A Personal Account of Caring for A Loved One Struggling with Alcoholism
Starting today, we hand over one weekly story per month to a community member to share their perspective on wellness, with the aim to bring more voices into the ABG community.
This year marks a significant anniversary for me, 35 years in the wine business. As a result of those decades in the business, I’ve been able to bear witness to the both the dark and light sides of a career in beverage alcohol.
I started out in college as a sommelier working part time selling wine to lobbyists in Washington D.C., and had the great fortune of having a mentor who ignited my interests in history, culture, travel and food. Today, I own a successful marketing agency with a global clientele.
I am deeply passionate about the world of wine and all of its facets, but recently in my personal life, my partner of 12 years faced some personal setbacks, leading to midlife depression. The person who was once social, extroverted, talented and engaging, slowly became withdrawn and chose alcohol as his salve.
I’m a problem solver. Professional marketers are used to handling challenges great and small on a regular basis. Most of the time it’s creative problem solving, and the opportunity to sort things out comes naturally. However, when my partner hit a personal low, and alcohol was clearly a serious issue, I was paralyzed.
It felt like I was in a country without knowing the language, so how could I help without understanding the landscape, the framework, the parlance? Was it even my role to help? Could I be effective? Was it even appropriate?
It didn’t help that when we went to the emergency room for a detox treatment, the doctor had little empathy for his case when he was already dealing with traumatic, life threatening injuries in other areas of the ER.
The doctor’s indifference created a cloud of shame that came over us, and we were immediately confronted with the conundrum of how to seek help or ask questions about a disease that is culturally judged and erroneously considered to be something within one’s control.
Had I not been a lifelong advocate of self-care – physically, mentally and spiritually – I don’t think I would have been as well equipped to face this challenge, and when A Balanced Glass launched, like many, I was relieved to see challenging topics within our industry being addressed and discussed in a safe, supportive environment.
After emerging from the initial confounding circumstances, I resolved that I wanted to help my peers navigate what can be an unlit path to recovery, so here are some steps taken that hopefully help you and your loved one or friend get through an immensely challenging time.
1. Self-care first and foremost. A wise friend once said, start with yourself in terms of well-being. Once that is addressed then you can be present and take care of family, followed by community, and then perhaps an even larger global endeavor. If one step is skipped in this progression, it’s hard to be of much help to anyone. In my case that is yoga, spinning, acupuncture, meditation, daily prayer, healthy eating and spending quality time with friends.
2. Hospitals offer detox programs via the ER or ICU. This secure and managed environment gets the patient stabilized and prepared for the next step, rehabilitation. Sometimes there are independent detox facilities the hospital recommends if the ER or ICU is at capacity and if not, you can research one.
3. Rehabilitation facilities vary in terms of scope, methodology, and services. There are inpatient (eg: 90-day residence) or outpatient (more autonomous) wherein one keeps one’s day job but goes to regular meetings and check-ups, and sticks to a prescribed program. It takes time to understand the insurance coverage and options for facilities as it varies immensely. There are also programs that are sponsored by cities and states, or private funding if there is financial need.
4. Identify meetings and community support. If you attend church or a community group, there may be free programs that offer support for both the afflicted person and their loved ones. Al Anon has been an amazing network for me and for others whose lives have been affected by an alcoholic. Try different meetings to see what fits for you. Many have found it’s a community that speaks a common language and can offer support through their phone network and meetings.
5. Keep a journal of inspiration. Be it quotes, prayers, or notes from aforementioned meetings. It’s a great resource to refer back to. On that, here are a few of my favorite quotes:
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is an option.
Prayer is asking. Meditation is listening.
FROG (Fully Reliant on Grace/Gratitude/God) – give up the notion of trying to control outcomes
You can be a loving person without having to fix someone or something.
Avoid SHAME (Should Have Already Mastered Everything) – we need to be gentle with ourselves when under immense duress.
On a final note, my partner is now eight months sober into a yearlong program. He is rebuilding mind, body and spirit and leading meditation groups, reading voraciously, and is writing songs with hopeful messages for those seeking healing and recovery.
Kimberly Noelle Charles
Note: Personal anecdotes shared here are not intended to diagnose or treat any ailments or illness and information contained here does not constitute professional health advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for your personal needs.
What We’re Reading:
There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.
Is wine falling behind in low and non-alcoholic drinks? : Richard Siddle for The Buyer.net
Richard Siddle analyses what low and non-alcohol means for the traditional drinks categories and how wine, in particular, is in danger of falling behind.
Why Superfoods are Superfluous - At Best: Dr David L Katz and Mark Bittman for Medium.com
“You know the truth about superfoods. You would know if you wanted to know, that your overall dietary pattern is what translates into massive differentials in health.”
Meet the Tribe!
Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic.
Surahn Sidhu – Musician, Owner Papershell Farm, and Music Director, James Suckling “Great Wines” Tours (AUS)
Years In Industry:
I have worked in music for 30 years and both sides of my families had mixed farming backgrounds. I started performing in nightclubs in Melbourne as a kid and through high school, ultimately leaving school to pursue my music career.
In my early 20s I began touring with my high school band The Swiss and then Empire of The Sun. I have developed my love, passion and appreciation of wine through local South Australian wine scene and met James Suckling in 2016 at the Gourmet Escape in Margaret River, Western Australia. We quickly became friends, and today I am his full-time music director, curating music for 20 Great Wines events a year, and curating music for his wine bar, Wine Central in Hong Kong.
My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:
Being a young working artist meant being devoted to the craft at all costs, which sometimes meant sacrificing sanity, time with friends, family and wellness. I became a partner in a small hotel at age 24 and had to learn moderation and maturity around drugs and alcohol. That grounding around substance abuse helped me navigate the ups and downs of music touring life. It wasn’t all smooth sailing but I survived.
I love smoking pot. And go through periods where I am stoned constantly, aka “ high” functioning. Then I quit for months and do yoga. It takes me months to convince myself I need to stop smoking, but ironically the yo-yo perspective gives me extreme clarity and helps consolidate a range of emotions that build up during those hazy months. Ultimately these periods of excess grow further apart and I'm working towards finding contentment and clarity.
How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:
My iyenga yoga practice is by far my greatest wellness tool. I think it even has the power to help solve huge issues beyond the self, into society and the earth. We place it at the core of our business structure now at our Papershell Farm in the McLaren Vale wine region. The farm operates across a handful of modes and yoga helps us really zero in on the ability to make that all possible.
Let’s Meet Up!
As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you.
Presenter at the CDO Executive Summit, in Atlanta June 26 (Cathy)
Attendee at Fine Minds 4 Fine Wines in Bordeaux, July 4 to 6 (Cathy)
Attendee at TEXSOM Sommelier Conference in Dallas, August 18 to 20 (Beck)
Attendee at Australian Women in Wine Awards in New York, Sept. 17 (Beck)
Speaker at Dream Big Darling in Paso Robles, September 15 to 17 (Cathy)
Emcee at Australia Decanted in Lake Tahoe, Oct. 6 to 9 (Cathy)