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'My partner hid his addiction until after our wedding. Then I found him in his study at 2am.'

As told to Ann DeGrey

I’d always known my partner James loved his booze. On our first date he greeted me with a martini, and I remember having to turn down several more drinks, as I couldn’t handle more than two cocktails at a time.

As our dating life continued, he'd always indulge in a multiple drinks, a couple of beers, a cocktail or two plus a few glasses of red wine. Sometimes, he seemed a bit tipsy, but it never struck me as anything more than just having a good time. I never suspected that there could be something more serious beneath the surface.

I'd describe our romance as "whirlwind" because it all happened so quickly, falling in love, moving into our new home together and planning our wedding. But it wasn’t until after we were married that I began to notice some peculiar behaviours. 

James would often disappear into the bathroom for long stretches, emerging with a slightly different demeanour. I thought it was probably due to the stress of moving and having to adjust to living with a neat freak like me. But then I noticed he never seemed to have hangovers, no matter how much he drank the night before. This was a bit puzzling, but I dismissed it, thinking maybe he was just one of the lucky ones who didn't get them.

One night, about a week after we'd moved in, I woke up to find James wasn't beside me. As I went towards the kitchen, I saw a faint light coming from under the door of the study. That's where I found James sitting at his desk, with a bottle of vodka in front of him. He wasn't watching a movie, or looking at his phone or laptop, he was just sitting there, drinking straight from the bottle.

Watch: Your Body After 1 Year Without Alcohol. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

"What are you doing?" I asked. I was shocked because it was around two in the morning. 

He looked surprised and a bit embarrassed. "Just having a drink," he said. "A bit of vodka helps me sleep."

Then I started noticing other things, for example, he always insisted on taking out the rubbish bins. He just wouldn't let me do it and would almost get angry with me if I tried to. I thought he was just being helpful. But one day, I beat him to it and when I had a look inside, I found several empty vodka bottles hidden at the bottom of the bin, covered with other rubbish to keep them out of sight. Surely, he couldn't have had all this vodka in one week? 

It was in that moment that I knew something was terribly wrong. The casual way he was drinking in the middle of the night, his secretive behaviour, and the realisation that he was never really sober — it all came crashing down on me. I understood now why he never had hangovers; he was constantly drinking to stop from withdrawal symptoms.

The next day, I confronted him. I told him about my concerns and how his behaviour was affecting me. At first, he was defensive, telling me he was fine and that I was overreacting. But, eventually, he burst into tears and admitted the truth; he was an alcoholic and he needed help. 

In fact, James had been an alcoholic for many years but he'd become very clever at hiding it. He told me he was ashamed and terrified of losing me, which was why he had kept it hidden for so long.

Thankfully, he agreed to let me research treatment options and find a support group for him to join. He attended meetings regularly, and I always took him there, to make sure he turned up. It wasn't easy and he has relapsed a couple of times, which I found very difficult to deal with. But, slowly but surely, he began to change. 

Now I realise how easy it is to miss the signs of addiction, especially when a man like James is very skilled at hiding it. He's now sober and I continue to support him. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly anxious. There have been several times when I've heard him get up in the middle of the night and my heart sinks, worried that he's got a hidden supply of vodka. So far, I haven't caught him doing anything suspicious, so I've got to keep trusting that he will stay on the right track — even though his councillor has warned me that another relapse might be just around the corner. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it and hope that I can stay strong, because this isn't the easiest way to live my life. If I'm being honest, I'd say there is no way I would have married him if I'd known what was ahead for me. 

Image: Getty

If this post brought up any issues for you, you can contact Drug Aware, Australia's 24hr alcohol and drug support line. You can reach them on (08) 9442 5000 or 1800 198 024. 

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