Remember when David Blaine decided to lock himself in a glass box and hang in the air of London for 44 days? Some people were impressed, most laughed, some even threw eggs, but essentially, after an initial bit of interest, London, and indeed the world, carried on around him. When I try to conjure up how I had felt most of my life, David Blaine’s perspex box comes pretty close, except my box came with me everywhere I went and I seemed to be the only one who had any idea it existed! And frankly, I only had an idea it existed. I jumped around in my box, I slumped in my box, I acted the clown, I shouted, I screamed, and I cried in my box. But never did I feel like I connected with anyone, nor was I understood. Something was wrong in my life and I had no idea what. I assumed it was me. Some people are happy, and some people are sad, and I was the latter. That’s the best explanation I could tell myself. David Blaine is described, among other things, as an illusionist and endurance artist. Looking back, these would be pretty good words to describe what I was. Daily life felt like an endurance test and I constantly created the illusion that I was okay. All this didn’t necessarily mean I wasn’t liked or even loved. But both of these can be rendered pointless if they can’t be felt. So I sought escape from my box. Anything. Anything that might remove that bulletproof screen that lie between me and the world, preventing me from experiencing it the way that everyone else seemed to know.
This was to be the pattern of my life. I had absolutely no idea what what was wrong with me or why I felt the way I did. I went to see professionals who couldn’t understand either. But worse than all this was the fact that I believed I was the only person on the planet who felt the way I did. That meant that loneliness followed me wherever I went.
At the age of 24 I reached, what some might call, the jumping off point. Much of the pain in my life up to this point was more to do the with the consequences of the things I did to escape than anything else. Alcohol was my main ‘drug of choice’ so to speak but I wasn’t fussy in my quest for escape. Some things even gained me some kind of prestige in the eyes of society, including working like a maniac at my job. But nothing had brought me anything that could resemble any type of real happiness. And so I had reached a place where I was ready to give up on life altogether. By now I had 4 children I had decided to stop drinking and, with some help, had managed to do so. But drink was my main solution, and now I was left with the way I had always felt, back in my box. At this time I planned to take my own life, and the most sane and rational thinking took me to a place where I even contemplated taking my children with me. It still makes my body shudder when I say that, but that’s where I was at. Fortunately something switched in me, and I decided to give life one more shot, and I began to vigorously work on myself and the damage and chaos I had created. It wasn’t easy but after a year or so I had reached a place where life was becoming a lot more manageable. It was somewhere along this journey that I found NACOA
. I wondered if maybe I could do some voluntary work. A simple search on Google to see if a charity existed that helped children of alcoholics and that’s when I discovered for the first time that being the the child of an alcoholic is a thing. My dad was an alcoholic and died when I was 9. It was something I had thought about, even pulled it out as an excuse if needed, but the fact that he had died when I was 9 meant that it was something I should have been able to move on from, in my eyes at least. I had absolutely no idea of the lasting effects that it had had on me. I began to realise that I wasn’t the only one that was trapped in my own Perspex box unable to connect with the world. In fact we are everywhere, and though we each have our own stories and experiences, some of the fundamental effects of being a COA are strikingly similar. I began to see that most of the thoughts that had been buried deep in my consciousness and festering like weeds were thoughts that millions of other people were suffering from. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t weak. I wasn’t crazy. I do not wish to use my dads alcoholism as an excuse, nor does it excuse some of the things I have done in the past, but understanding it helps to remove the power it could have in my life today. I live the most amazing life today. Given the opportunity to swap with anyone on the planet, I wouldn’t. But I am one of the lucky ones, and it’s taken years and years of pain followed by some bloody hard work to get to where I am. I hope future posts on this blog can help to further explain some of what I’ve said as well as to show the way in which my life is effected today. Being a COA can become one of the best assets to have, but until one discovers it’s actually a thing… It can continue to ruin lives. There are at least 5 million children out there in the uk today, and I’m willing to bet it’s a whole lot more than that, suffering as I did as a child, they deserve to know. In this day and age, every child of an alcoholic should know what it is they are suffering from. It’s time to smash the children free from their glass boxes to give them a chance to be free.