deepen the feelings of guilt that were so much a part of being the parent whose partner is a problem drinker. If I use her confessions to salt my old guilty wounds she will pick it up as she knows me very well, and loves me enough to close down her growing self-awareness.

    No. She needs me to be strong. Strong in my love for her and more importantly strong in my love for myself. If she does not blame me then I will not blame me either. ‘What was’, may be far removed from what should have been, but we both did the best we could with what we knew at that time. Looking back, I wish I were more contained and that she had been more able to reach out to me. However, we share our story now so that your stories may turn out a little better than ours

  • 16 Aug 2017 5:19 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    The self-help field has become exactly that - self help. But I want to help my drinker instead!

    If you have been around the field of recovery for a while this may not be a question that you would ever verbalise in public. You cannot change your drinker (drones the Greek Chorus in the background); change must be centred around yourself and your own world. ‘What can I do for them’ has become an outlawed question. We are told that the proper and correct question in this chaotic world in which we attempt to survive is ‘what can I do for me?’

    Don’t get me wrong here; I personally think the latter is a really good and potent question. Answering this question wisely will bring a bit of health back into our exhausted bodies, a bit of calm into seemingly endless anxiety and a bit of fun back into the intense battleground that is often our  relationship and families.

    I am a great believer in self care, even if I am, like many therapists, slightly more adept at the theory than the practical. I believed we were worth it long before L’Oréal took affirmation to a new marketing level and turned it into make-up for healthy egos!!!

    But the real truth; if we dare to get it out on the table, is that our partners drinking is our true North. Send us on that relaxing walk crucial in our new search for well-being and half way through we’ ll be wondering if cousin Trudy could persuade our wife to go to AA because our entreaties have fallen on deaf ears. Walk out of our friend’s anniversary party and go home alone cos he s drinking too much. (Hooray for us!!We finally managed to achieve that firm boundary we’ve recently been in training for,) but almost immediately after a moment of triumphant self-congratulation we start worrying in case he is too hung over to get to work tomorrow. He is still there in the party but also coming home with us in our head. We diligently train ourselves to stop rescuing our partner, putting his congealing meal in the bin as we promised him we would but then we’ll spend half an hour trying to find the Chinese Takeaway menu so its around when he comes home hungry.

    In short; we may have learned our lines………I need to care for ME. I need to address my OWN needs. It’s MY life that is important……… but our heart beats to a different tune deep down inside. Give us a healthy self esteem, a firm approach to boundaries and a PHD in emotional literacy and recovery but  many of us would trade it all in a heartbeat for some powerful answers for our alcoholic.

    Perhaps its time to ‘live out’; and scream it loudly from the top of a city skyscraper……


     My particular story is that I lived with an alcoholic for many years, and now work as a therapist with partners and families of problem drinkers. Maybe I’m sticking my neck out a bit but I fear at times, that in highlighting the self care that is so obviously lacking with those that partner with alcoholics we have (by mistake) enforced a silence upon the true desire that motivates most searches for help. The spouse, the partner, the son, the daughter, the mum, the dad, the person we loved that used to make our hearts sing and our life better is being lost; stranded in dependence and WE WANT THEM BACK. Treasure hunters is not what we do, to be analysed and put away with; its who we are!!

     So maybe its kinder and wiser to work with what we know than the perspective we hope to produce. To point out to our beleaguered clients that they are not going to get very far with The Quest in the exhausted state they are in. That it would be good to take time to eat, rest and equip themselves for the journey ahead.

    Maybe its kinder and wiser to explain that some of the paths they have been taking are circular routes that bring them back to the same place again and again and that there are other maps that have been navigated previously that can take miles off their journey. It is definitely kinder and wiser to explain that they can’t actually force their drinker to join them on the recovery trail but certainly he’s more likely to consider doing it if he sees them empowered and confident and picks up that they actually WANT him to come along because they care for him and miss him.

    And if I may return to the initial subject of our self care, I confidently predict that if we also take on board the firm endorsement to spend more time with our mates, our family and ourselves we will remember how good it is to engage with life and some of the meaningful things that got lost along the way. There are many sorts of relationships that make our world a good place to be, other treasures that could be hunted and found, and other journeys to be taken. Believe me; I am right about this one. If we can find life in the middle of drink-chaotic relationship then of course we can find life beyond it.

     Whether we stay or go; or end up in the very common position of emotionally swinging wildly between these two, there are some very helpful lessons we can learn along the way that can form and shape our inner lives richly in the years ahead. Compassion and healthy anger; commitment and loyalty balanced by health boundaries and appropriate letting go. We don’t have to be stuck just because our drinker is, but nor do we have to walk away and let them squirm just because someone has told us that we should. The heart that loves, tries to find a way, before it walks away and there is no shame in that.

    However; I urge you to ‘love well’ and to take time to find out what that looks like in a drinking environment. Much that is most helpful to promote change where there is alcohol abuse is counter intuitive to what works in the normal arena of a loving relationship. If we’re determined to make our drinker our specialist subject, then we must make sure we have the knowledge and understanding that you need to make it through.

