The mum-of-two with a good job turned into a secret alcoholic by ‘wine o’clock

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From the outside looking in, life was great for Rhian Williams. The married mum-of-two had a full time job as a project manager and she also had a busy social life.

But she was hiding a secret. She was an alcoholic and nobody knew apart from her husband Chris.

“I admitted to myself in March this year that I was an alcoholic,” said Rhian.

“When my front door closed and wine o’clock came at 5pm when I got home from work, I could not stop myself.”

The 36-year-old, who lives in Loughor, Swansea, with Chris and daughters Annabel, 10, and Olivia, 7, said that when people thought of the term “alcoholic”, they imagined a “person on the street corner, swigging from their white lightning can at 10am”.

“This is not relatable and not what today’s problem drinkers look like. Today’s problem drinkers function at a very high level and seemingly have it all together,” she said.



Rhian Williams admitted to herself in March this year that she was an alcoholic

She said her drinking started from university and then it just got progressively worse.

“That was about 16-17 years ago. I was brought up in a Christian family, so you didn’t get drunk. I think going to uni, suddenly I could drink what I want and I’ve got no one to come home to to tell me not to get drunk so it just started from there.

“As soon as I had my first drink, it was like a game on switch where I would go ‘right, let’s get drunk.’ If I was on a night out, or if I was in the house, then as soon as I had that first drink, all my thoughts of ‘this is only going to be one’, would just go out of the window and it just wouldn’t even enter my head.”

Rhian admitted that her drinking got considerably worse in the last six to seven years.

“It’s such a slow decline, you don’t notice it. Because I was able to go one evening without having a drink, I thought ‘I can’t have a problem’ otherwise I would be waking up in the morning wanting a drink and thinking about it all day, I wasn’t doing that.

“It just becomes a habit, but that habit can slowly become dependence. Then you do things to show yourself that you don’t have a problem, like a dry January or a dry July. You do it for a month then it’s so easy to fall back into it.

“I would only have one bottle of wine in the evening, then top up with one or two gins, depending on how early I started really. It’s almost acceptable to start drinking earlier on the weekend.

“If my husband wasn’t with me, I would have drunk so much more and so much faster. And I think I would have been in a worse position than I was now. He was always there to go ‘come on now, you don’t need anymore’. It would either end in an argument or I would say ‘right, ok then I will stop’.

“I would go on a bad bender and come back really drunk and really ill and we would have huge arguments, that would normally lead to me having a couple of weeks off drinking to prove that I was different this time.

“There was never an end to it, I think that’s where lockdown has been so difficult for people because you don’t have to get up and go to work.

“I’m so grateful that this happened exactly a week before we went into lockdown because I dread to think where I would have been now if I had still been drinking,” she added.



Rhian pictured before giving up alcohol

For about three years, arguments with husband Chris had noticeably got worse. It was March this year, when Rhian’s husband asked her to leave, a day which she described as her lowest point.

“It wasn’t really an ultimatum, my husband asked me to leave and I just refused. I had hidden a bottle of wine that I had already drunk because I was embarrassed and he found the bottle. I said ‘no, I will quit’ and it was very much ‘no, you tried before it won’t happen’.

“I didn’t believe it myself that I would, but it was the first time he had ever given me a definitive ‘we’re splitting up because of your drinking’. I think I would just deny myself the fact that it was that bad.

“I suddenly realised that I was going to lose everything. It meant that I wouldn’t see my kids every day of the week which to me, drinking isn’t worth that much.”

She said the first few months after giving up alcohol were “horrific”.

But since she stopped drinking, Rhian said her relationship with her husband had got much better.

“We go out on a date night and I remember everything. Before, our date nights weren’t really about us spending time together, it was about me having the chance to go out and get smashed.

“I think my parents suspected something, my mum had said something to me in the past, ‘do you think you drink a bit too much’ but it was never a serious conversation. When I told them I was an alcoholic, it wasn’t so much shock, I think it was a bit of ‘thank goodness’. They have been the most supportive people ever.

“My friends had no idea, I was really nervous about telling them. When I told one of my friends about it she was like ‘I’m so sorry, I had no idea at all’.

