At the height of his reliance on alcohol, Matt Woodley became a master of hiding his drinking.
Cooking sherry became his alcohol of choice because it was easy to access and it was unlikely his wife Anoushka would check whether it was being consumed at a fast rate.
“There would always be a bottle in the cupboard and nobody monitors it,” Mr Woodley said.
His reliance on alcohol crept up on him in his early 30s after he stopped smoking cannabis.
Mr Woodley, who lives in Ballarat, said he took every opportunity when home alone to become intoxicated.
“If my wife started work and left at 6am that’s when I would start drinking.”
Mr Woodley, 47, said in addition to hiding his drinking, he would lie to his wife about it when asked.
“She would notice things.”
Mr Woodley would consume one or two glasses of wine in her presence, but she was aware that his behaviour was more in line with someone who had consumed more than that.
“Within about two years I knew I had to do something about it,” he said.
However, his attempts to kick his habit were approached with “varying levels of sincerity”.
Mr Woodley said if he had a bad day or just happened to drive past a liquor shop, the urge to have a drink would win.
“Old habits die hard.”
That’s why a high-range drink driving charge in 2012 was a “blessing in disguise”.
Mr Woodley said the cat was out of the bag – it was common knowledge he “had to face a magistrate” and he was facing a huge bill after his car was towed.
Prior to that, Mr Woodley’s ability to drink copious amounts of alcohol was at times met with admiration.
He said it was a typical response for Australians who have a high tolerance to alcohol to be given a “legend status”.
Mr Woodley said he had driven while over the limit a number of times and it was lucky he hadn’t hurt himself
or anyone else before he was caught by police. After the drink-driving charge, Mr Woodley spent a month in a rehabilitation facility.
He said it allowed him to be around other people who saw the destructive nature of their substance use and wanted to address that.
When he finished his stint, he decided to get serious about addressing his reliance on alcohol.
In the past he had attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He said while the 12-step program works for some people, the step of admitting being powerless did not appeal to him. That’s why he decided to return to a SMART Recovery meeting – another program he had been involved with before.
Self Management and Recovery Training Recovery is a free group program that allows people to address problematic behaviours by using tools and techniques that are used in cognitive behavioural therapy.
Mr Woodley said the program allowed him to identify triggers that would lead to him drinking. This may be experiencing a bad day or driving home a certain way from work past a liquor shop.
“By identifying the unhelpful thoughts and beliefs, I was able to change the behaviours that followed.”
The program uses a variety of cognitive behaviour therapy, motivational tools and techniques.
Mr Woodley said the program allowed participants to implement positive changes that helped prevent returning to previous pattern of behaviour.
He said the program did not ask participants to identify whether something in their life had prompted their behaviour or to admit they were powerless to it.
“A typical meeting will ask about how your life has been over the previous seven days and make plans or set goals for the next seven days,” Mr Woodley said. “This lets people focus on what they are doing at that time, identify changes they can make and then experience success.”
Mr Woodley went on to run a SMART Recovery group for more than four years.
He said it could help people battling from a range of issues, from reliance on drugs or alcohol to spending large sums of money on gambling or shopping.
Mr Woodley and his wife are now proud parents to Maya, 3, and Archie, 1.
He said he would be forever grateful he found SMART.
The couple recently appeared on an episode of Insight on SBS.
The program focuses on how couples survive trying times in relationships.