For more than eleven years, my life has been about alcoholism. When I met my ex-partner the signs were clear, but surely I could save him? Over the first six turbulent years, I was introduced to his demons, to his solace in alcohol, and I found out about my own needs to mother, smother and control the uncontrollable. I was in love with his humour and intelligence and soft, caring nature when he - as he often did - managed to stay away from the drink over longer periods of time; but they didn’t last.
Five years ago we split up, remaining friends, but my life continued to be about his alcoholism. He regularly came to me for help when his life became unmanageable - sleeping on my sofa, licking his wounds and becoming clean, as my house had one rule: no alcohol. He knew I would stick to that rule. But what I didn’t realise was that it still greatly affected me - a constant fight against a trust so fragile; a fear of relapse; and a growing realisation that I was an enabler, keeping him in a place of lies. He didn’t drink but his demons were still there. He didn’t look for help because he felt he was intelligent enough to do it alone. He was a non-drinker, had a job and plans for a great future. But it didn’t last as he is now in a homeless shelter, wondering what has happened, telling me he misses me. I miss him too and I wonder about my love for him - an unhealthy, deep love that keeps the contact alive.
My nearest and dearest could not help but judge him; to me that felt unfair. I wanted to tell them about the human being behind the alcoholism, so I decided to interview others for their experiences. Parents, children, partners and friends of alcoholics, but also health professionals and alcoholics themselves. I cast their words into stories and Cheers, the hidden voices of alcoholism was born. Writing this book helped me to understand all sides of this human problem and the book helps others through recognition. For me, Cheers also raises a question: ‘Does alcoholism need to come out?’ No longer have something to be ashamed of, or to keep anonymous, but something to deal with, heal from and most of all educated others about. Because ‘a life consumed by alcoholism’ can happen to anybody!
About Renate van Nijen
Renate van Nijen is an internationally exhibited Artist turned published writer, born in the Netherlands but settled in Andalucía, Spain in 2003, where she continues to paint, teach art classes, and above all, to embrace her passion for writing. In 2011, Renate published ‘Cheers, the hidden voices of alcoholism’, which is about the secrecy surrounding alcoholism in society as a whole and the non-acceptance and judgmental attitudes of her family, friends and outsiders, which motivated her to write ‘Cheers.’ a compelling book which shows the human face behind alcoholism.