    Except of course for the caveat that must always be heeded. If your partner is abusing you or your children with physical or sexual violence the way is not through but out. As soon as you possibly can.

    For more thoughts, strategies, help and support join Bottled Up.

  • 27 Jul 2017 12:50 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)


    Anyone who has followed Bottled Up or read our posts over the years will know that we have always maintained that there is not nearly enough help and support for families living with an alcoholic.  Finally, we have been given the opportunity to make a small difference.

    For almost a year now John has been helping out at a project in Axminster which was set up to help addicts and alcoholics.  The initiative came initially from the police who became tired of arresting addicts only for nothing to be done to help them and then having to re-arrest the same addicts yet again.

    The police petitioned the county treatment agencies who agreed to provide a service locally.  The council then provided a premises and Axminster Churches Together (ACT churches of all denominations) provided the hosting.  As well as an established group, there is a drop in where people can self-refer.  The result has been a great success on many levels.

    One of the highlights of the Hub has to be the social interaction that occurs.  As hosts ACT provide tea and coffee prior to the group sessions and throughout the day.  However, the main event (gastronomically speaking at least) is the lunch.  ACT make soup, bacon sandwiches and cakes. The offerings depend to some extent on what the local supermarket, Tesco, donate that day.  They offer the group their 'waste' products, that is products that are passing their sell by date that day.  So sometimes there is large quantities of fruit and vegetables, sometimes cakes and cookies, almost always bread.

    It has been wonderful to see the amazing socialising influence that a bacon sandwich can produce.  When we first started the groups most of the users would come out of their support and leave.  Then they might grab some food as they left, then they might sit and eat something and leave.  Now they sit and eat and talk to each other, to the therapists and the hosts.  There is a real social atmosphere round the table, which in itself is an important step on the road to recovery.


    Now that the Hub has been established, the infrastructure and the team are all in place, we felt that it was time to start to provide support for the families.  This is something that has been on our hearts for some time now and at last we have the opportunity to make it happen.  What is really great is the support from the whole team.  Everyone involved in the Hub recognises the lack of help and support for families and want to put something in place.

    So we have started a group using the ethos and resources of Bottled Up.  At present the attendance is small but we are so pleased that the group is actually open and we hope that it will go from strength to strength and will provide the much needed support to the families that need it.

    The group meets at Pippins, Lyme Road, Axminster, EX13 5AZ.  Times are 10.30am till 12.15pm.  If you need/want any more information you can contact us through this website.

    Many thanks to Anders from Pullman's Weekly News for running the article publicising the group.

    Find out more about Lou and John

  • 19 Jul 2017 6:14 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Related image

    If you are reading this then you have probably found Bottled Up when you were searching for information.  Most people who come here are looking for two things that they believe can change the alcoholic in their lives.  You are probably looking for the same things.

    The first thing that most people want is information on whether their partners are actually alcoholics or not.  Deep down, they believe that they are but they just want confirmation to be absolutely sure.  So, if they already know the answer then why are they still asking the question, are they hoping that the answer will change?

    Nice as that might be, they are not actually expecting a different answer this time.  Really the reason they keep asking that question is linked to the second reason they come to the website, to find a tool, a strategy, a word, a phrase, anything, that will help to change their drinker’s behaviour.  Because, if they can find the ‘ultimate truth’ that their drinker is really an alcoholic then maybe this time they can convince him/her that there is a genuine problem there that needs to be addressed.  That, with this proof they can break through the denial and influence the drinker to seek help.

    Most of the people who come here are, understandably, looking for that precious bit of information, that lever that will change everything.  You see for most people who come to this website, and other websites like it, they believe that the key to a happy future lies in the drinker changing, no other changes are required.  So, the total focus is often on that goal which means that they miss the best strategy that they have at their disposal, the strategy that has been shown to have the best chance of achieving the change that they want.

    The Best Way to Change an Alcoholic

    Does the above description of visitors to our website sound like you?  Are you here to find information and tools to diagnose and change your drinker?  Well the good news is you can find them here.  We have lots of information in articles, ebooks, how to guides, videos and audios; so no shortage of information.  However, for that information to work for you, or for you to even look at it and consider it valuable, may require a change of mindset on your part, not just your drinker’s.

    Our experience of working in this area for a decade now, which is strongly supported by current research, is that drinkers are more likely to change when their partner gets help and support for themselves.  I know that was not what you came to Bottled Up to hear but before you click away from this website to some other that will tell you a different story, just give us a minute.

    Whether you want the role or not, you are the adult in the relationship.  It is you who holds the relationship and/or the family together, you are the anchor.  It has been found that when the anchor gets help then there a number of positive consequences.  Firstly, for the children you getting help will result in:-

    • ·         Increased aspirations for the future
    • ·         Increased self-esteem and confidence
    • ·         Increased ability to deal with change
    • ·         Improved educational attainment

    Second for the drinker there is an indirect but strong effect that results in:-

    • ·         Increased likelihood of entering treatment
    • ·         Increased likelihood of remaining in treatment
    • ·         Increased chances of recovery
    • ·         Increased social responsibility and engagement
    • ·         Increased stability and opportunity

    Finally - for You

    • ·         Increased positive relationships inside and outside the home
    • ·         Increased participation in society
    • ·         Increased productivity at work
    • ·         Improved health and well-being

    If you look at this list and compare it against the wish list that you came to this website with, we guarantee that there is a very strong match between the two, if they are not actually identical.

