I was born into a family of Jehovah’s witnesses as one of three children. I got married soon after I finished high school. Witnesses of Jehovah usually marry within their community and so I got married to a man of the same religious background. It was not love. I just did what was expected from me. Unfortunately my husband was imprisoned soon after our marriage for one and a half years as communism was suspicious about religion. Being a Witness of Jehovah he had refused certain orders in the army. This is how he ended up in prison, and I was alone for the first time in my life – alone in a rented flat, 21 years old and very lonely. I started to have a food disorder, bulimia, and experienced my first stay at a psychiatric hospital.
When my husband came back things worsened. He had changed in prison and I had the feeling that I was living with a stranger. I started with alcohol a little later, mainly to cover my feelings of shame related to bulimia. At the age of 23 years my state of health was so bad that I was declared invalid. As an invalid I was not allowed to work and was soon caught in a vicious circle of loneliness, idleness and despair while I fled into bulimia and alcohol to forget my problems.
During my first marriage which lasted 10 years I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital at least once every year. I liked being at the hospital. I liked the routine there, I liked that I was being taken care of and – most of all – I liked the fact that I was not alone there. It was during such a treatment that I met my second husband.
My second marriage was a turning point in the sense that I left Jehovah’s Witnesses. This break was important for me but the price I paid was high since I lost my family, my friends and my community. I was lonelier than ever. Also my new husband and I, we had both a serious alcohol problem. My new husband was a hard drinker. We spent our life in and out treatment. Every time I went to detox I relapsed again. We also started to have serious financial problems. When I reached the bottom my sister-in-law, a former alcoholic as well, advised me to leave her brother and start a new life, which I did. However, my second marriage had lasted less than a year.
I met my third husband through a dating add that I posted. This is now 10 years ago and I am still married to the same man. When I met him I immediately moved in with him. We had a tough first year. I still had food disorder and alcohol problems and I was struggling with suicidal tendencies but this time I had a husband who was supportive and tried to help me. But then slowly – and despite continued relapses – I was able to start a “more normal” life. The real turning point was the birth of my son who is today 2 years old. My son gave a sense to my life and he is my greatest motivation to stop drinking.
One day in November 2009, when I came to see my psychiatrist, I noticed a new signboard on the wall near the building entrance. An organization called “Blue Cross” had moved into the second floor. Since that date then I’ve been a client of the local counseling center of Blue Cross Czech Republic, and that counseling has really made a difference for me. When I add up the time I’ve spent in psychiatric hospitals for treatment and therapy I come to a total of 7 years. So I know what I’m talking about. For me, the difference lies in the quality of the interaction. Psychiatry – as I experienced it -relied mainly on medication. In psychotherapy, I heard “you have to” a lot which felt top down, and we also talked very little about my addiction. When I started my individual therapy at the Blue Cross counseling center I experienced for the first time a therapy really geared towards addiction. Moreover it was the first time in the history of my illness that my husband was also invited to participate with me in the therapy. He came to only one session, but that was enough to greatly improve our communication.
The effect the Blue Cross approach has had on me is striking: for the first time in my life I feel less guilty and alone. And I realize that alcohol is not the problem of just one person, but the problem of the whole family. And, most of all, I am proud that I will be among the very first who join the new Blue Cross self-help group that opens up next week here at the center! By the way – even though I am now fully abstinent, frankly, it is not easy!
Karvina, April 2010
*Martina is a fictitious name.