A KALEIDOSCOPE of beaming faces filled Barbara Hummel’s vision as she spun around the village hall, the ceilidh to mark her 50th birthday in full swing.
Kilts and Lederhosen collided as family from her native Germany and friends from Scotland joined together, packing the hall for the milestone event.
The celebratory scene was in stark contrast to the grief and hurt that enveloped the life of the devoted mum and her three daughters a decade earlier.
“My lovely and gifted daughters lost their father very suddenly through an alcohol-related death,” Barbara said.
“The times before, and especially after that tragic day in November, 2002, were very difficult for all of us. He had just turned 50 himself that year.”
Having tried for years to cope with living with an alcoholic, Barbara separated from Karl in 1999, and their divorce was finalised early in 2002.
Thanks to friends and family, the support was there to make it through some of the darkest days in her life.
It was earlier this year that, while driving to work, a radio advert came on highlighting the work Quarriers Carer Support Service (Moray) does to help those living with an addict.
“I was very positively touched by it, because I know from our own family history how important it is to reach out to that group of people,” she said.
On the spot, Barbara decided cash raised at her 50th birthday celebrations would go to the cause, hopefully helping others who know what it’s like living in the shadow of addiction.
“So many friends and family members have helped me and my girls over the past years that a party to say thanks and be joyful about how well we are now seemed the right thing to have,” she said.
“Without the help of others, I might not have managed, and I thought Quarriers was a very worthwhile cause to support.”
Drawn by the “landscape and the kindness of the people”, the family moved from Germany to Scotland 17 years ago, settling near Carrbridge.
“I should have known all along because we met after he put his car into a tree under alcohol. I don’t think he was an alcoholic at that stage, but over time it slowly crept up,” said Barbara.
“We tried. I believe we really tried, but it was at the point that I thought it was getting dangerous that I got out.
“Even though I see addiction as an illness and had tried to help my husband in his recovery, at some stage our life together had become too distressing and unbearable for all of us who were not addicted.
“He was getting at least verbally abusive towards the children and me.
“At one point, there was an incident in the kitchen when a very hot cup of coffee flew by my face.
“Then one of my hands was smacked in a drawer – by accident apparently.
“That is when I thought, ‘That is it’ and I left,” she said.
“By then, a friend had told me, ‘You have to face it, you are living with an alcoholic’, which had opened my eyes.”
Although at rock bottom, friends helped Barbara navigate the benefits system so she was able to go back to education in order to find work.
“I feel that it must be very difficult to get out of a situation like that without good support, as one feels isolated through the problems and challenges,” said Barbara.
“Applying for financial support can also be quite daunting as it is quite complicated and does not help the self-esteem.
“I feel that it is absolutely essential to have some friendly support with it.
“I was able to do courses, work, be there for the children, and that wouldn’t have been possible without working tax credit, so for that I’m really very grateful.”
Now, living near Dulnain Bridge and working in occupational health as a physiotherapist, Barbara has seen her 23-year-old twins graduate, with one going on to study for a PhD and the other entering full-time work.
Her third daughter is aged 19 and is about to start a degree in social work in Aberdeen.
“I didn’t see the ceilidh as a celebration for myself. I celebrated to be thankful for the support I’ve had and that my three daughters have developed so beautifully and have become such amazing young women,” said Barbara.
“But we also do not want to forget that Karl losing his life aged 50 was far too early for the charismatic and idealistic man he was.”
Through www.justgiving.comBarbara-Hummel the family has raised nearly £500 for the cause, with funds still coming in.
“Even the smallest of donations, a few pounds, makes a difference,” Barbara said.
“Any donation will help others get their life on track so they can take it in their own hands again.”
In Moray, alcohol dependency is twice the national average, and many family members of substance abusers suffer in silence.
Quarriers offer help and practical advice, as well as a listening ear. Often people living with an addict don’t recognise they are carers and that help is available.
To contact Quarriers phone 01343 556031 or visit the main office at 44 High Street, Elgin.