“Couples who get drunk together, stay together” – the headline caught my eye. The piece was reporting on a study of carried out by the University of Michigan which looked at the drinking habits of couples. In fact, rather than finding that couples who drink are happier, the researchers found that couples with similar drinking habits are happier. So, if neither of you drink, the outcome is the same as if you both enjoy a tipple. Not quite the same as the headline suggests.
Mr So and I have been together since our late teens. When we were at university we did the usual student thing of drinking and this continued after we graduated. We went to plenty of boozy parties, nights out on the town, hen/stag dos and weddings. At that time drinking was fun. We didn’t drink every night and the hangovers, which were only occasional, felt worth it at the time.
As time went on and we had our daughters things settled down a bit. I didn’t drink at all during either pregnancy and I didn’t miss it one jot. Mr So didn’t really drink either.
Gradually, my drinking started to increase. I had a period of severe postnatal depression and while I was waiting for a psychiatric bed I kept myself going by drinking to oblivion. I remember it was Christmas time and I had been told I could be admitted after New Year. That was the worst Christmas ever.
Mr So was still drinking but not in the same way as me. He has always been able to take it or leave it. Looking back I think Mr So drank as much as he did because I kept giving him drinks. His joining in with me made my drinking OK and gave me permission to carry on. We were having fun, right ? – just like in our student days.
Mr So began to comment on my drinking more which made me feel very defensive and to go to greater and greater lengths to conceal exactly how much I was consuming. After a couple of drinks, I told myself I was more fun, more confident and more attractive. In fact in reality I was a bit of a mess. I became more argumentative and my emotions were all over the place. Towards the end of my drinking I hated the way alcohol was making me feel but I didn’t know how else to be.
Mr So was surprised when I told him that I was stopping drinking and I was going to ask our GP for help – we were away with friends at the time. He didn’t understand why I needed to ask our GP. When I said I couldn’t stop drinking on my own, I think he started to get the picture, just a bit.
Mr So stopped drinking the day after me which means that he is now on Day 116. He hasn’t had any problems at all. He has just turned his drinking switch to “off” and that has been that. No looking back. Although it has been straightforward for him, Mr So has seen how much I have struggled. He has been with me every step of the way.
Mr So likes to tell people we have stopped drinking. I am less keen because I know I stopped drinking because I had to, because I had a problem, because I have an addiction. I’m not ready to share that with the world and I don’t want Mr So to share it on my behalf, even though I know he does it because he is proud.
Stopping drinking had definitely brought us closer together. We often observe how something would have been different if we were still drinking – for example last Friday we were rescuing a baby bird our cat had caught. We had to retrieve the bird from the centre of a bush and take it to the local wildlife rescue centre. We executed the rescue calmly and efficiently. If we had been drinking lets just say the process would have been more fraught.
The time we spend together as a couple and as a family is better and we really do have fun together. In a few weeks we are going on holiday for the first time since we stopped drinking. I am so looking forward to it.
So as far as I am concerned, perhaps the headline should read “Couples who get sober together, stay together” ?