A CHESTER woman has shared her story to highlight the effects of alcohol and domestic violence.

Known as Joan, she is speaking out as part of 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence from November 25 to December 10, organised by Al-Anon Family Groups.

It is estimated that two million adults aged 16 to 59 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year.

The percentage of convictions secured for domestic abuse-related prosecutions is at its highest level since the year ending March 2010.

The Home Office reported that 48 per cent of convicted domestic abuse perpetrators had a history of alcohol dependence, and 73 per cent had consumed alcohol prior to the attack.

Al Anon Family Groups says that living with a problem drinker can affect a person mentally, physically, and emotionally. In some situations, the drinker becomes aggressive and abusive, in others, family members feel that they can’t cope, and react by becoming violent.

Al Anon Family Groups provides help and support to anyone who is or has been affected by someone else’s drinking.

Here is Joan’s story:

“My name is Joan, I am 73 years old and I live in Chester. The man I met and married had a great sense of humour, was caring and made me feel very special, but after ten years of marriage, he became a monster, a Jekyll and Hyde personality. We spent long hours trying to find what was causing him to drink so much. We blamed his childhood, maybe he wasn’t loved enough, or the stress of his job in a bank, and when we ran out of things to blame, I blamed myself, and he blamed me. He became violent, both verbally and physically, always promising that it would not happen again, but it did. I reacted to this by stony silences, shouting, crying and there were endless rows. I ended up frightened of him. I made excuses at work when I had black eyes and bruises. I started to believe that I might be the cause of his drinking, and so I tried many ways to try to please him and keep the peace, but no matter what I tried, his drinking got worse. He started drinking in the mornings before work and this astonished me. Obtaining alcohol became the most important thing in his life, this progressed over ten years, and he became a 24/7 drinker.

“Eventually I was introduced to Al-Anon Family Groups where I met others with the same problem who had learned to cope. I gained a better understanding of the effects of alcohol abuse on the family. I was able to replace despair with hope and started looking after my own needs. I began to understand that I did not cause my husband’s drinking, I learned that Alcoholism is a disease and I could not control it or cure it. I was able to allow my husband to experience the consequences of his actions and gained the courage to stand up to him.

“I found it so helpful to go to Al-Anon Family Group meetings and talk to others or to listen, to exchange phone numbers with other members who I could talk to in confidence. I started to regain my confidence and to refuse unacceptable behaviour. I began eating properly again and took up hobbies that I had given up. I became more confident and my self-esteem improved. My husband did eventually reach a point where he was ready to ask for help and he contacted Alcoholics Anonymous. That was some time ago and we have been able to rebuild our relationship and live a happy and fulfilling life.

“I continue to attend Al-Anon Family Group meetings to be there to help others who find themselves in the same situation that I was in.”

Al-Anon Family Groups provide a safe and confidential environment for anybody who is, or has been, affected by someone else’s drinking.

Individuals concerned about someone’s drinking can also call our free Helpline on 0800 0086 811 (10am-10pm, 365 days a year).

For further information please email helpline@al-anonuk.org.uk or visit the website, www.al-anonuk.org.uk