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Alcohol Addiction, Nightingale Hospital

The Telegraph – 11th October 2016 – Stoptober – The Difficulty When Only One of You Gives Up Booze for a Month

A recent ten-year study of 2,700 couples by University of Michigan researchers found that those who drink together, stay together. As, to be fair, do those who don’t drink at all – suggesting it’s the synchronicity, rather than the Côtes du Rhône that’s key.

Mismatched drinking habits, meanwhile, might suggest a marriage on the rocks. When researchers at the University of Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions (RIA) in New York followed 634 newlyweds through the first nine years of marriage, they found that nearly 50 per cent of those where one partner drank more heavily than the other, were divorced by the end of the study (versus 30 per cent of those who were on the same page.)

Raymond Dixon, Lead Addictions Counsellor at the Nightingale Hospital, in London, says, “One of the biggest hallmarks of any kind of excessive drinking is denial. There doesn’t have to be screaming rows and people vomiting all over the living room. Some people just retreat into themselves and don’t communicate. And they feel there isn’t a problem.”

It isn’t necessary to have a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf scenario, he adds: “there can be insidious problems below the surface.” He also says it’s a myth that depression always lies behind excessive drinking: “Addiction is not always born out of unhappiness or trauma. Sometimes it’s purely an inability to control alcohol.”

Antonia Wills, 45, from Leeds, married to Lucas, 47, has been teetotal for nearly five months, with the help of the Harrogate Sanctuary. “Our habitual at-home drinking grew together,’ she says. ‘When you have children you can’t go out, so you stay at home and open a bottle of wine. And I don’t honestly think my husband thought it was a problem. I don’t think he realised how much I was drinking’ (up to two bottles of wine a night, while Lucas drank a couple of beers.) ‘I could always handle it well.’

A difference in drinking habits within a couple can work – but perhaps only if both partners are confident that neither one has a problem. Dixon himself used to be alcoholic; now, he says, “I do not drink at all”, while his wife keeps wine in the fridge. “She has a glass in the evening. She’s never had a problem with alcohol.” He’s “absolutely fine” with it, but notes, from experience, “you have to reach that stage”.

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