“My kids were so young they didn’t think anything of it, the kids would joke that ‘mummy’s favourite drink is wine’ But most of it would happen when they went to bed anyway.

“I read a quote by Brene Brown, which said ‘Are you the adult you want your child to grow up to be’. I remember bursting into tears as I would never want my kids to drink like this.”



Rhian is speaking out to help others

She believed her friends didn’t suspect a thing because it was so easy to hide the addiction.

“You hide it and you are wonderful at doing that, people think that when you go on a night out and get smashed, you are just doing it that night. They don’t realise that every other night of the week you’re having a bottle of wine, it’s just a normal thing for you.

“It’s so easy to hide, apart from with people you live with.

“On a normal day if I was getting up and going to work and I had a bottle of wine the night before, you just get on with it because that feeling was normal.

“When I stopped drinking, I feel amazing in the mornings and I exercise at 6:30am which I would have never of done when I was drinking.

“It just becomes so normal and that’s what’s dangerous about it. The wine culture is massive and I bought into it and all the memes on Facebook. I was shocked the other day, I went to buy a birthday card for my auntie and to find a funny card for a woman that doesn’t involve alcohol, you can’t get them. It’s a joke that it’s mummy’s medicine and it’s what you have to de-stress from the kids.”

Rhian has now set up a new sober coaching business.

She said: “Everyone’s got the same story, it starts with ‘Yeah I’ll have a wine on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, oh it’s the middle of the week, let’s have a glass of wine’. You do it to de-stress and wind down after a day, it just becomes a habit and it’s so easy to fall into.”



Rhian has now set up a new sober coaching business

In the eight months Rhian has spent sober, she admitted she had saved around £700.

“It’s funny, you save money for things and you think ‘oh, I won’t buy that top because I’m trying to save money for this’ that was never factored in with alcohol. There was always money for alcohol.

“I remember when I was doing the Weight Watchers diet, I was saving my points and not eating as much in the day so that I could have wine in the evening. That’s the thing with diets as well, people will restrict their food and still have a drink. You always make allowances for it.

“Alcoholism has such a stigma to it, there’s much more sympathy to a drug addict than there is for an alcoholic. Cocaine is known to be really addictive and you feel sorry for the people who get addicted to cocaine and heroin, you don’t feel sorry for the people who get addicted to alcohol. It’s your fault because you’re not able to control yourself. Why is it treated differently?

“I actually only told my employer two weeks ago, I was really nervous about telling him but he was lovely and he had no idea.”

Talking about the last few months, Rhian said it had been hard.

“Lockdown in a way has been a blessing because I didn’t have to go out anywhere.

“The loneliness I felt earlier this year was the hardest part of giving up alcohol as I felt I had no-one to talk to.

“There was one night in September, it was my first night out where it was an evening do and I turned up and there was bottles of free prosecco all over the table. I thought it was going to be horrific, there wasn’t a point where I thought, ‘I’m just going to have a drink’, but having it there was really difficult but I did it.

“Before I wouldn’t go out if I couldn’t drink, I didn’t see the point, I was your classic big drinker who looked forward to going out and getting drunk. That’s what I loved doing and I couldn’t see the point or understand people who would go out and drive. And people who could drink a glass of wine and leave half a bottle in the fridge, I could never do that. If there was a bottle open, it got finished.”

Rhian’s aim is to help women make alcohol insignificant in their lives.

“One of the coaching packages that I am doing is 60 days sober. I found that when you give up for a month, you do not feel the benefits. For the first month you feel quite rubbish because your body is adjusting to not having alcohol in your body. Whereas two months, you start to feel amazing and all the benefits of what not drinking brings.

“There will be many people suffering in silence as alcoholism is such a taboo subject. Throughout the last year 8 months I have developed my own tool box to help me through. I want to share these tools with people to allow them to live life on their own terms, take back control and make alcohol irrelevant.

“It has been widely reported since the pandemic that people are drinking more alcohol than they were before.  I believe I can help women for which drinking has become a concern.

“You don’t need to reach rock bottom to have a problem,” she added.



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