real life

'My husband turned into a monster while drinking. One night I recorded the abuse.'

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence.

As told to Ann DeGrey.

For many years, the sound of the key turning in the lock that signalled my husband *Matt's return caused the most appalling anxiety for me.

Every evening, as the clock neared the time Matt would be coming home after his regular "after-work drinks", my nerves would spike. This wasn't because I wasn't happy to see him, but because alcohol changed him into someone I barely recognised. He became a monster that I feared.

I'm telling my story in the hope that I can help others in similar situations, and they will know that things can improve.

Matt wasn't always a big drinker, and he wasn't always verbally abusive when he was drunk. In fact, our early years together were filled with love and a lot of fun times. But as his stress levels at work increased, so did his drinking. His entire office was filled with people who were big drinkers and he wanted to fit in.

At first, it was just a way for him to unwind. Then, it became a problem. The more he drank, the more his demeanour towards me changed. His words became cutting and cruel.

"I can't believe I married someone as useless as you," he'd slur. "You're a stupid dog." His words were like daggers.

Watch: Women share their experiences on emotional abuse. Post continues below.


Video via Mamamia.

The first time he called me awful names, I was in shock. I cried all night, wondering what on earth I'd done wrong. He also called me "a fat, ugly cow," and that I should "just die." 

By morning, he remembered nothing. He saw my red, swollen eyes and asked if I was sick. When I told him what he'd said, he was mortified. At first, he didn't really believe me. He apologised, promised it was the alcohol speaking, and vowed it would never happen again. But it did. Again and again.

I dreaded him coming home from work and this dread had become my constant companion; it was like a shadow that darkened my once-loving relationship with Matt. 

He once loved talking to me, telling me about all the antics in the office. But as time passed, alcohol became number one in his life. With each drink, the man I loved transformed into a stranger, spewing words that continued to devastate me.

I felt trapped. During the day, he was the man I fell in love with, but at night, after a few drinks, he became someone else. I started to pull away from friends and family because I didn't know how to explain why I was barely sleeping and was so stressed. I was embarrassed and, frankly, scared.


His behaviour during those drunken nights ranged from belittling comments about my appearance to accusations of incompetence over minor household tasks. "You're so f**king pathetic, you can't do anything right," he'd yell after finding a dish that hadn't been cleaned to his liking.

One night, he threw his dinner plate against the wall because he didn't like the way I'd cooked his steak.

I remember looking at the shattered pieces on the floor and feeling it was like a metaphor for our toxic relationship. These incidents left me walking on eggshells, constantly anxious and fearful of his next outburst.

I began to doubt my own worth, wondering if I was indeed the cause of his unhappiness. It was isolating, too. I withdrew from friends and family, ashamed to reveal the extent of his verbal abuse. The man I loved was drowning in his addiction, and it felt like he was pulling me under with him.

I was absolutely beside myself and I didn't know what to do until a friend suggested that I record one of his drunken outbursts.

One night, out of sheer desperation, I recorded him. I wanted to protect myself and, deep down, I hoped that if he heard himself, he might see the monster that he'd become.

The next morning, I played the recording for him. Watching his face crumble with horror and realisation is something I'll never forget.


"Is that really me?" he asked, his voice barely a whisper. I cried and nodded, then we sat in silence for a long time. Then, he said something that started us on a new path: "I need help."

And he got help. It wasn't easy. Finding the right therapist and the right program took time and effort. But he was committed. He attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, saw a counsellor for his drinking and behaviour, and we started seeing a therapist together to work on repairing our relationship.

The process of healing has been long and is ongoing. There are good days and bad days. Sometimes, the guilt of how he treated me weighs heavily on him, and on those days, our progress feels fragile. But we're learning to communicate better, to support each other in new ways.

If this has raised 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. 

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a Queensland-based organisation that helps women and families move on after the devastation of domestic violence. If you would like to support their mission to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most, you can donate here.

Feature Image: Getty.