    Come and Help for Yourself and the Rest Will Follow

    Come and get the help that Bottled Up has to offer; this is almost certainly the best piece of advice we can offer.  When you have help and support you are able to make better decisions and take actions that you would find difficult otherwise.  So, come and join Bottled Up and let us help and support you.  You are worth it and the results are what you are looking for – even if the method of achieving them are not.

    Join Bottled Up Now

    An alcoholic's motivation to change

  • 28 Apr 2017 11:46 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    An Alcoholic's Motivation to Change is part of the video series about an alcoholic's drinking and recovery from alcoholism.  These videos are a very personal account of my (John's) relationship with alcohol and why and how I eventually changed my life around.

    Please share this video with anyone you know who might benefit from seeing it or add a comment if you found it useful.

    Other videos in this series are.

    Why did I drink?

    An alcoholic says sorry

  • 09 Mar 2017 4:04 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Lou recorded this video for you to play when you are having a bad time.  Remember, she has been where you are and lived with an alcoholic for many years (29 to be exact).

    If you are having a bad day, play this and know that we are thinking about you, know that you matter to us.

    Warmest regards

    Lou and John

  • 27 Feb 2017 12:11 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Jo Huey has launched a business in Bournemouth, UK, helping people who are affected by someone else's drinking.  Her aim is to raise awareness of the damage that someone else's drinking can do to families and businesses.  She has plenty of experience of the issues having grown up as the child of an alcoholic.

    We have been in contact recently for a number of reasons, mainly work related.  However I could not let miss the opportunity to interview her, especially since she had just been interviewed by the BBC as part of National Children of Alcoholics' Week.  So here is her interview, completely unedited so you get the full impact of the way alcoholism affected her family and herself.

    Jo tells us in the interview that she has participated in a number of healing avenues that have helped her to deal with the past traumas.  A big thank you to Jo for being willing to be so vulnerable in this interview and for all the work that she does for others.

    Here is the interview.  The interview was carried out over Skype, so there may be some background noise.  Sorry about that but the speech is pretty clear.  Click on the link below and a new page will open and the audio will automatically start.  If you want to download the audio to listen to later then click on the download button on the right side of the audio player.  The file will download as a Mp3.

    Interview with Jo Huey

    Leave a comment to let us know if you found it useful.

  • 20 Feb 2017 3:37 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    If I had tried a little harder, or fought a little longer maybe my dad would have stopped drinking!

    In the UK this is National Children of Alcoholics Week.  Agreed, this is not an occasion that has penetrated the world’s consciousness in any big way.  But it is an important recognition of a large group of the population that is sadly neglected in the UK and all other countries.

    One of the members of Bottled Up wrote this moving piece about her relationship with her dad, eloquently providing us with a glimpse into her burden as rescuer of the dad she loved so much and who loved her in return.  Although this is a deeply personal article, it is a scene that has been repeated in many, many homes as children feel obliged to save their parents from themselves.

    Link to the article  I Couldn't Save my Lovely Dad from Alcoholism

    If you have suffered from someone else's drinking then joining Bottled Up could help you.  All the members have lived with a drinker, including the creators Lou and John.  Join us now

    Please share this link to help us raise awareness of the issues of living with an alcoholic and the lack of help available.
  • 17 Feb 2017 12:46 PM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    You probably don't know it (I didn't) but this week is National Adult Children of Alcoholic's week. In recognition the BBC interviewed the adult child of an alcoholic (Jo Huey) about her life. You can find the interview here

    Unfortunately the interview is a bit short but if you want to find out more then you can go to her website and see how she helps others in the same situation as herself. http://www.johuey.co.uk/

    I had the pleasure of interviewing her this week and will post the videos of the interview in the members' section of the website soon.

  • 02 Feb 2017 11:34 AM | John McMahon (Administrator)

    Some time ago, I was asked by some of the members of Bottled Up to talk about my drinking and recovery and at the time I promised to record a series of videos.  This video is part of that series.  In this video I discuss some of the influences on my drinking, the circumstances of my ‘first drink’ and how it made me feel.

     I talk about how, for me, alcohol was like some magic elixir that made me feel so special, that gave me power.  That, when I found alcohol, I found the bit that God had left out.  However, my drinking changed when I got married.  My wife did not like my drinking companions and banished them from the house.  This led to me increasingly drinking alone which led more and more to binge drinking as I tried to avoid the withdrawals that were happening more frequently.

    At the end of my drinking I hated the person that I had become and I was drinking to blot that person out which led to even more self-loathing.  Eventually the alcohol stopped doing what I craved and no longer took the fear away.  At the end of my drinking my boss said something that inspired me that I could change.

    Leave a comment if you found this video interesting.

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