It’s been 10 months since her last drink. Overcoming her addiction has been physically and mentally challenging, but she’s grateful to have each day sober and the knowledge that she is normal and accepted.
This is her story:
I’m 45, I’m a loving wife and mother of two and I enjoy baking and looking after the house.
My name is Cristy Henderson, and I am an alcoholic.
It has taken me a very long time to be able to admit it or even recognize that I had a problem and seek help.
I’ve been battling addictions my entire life. Although I had a very privileged upbringing I was relentlessly bullied for my appearance. I had red hair and I was obese.
I’d eat until I got uncomfortable. I’d turn to it if I was upset or anxious. It was my backstop.
The bullying led to more eating, which led to more weight gain, and more bullying. It was a vicious cycle.
It was intense and constant. I was bullied at school and social events and it even happened on the street. At my heaviest I was 180kg.
I was lucky enough to meet my now husband of 17 years and we have two children.
After I had my kids, I decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery to shed some of the weight. I came out of my shell afterwards. I just felt so much better about myself!
Life became hectic after my surgery. I took on three different jobs and the responsibility mounted. But due to low self-esteem I felt uncomfortable saying no.
The occasional wine at the weekend became several through the week and within two years it was every night.
Before I knew it I had replaced one addiction with another. I became reliant on the drink to the point I needed it to get through the evenings.
When I turned 40 things got so much worse. I started suffering panic attacks but not wanting to admit there was anything wrong with me, I just started drinking more alcohol to deal with it.
I started drinking through the day after that. I had no choice – I would get the shakes if I was too far between drinks. I even had to get myself out of bed during the night to drink. The only cure it seemed was more alcohol.
It became routine for my children to arrive home from school to find me drunk or passed out on the couch. I couldn’t go anywhere because I’d already lost my license for drink-driving.
I knew I was drinking a lot but I had no desire to stop. I didn’t think I had a problem and thought if I wanted to I could have stopped by myself.
At my worst periods of drinking I was consuming two casks (six litres) of red wine a day.
My family, desperate at this point, had me admitted to hospital and then a Drug and Alcohol service. It was a living hell. I just needed a glass of wine. I was convulsing. I couldn’t even stand up.
I attended rehabilitation in Christchurch twice within the next couple of years with limited success due to the length of rehab.
One day I was driving into town to grab some more wine from the bottle store. I often went to different bottle stores so it wasn’t obvious I’d already bought alcohol that day. Someone rung the police because of my driving, apparently I was swerving. I was just desperate to get my wine.
I was charged with dangerous driving and drink driving. I was really worried about loosing my marriage and my children if I kept going the way I was.
I started detoxing at home and then attended the Bridge Programme in Dunedin. The 8-week programme was much needed and a really good learning experience with like-minded alcoholics.
I came to Nga Kete’s Addiction Services and attended one-one-one counselling, Art Therapy, the Drink Driving Programme, and the support group. It’s all helped me to remain sober.
I’ve learnt to feel accepted, normal and that I’m OK. I’ve learnt my triggers and supports and the realization that I’m not alone was huge. Alcoholism is a disease.
I am an alcoholic. I can say it now without cringing. I don’t ever want to be complacent and say I won’t drink again. The temptation is constant. It’s hell and it’s never far away. You can’t just cure alcoholism, but it’s manageable if I’m careful and stay strong. And I intend to try every day as hard as I can. I don’t ever want to be at the bottom of that hole again.
I’m excited about the future now, and I love hearing from my husband and parents that I’m doing really well, and that they’re proud. My children are definitely happier as well, and the family is closer than ever.
I’m enjoying time with my kids. I don’t have to sneak up the hallway for a drink, or wait for the kids to go to bed just so I can have a drink.
I’m grateful to have each day sober. I’m grateful to feel so much clarity. I feel I’m a participant in life now rather than watching it disappear.
My name is Cristy Henderson, and I am an alcoholic.
For information about our Addictions Services call (03) 214 5260 or free phone 0800 925 242
Cristy’s poem produced in the Art Therapy Group
When I met you I was young
tried a dabble here and there
I could try you – just the one –
say “no more” without a care.
Then on to wild adventures
crazy nights, fun and free
I’d party with you on and off
you had no ties on me.
I could have you, and enjoy you
just at weekends, parties, do’s
I had no need to see you
through the week – no need to use.
As time went on and life sped up
with stresses, clouds and fears
my need for you developed
you were there to dry my tears.
You’d comfort me when all felt lost
and made my darkness light
it was easy to rely on you
you made it feel alright.
The years went by – our bond was tight
you made me bullet proof
no need to focus on the truth
that I was being fooled.
You’d hurt me in so many ways
but I refused to see
you had made me numb to it
nothing could get to me.
I let you deeper, further in
then realized one day
I took a good look at myself
disgusted and dismayed.
I’d lost my self control you see
my pride, my strength, my soul
and looking back in my reflection
there was just a hole.
It’s been a massive journey
from the bottom of that pit
that you had thrown me into
clawed my way up out of it.
That hole is never far from me
I see it all around
and if I am not careful
you will pull me right back down.
So this I will remember
hell is never far away
but I will fight ‘til I die
if only day by day.