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A slow downward spiral

February 19, 2024

The cost-of-living crisis and other life stresses are hitting Queensland families hard, and unfortunately, alcohol continues to be a way for many parents to cope. Yet this only leads to more issues in a downward spiral that can tear families apart.

We only have to look at the experience of one of our rural-based clients to see how this spiral can happen. Like many people, Anna didn’t set out to have a problem with alcohol.

Looking back, she sees it was a combination of factors – a troubled marriage, low self-worth, a move to an outback mining town where she felt isolated, starting a family without much support and ongoing work-related stress from running a business and living on a farm.

Any one of these factors could create high stress in a person’s life, but together, they proved overwhelming, and Anna started to drink more and more, earlier and earlier.

Anna told us that at her lowest point, she was drinking heavily each day, sometimes three to four bottles in a single session.

How did she get there?

She said her drinking had worsened after she finished breastfeeding her youngest child and had been diagnosed with postnatal psychosis. Anna recalls it was a time when she could hardly function.

“The medication I was on was putting on weight. I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t run the farm. I just kept drinking. I was miserable,” she said.

The young family moved to another rural town, another farm, but the marriage disintegrated further. Two years later, Anna finally walked away from her husband, emotionally drained, angry and with little self-worth.

Not in a well place, she said she looked to numb herself with alcohol. “Instead of after dinner, I would start drinking at 5pm,” she said.

“It was after the kids were home from school as I had to drive to get them. After that I’d hit it hard. Then it got earlier… I’d start at 4pm.”

She said it wasn’t until her GP pulled her up on her drinking and the effect it was having on her health, in particular her liver and stomach, that she made the call to Drug ARM.

And for Anna, her decision to attend Drug ARM counselling, was not so much a choice but a necessity as she faced the real and tragic prospect of losing her children.

“The doctor said you have to do something or you’re going to lose your kids. Well, the kids needed me and I couldn’t lose them, so I did it,” she said.

Fortunately, even in that rural town, Anna could access and complete 12 weeks of alcohol and other drug counselling with a clinical worker at Drug ARM, which made a huge difference to her life and that of her children.

As Anna explained, “We brought it down slowly – it wasn’t a cold turkey quit. Over time, my mental health got better. I got a job and was working again. I was in a better frame of mind and was able to overcome it.”

Now, Anna says she still drinks occasionally but she is much more cautious around it, choosing her time when to indulge. Her drinking now relates to a want rather than a need and she is much more mindful of her health.

Anna summed up her problem with alcohol as a “a slow spiral out of control after more than 20 years of misery, of feeling no good and being told you’re no good.”

*Anna, not client’s real name. Changed for privacy reasons. Stock images used.

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Please help Drug ARM as we aim to raise funds for our counselling services this Easter.


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