Annie describes how despite her ex partner’s abusive behaviour, made worse by his problem drinking, she was unable to find the strength to leave him. She credits Al-Anon with helping her to become stronger and to find the confidence to leave.
“I was 27 when I met my ex-partner, Gavin, we both lived abroad. He was a musician, had that rock and roll look about him. I can’t deny that I found his bad boy image sexy.
We got to know each other, and I found out that he was in AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) at the time. I thought it was fascinating. I had never met anyone who went to AA before. I remember wishing that I had that kind of support. Growing up, my mum had very serious mental health issues, which I often found really difficult to deal with.
Soon after we met, Gavin started drinking again, he said it was to give him the confidence to ask me out. He was in a relationship when I met him, but I was extremely attracted to him so for a while we had a wild affair. It all felt very rock and roll.
Eventually we moved back to the UK and the honeymoon period was over. He became angry and abusive as his drinking got worse.
I remember one morning, I was volunteering on a helpline and I was looking at the questions aimed at abused women and to my surprise, I was able to answer ‘yes’ to all of them. He often threatened to hit me, I was scared of him but part of me was in denial. That day, I realised how bad my situation was.
As the years went on, I had lost all concept of who I was, and I lost my self-esteem. I’d always had an eating disorder but it got worse and instead of starving myself I started eating like he would drink. If he binged, I could binge too, I would tell myself.
One night, he slept with a woman I worked with, in my own bed. I confronted him, and he became aggressive, he would push me around and call me every nasty and hurtful name he could think of. I was so scared and hurt, I remember running out of our house to a friends for safety.
I actually can’t remember how I found Al-Anon, but I did, and out of desperation I looked for a local meeting and turned up. I cried so much at my first meeting. I remember this woman talking about how her alcoholic son had committed suicide and I sobbed and sobbed even more.
I wasn’t ready to leave yet because I still loved him. The longer I attended Al-Anon meetings, the stronger and more confident I became. I learnt to say ‘no’ to him but he didn’t like that, he became more aggressive, smashing up the room and whatever was in his way when he was angry.
Eventually, after nine years, I left him. I was still very frightened of him but I knew that he had a criminal past and was on probation so if I got a restraining order against him and he breeched it he would go to prison pretty much straight away - that really scared him.
Eventually I decided to move away for my own safety and he now doesn’t know where I live. I haven’t heard from him since. For the past five years, I have been in a relationship with a loving man who allows me to be myself. Coincidently, his late father was in AA so he has an understanding of what I went through, it also makes it easier for me to open up to him.”