How alcohol discreetly took over my relationship

"Just a small glass of wine while I cook, no more than that," is what I told my wife every Sunday as I rolled up my sleeves to prepare our weekly roast dinner.

Pouring out a modest glass of merlot as I peeled the potatoes, I almost believed it myself. But one glass become two, of course, and the second soon became a third. By the time the food was ready, I was too tipsy to enjoy it with her like the civilised man I was supposed to be.

One glass become two, of course, and the second soon became a third.Credit:Shutterstock

Alcoholism wormed its way into our relationship discreetly, without violent arguments or tearful interventions. But the damage it wrought was insidious, and before I knew it my marriage of three years was on the rocks.

After a particularly alcohol-fuelled Christmas, my family and friends eventually persuaded me to go into alcohol counselling and now I've been sober for eight months; my 55th birthday, which I celebrated recently, was entirely dry.

My alcoholism reared its head shortly after I met Emma, a writer, through my carpentry business. For years, I'd lived a solo life as a bachelor, developing an unhealthy dependence on alcohol and regularly getting through several bottles of sauvignon blanc in one evening.

I warmed instantly to Emma's honest, open demeanour, and decided I wanted to be with her. My drinking wouldn't be a problem, I thought – I was a fully-functioning alcoholic, after all, and I wasn't the sort of drunk to get into arguments with my friends or embarrass myself at social events.

But the relationship became difficult about a year before our wedding when I sold my house and moved into Emma's house, which was also home to her four children. "How about we get a bottle in tonight?" I would suggest most evenings.

Soon, I was lying about how much I drank. I would offer to pop out and buy a bottle of Oyster Bay, but return with three, opening one with her and hiding the others around the house to avoid any awkward questions.

One afternoon, hours before our friends were due to arrive for a dinner party, I started the "celebration" early with a bottle of bubbly. By 7pm (the time our guests were due to arrive) I was far too drunk to entertain and I retired to bed with an apology.

My most shameful episode occurred when Emma was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. I came along with her to her chemotherapy sessions, of course, but I was often hungover. I piled up the excuses, telling her I'd had a bad night's sleep, desperately trying to remove the stench from my breath.

Still, for a long time Emma didn't seem to think I had any real problem. After all, I was never a particularly nasty drunk. In fact, most of my drinking took place at home, away from the prying eyes of friends. And for the most part, the sauce just made me irritating: I repeated myself constantly and badgered Emma for reassurance. "Did you hear that, did you hear that?", became something of a catchphrase.

But by six months into married life, it was the beast that couldn't be ignored. I was spending several nights a week on the couch because Emma didn't want to be around me when I was drunk. She began to dread weekends, when the booze was flowing the fastest, and said that she felt like a single parent again.

She's so polite that she'd never say it in black and white, but eventually I could read it on her face: this will collapse if you don't change.

It was last Christmas that, after seeing me swig alcohol while they were all drinking coffee, my friend suggested going booze-free for three months.

I agreed and later started counselling, taking myself along to a weekly one-on-one session with a professional. There, I tried to find the roots of my alcoholism and I learnt how to resist those all-important drinking triggers, shaking up my weekly schedule to avoid anything associated with alcohol.

Eventually, I decided to make my sobriety permanent, and I haven't touched a drop of alcohol this year.

It's difficult to express the extent to which sobriety has improved my marriage. Emma's respect for me, which was understandably in short supply during my alcoholic years, has been restored. We can eat out at restaurants, go away for the weekend, and have proper, meaningful conversations again.

I'm now something of a sober evangelical, and my Instagram account, @sober_dave_today, has attracted nearly 5000 followers. I believe I've helped around 30 people kick their habit. I'm sure some find it all very irritating, but it's worked for me.

As told to Luke Mintz/ Telegraph, UK

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