Alcoholism is a disease that is tearing families apart and the most affected persons are the spouses and children.
However, the spouses are the ones who seem to carry the burden as they have to explain to their children what is happening as well as take all the responsibilities of the family.
Eileen Ogot first realised that her husband was alcoholic when he returned from India where he was studying in 1986.
At first, she thought it was the excitement of him returning home after being away from the country but she later realised that he was scheduling drinking into every activity that he would undertake be it with friends of family.
“It took a long time to confront him as I thought he needed to take control of his drinking, but when I did, he retaliated and told me that i was the one who needed to get control of my life,” she says.
The issue was pushed back and forth for a long time and after six years, in 1992, David accepted that he was an alcholic and agreed to go to a rehabilitation centre to seek help.
However, before he could accept his problem, the family had a rough five years as most of the time, David could go out an spend days and nights out and this slowly started stretching out to weeks.
During this time, the family would be restless as they wondered whether he was dead or alive in jail or even in hospital or even with other woment.
Eileen describes this period as an exasperating period of her life as she could not control her husbands drinking and this meant that she was automatically the head of the family.
Out of frustration, she treid many tricks that would keep david in the house by getting excuses to keep him in the house but this did not last for long.
“I was always in doubt as every time I would think of if he is planning to go out and if he does, will he come back or are we going to start looking for him again,” she posed.
She started feeling lonely and it increasingly became challenging and trying for her to handle children as well as the family resources as she was expected to foot the bills.
Out of these frustrations, she could not take it any more and she quit her job because her husband was not going to work.
Soon, the family started experiencing financial problems as they could not make ends meet and because she could not stand seeing her children suffering, she sent them to boarding school.
Even when they were on holiday, she did not want them to come home as she could not stand them seeing the suffering they were undergoing due to their father’s drinking.
“Children have a way of hiding their problems and their lives were full of pretenses and they treid to live as a normal family. It is now that I can see the problem manifesting itself in them as they are now grown-ups.”, she confesses.
She always had hopes that things would change and took life a day at a time. On several occasions, she contemplated on leaving but she all the time when she remembered the vows she took during her wedding, she could not leave.
The mother of four also felt that if she left and something bad happened to David, then people would blame her and she would never forgive herself.
According to Eileen, alcoholism is a family disease and symptoms are always there in the family though you might not see them immediately.
Family members are referred to as co-dependants as they are in the disease with the alcoholic member and they also tend to base their lives around the alcholic member.
However, when it is the father who is alcoholic, the problem is more emphasised as he is the head of the family and children tend to look up to him in most cases.
Eileen, who is also the director of goinghomedotcom, and NGO that assists alcoholics and their families through counselling and refers to counseling centres, compares the alcoholism problem in families to that of abusive marriages, as in both cases, one hopes that things will get better day in, day out and so they hang on.
her advice to families and, especially spouses whom their loved ones are alcoholic is that it is important if the alcoholic goes to recovery that the family goes to receovery in order to understand the nature of the problem and know why it happening to their family and not any other family.
The director notes that an alcoholic needs higher power to control oneself from going back to drinking and for one to manage to get their life in order.
She adds that families who notice that their members are alcholic should raise the alarm immeidiately and not wait till things get out of hand.
“Query when you think one is overdoing their drinking as this will help you avert many problems and seek help in early stages,” she advises.
Co-dependents have a weakness of providing an enabling environment for the alcoholic and this enables him or her to carry on with the disease.
“It is wise to practice tough love measures whereby if one comes home without say paying for a taxi, do not pay for it because sometimes he or she has colluded with the taxi driver who gets his cut after the deal is through”, Eieleen insists.
This would also assist them come to terms with anger and pains they will try to overcome and rebuild their own lives by doing the right things to the alcoholic and each other.
Many people shy away from family members and friends just like Eileen did and she shut out her friends and family from their lives but she later on learnt that sharing with others does help a lot.
To date, Eileen still suffers a lot of insecurity and she still does not trust David with some things.
She is sometimes angered by flashbacks of the days when she wanted to leave David but he convinced her to stay on and she feels a lot of pain and anger when she thinks about those dark days.
She concludes by saying that a spouse should not just sit there and think they can handle the problem on their own and that they can kill the habit but instead seek help from all quarters.
Alcoholism to her is a disease just like diabetes or cancer which cannot get better on its own and it manifests itself diffrently in different people.