Christine’s story

age UK sheffield

Sixty-three year-old Christine* from Sheffield was abused as a child by a member of her family and turned to drinking to cope into adulthood. She is still working and has two grown up children, but much of her life was blighted by drinking until she managed to give up 11 years ago.

Christine now volunteers with Drink Wise, Age Well and says she feels privileged when the older adults drinking problematically that she helps take her into their trust.

The stigma

Christine says her drinking really got “out of control” in her 40s. She married at 30, but found any sort of intimacy exceptionally difficult and her then husband showed little understanding.

Christine works in finance and remembers drinking three quart bottles of vodka a day while somehow managing to perform her duties at work. The stigma around drinking prevented her from confiding in all but her closest colleague though her boss had his suspicions, which Christine emphatically denied.

The turning point for Christine was a day in 2000 when no matter how much she drank she couldn’t obliterate the pain of the past. She turned to the phone book and found details for the local branch of Alcoholics Anonymous where she attended for two years.

Christine didn’t drink for the full two years, but lapsed when her marriage broke up and she found herself faced with the prospect of homelessness.

“My then husband was abusive and on the verge of throwing me out when I managed to find alternative accommodation through the local housing association”, Christine says, her voice cracking with emotion.

“The place was much in need of repair, but I saw the potential and my teenage son came with me. My daughter was by that point away at university.”

The lack of available support

For 18 months Christine’s drinking reverted back to the excesses of her pre AA days, until a friend eventually took her to her GP. Unfortunately, the hostile reaction she got left her feeling “like dirt”.

Christine says, “I told my doctor the whole story, but he was very unsympathetic and told me, ‘you got yourself into this mess; you’ll have to get yourself out’. So I returned to AA.”

Christine once again responded to the support she got from people with similar experiences.

She continues. “I did talk to a social worker about my abuse as a child, but they simply said, ‘It’s a long time ago, get over it’. There were others at the AA meetings who had also been abused and talking about it helped me come to terms with it and move on with my life.”

Eleven years later, Christine is still sober and besides working and volunteering she also looks after her 10-month old grandson.

Finding the right support

Christine doesn’t have any particular advice for people who might be drinking heavily as she says everyone is different. But she heartily recommends Drink Wise, Age Well.

“I think the work Drink Wise, Age Well does is fantastic. It’s completely tailored to the needs of older people and encourages them to open up, whether in one-to-one sessions like the ones I deliver or as part of a peer support group.

“The programme really helps you see the benefits of cutting down and provides the tools people need to help them achieve that.”

*Name and image changed to protect anonymity