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"I'm well-educated, happily married and have two young girls. I'm also an alcoholic."

The following contains details of sexual assault which may be distressing. For 24-hour support, please call 1800 RESPECT.

When I picture an ‘alcoholic’, I imagine a man, sleeping rough with a paper bag full of liquor in his hand.

I don’t think of me. I come from a good family, I was educated in private schools and have both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. I’ve had a hugely successful professional career. I’m well-travelled, financially secure, and happily married with two beautiful children.

But it is me. I am an alcoholic.

I wish I knew where things went wrong, and where I crossed the line from social drinker to full blown alcoholic, but I can’t pin-point the day.

Your body after one year without alcohol. Post continues after video.

But now I’m 47 days sober, and I’ve started to think about what could have affected my self esteem to the point where I abuse alcohol.

How it started

There are only two incidents I can think of. The first one was a sexual abuse, the second one as being called ugly when I was 14.

I can’t remember the exact age I was when I was sexually assaulted, but I remember the details vividly. My family had gone to visit some family friends and my brother and I were playing in the pool with two older boys while our parents were all up in the hotel room.

One of the boys we were playing with was in his mid teens, and he was taking turns of flipping and throwing my brother and I over in the pool, When he grabbed me, he pushed aside my swimsuit bottom and played with my vagina. I tried to swim away from him, but he was too strong. This sexual assault happened multiple times.

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I know I was only about eight,  and I remember feeling totally helpless. This boy repeatedly dragged me away from my brother and his brother and continued to do this to me.

I had been such a happy, bubbly, vivacious and dedicated girl, but that boy’s actions made me feel so small, so violated, so broken. That day when we finally got out of the pool, I remember just wrapping myself up in a towel and standing next to my dad for the rest of the day. I didn’t tell anyone about this sexual assault until many years later.

I don’t know if it was a generational thing, but I had never heard about sexual assault when I was a young girl. It wasn’t until I was a teenager in high school when we were being educated on sexual assault that I realised what had happened.

Eventually, I did tell my mother what had happened to me, but she wasn’t particularly capable of doing anything about it. In fact, to this day my parents are still friends with this family and still on occasion see the boy who assaulted me.

The next incident that happened to me was probably about seven years later. We were away camping with another family and my friend and I went walking through the camping grounds in the afternoons. Over a few nights, we became friends with a group of boys. We were teenage girls and were of course interested in getting to know boys. I had a crush on one of the boys and my girlfriend tried to set us up, but this boy told her that ‘I had a great body, it’s just a pity about my face’. My ‘friend’ relayed this to me in those exact words and they stuck with me for many years. I wish she never said anything, or altered the truth to protect my feelings.

Those two incidents combined had a great effect on my self worth and self esteem. I never felt like I was pretty enough, smart enough or had anything to offer men other than my body. In fact because of those incidents, as I grew up I became too willing to give away my body too easily and to the wrong men, believing this was the only thing I had to offer.

I was so shy and insecure that I would use alcohol at parties to get out of my shell. Whilst all of us as teenagers experimented with drugs and alcohol, I always took it a little bit too far.

As I got older, my alcohol consumption went from social binge drinking, to drinking at home, to eventually drinking at home alone. It became my respite from my world. I’ve constantly been using alcohol to escape and as I have gotten older, I’ve used it to self medicate. Every night I started having a glass of wine, which escalated to two, and so on.

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I think I’ve become an alcoholic through using alcohol to help me sleep, to help me escape, and to stop me from having to be alone with me.

A mum who can’t stop drinking

My alcoholism went to the next level after the birth of my children.

While I successfully maintained abstinence from alcohol whilst I was pregnant, the day I gave birth to both of my daughters I immediately asked for red wine. The red wine consumption only increased as my children got older, and the daily boredom and isolation of motherhood combined with the stress and lack of familial and social support only exacerbated my drinking.

I don’t think I was truly prepared for being a mum. I didn’t realise how lonely I was, and how highly strung the children had made me, and that the only way for me to relax and unwind was to have wine. Because I’m a stay at home mum, I was able to have a drink earlier in the evening while I was making dinner, then when my husband came home I would offload the kids and lock myself away with my drink.

Because I was so desperate for my evening drink, I never scheduled activities in the evenings because I would prefer to be drinking. Eventually I started doing Pilates in the evening, but that just meant I’d start my drinking later in the evening and hit it harder.

If my husband was interstate for work, I would also continue to drink, perhaps more than usual because I was even more lonely and isolated. Now when I reflect back on this, I put my girls in grave risk because if they had of been sick overnight, there was no way I could drive them to the hospital.

I’ve also realised just how hungover and generally unwell I felt during the days after drinking. I would find myself giving my children iPads and whilst I was physically present, I wasn’t mentally present.

I have a long journey ahead. And while I’m afraid when I look back, I know it’s the only way to move forward.

This article originally appeared on Starting Sober, and has been republished with full permission. For more from the author, you can follow Starting Sober on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

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