This weeks hugely relatable guest post comes from Rowan Parry.
My life was spent walking out of the school gates, dying of embarrassment, hoping he wouldn’t be there and hoping he wouldn’t embarrass me again. The ‘he’ I make reference to was my Dad. For the early stages of my life he was my hero and I didn’t think I could adore anyone as much as I adored him. When the alcoholism really hit him, he was the man standing outside my school in a cowboy hat pretending to be John Wayne, fake cowboy accent included!
My dad didn’t always have a drink problem, it started when his job changed and he worked for Royal Mail finishing early and stopping off at the pub on the way home. That soon escalated to dropping by the off licence on the way back from the pub with 2 litre bottles of strongbow. My mother worked nights so my brother, sister and I, would always be with Dad. Sober you couldn’t meet anyone more likeable and popular, but drunk was a very different experience… It was abuse. The school gates weren’t the only burden, as we grew we didn’t want friends coming round, it was too embarrassing for them to meet my drunk dad. My fathers poison was cider and a lot of it. His personality would change, in the evenings he would watch the same films over and over, Zulu, Memphis Belle and his trusty John Wayne collection. He would be so engrossed in some of them that he believed he was living through them, and would often refer to himself as having been a Green Beret or flown the Memphis Belle… It was real to him.
As the years went on, in a bad mood and at his worst he used to beat us with sticks and slippers, we knew he shouldn’t, and we always thought it was our fault and that we had started him off or done something wrong. I was always the loud mouth and the one who was vocal about it being wrong, I remember calling Childline from the phone box at the bottom of the street and telling them about Dad being drunk and they thought it was a prank call. This went on through junior school and in first year seniors I decided to take action of my own, I confronted my Dad in front of my mother and asked “Why are you hitting us when mums out?”, he looked at me shocked and stunned and he truly believed it when he said that he had no clue what I was talking about and he would never hurt his children. My mother didn’t believe me. Why would she when I had no evidence? He even recommended I was referred to counselling as a problem child. My dad. My hero. I was heartbroken and confused and asked myself “Is it me?” My brother and sister would often tell me to be quiet and not wind him up as it was a case of ‘who’s turn is it next?’ I couldn’t leave it there, I couldn’t stand the fact that our evenings had become torture, the more he drank the worse it was, he would feed us slop and make us eat it, he would bully my brother and ask him to fight me like a man when he was just a 10-year-old boy.I didn’t want to go home I didn’t want to go to sleep at night knowing he was drunk and capable of anything. I hatched a plan, technology wasn’t great in the 90’s so I used a tape cassette and recorded him. I knew that failure to eat dinner would start him off so that’s what I did and I recorded the abuse that followed. Ground hog Day was what our lives became.
I walked in and in front of my mother I asked him why he was hitting us when mum was out and he denied it again. I remember leaving the room and when I pressed play my heart was pounding. Even he looked shocked at the sound of his own voice. My mother divorced him and threw him out. I felt awful and carried that guilt for a long time. We started weekend visits with Dad and I loved it, he said that he had stopped drinking and things would change. I had heard that statement too many times. At night, the signs were there, the personality changes were creeping back, he used to hide his cider in the top of the toilet, and when I sat in his chair I fell straight through and discovered he had moved on to vodka. We had to stop staying with him as he couldn’t control his temper and my brother and sister disowned him from then, the violence was too much. I would go months without seeing him and then I would need to check on him. I loved him and couldn’t let go, unfortunately he loved something a lot more and wouldn’t give up drinking. He lost his job through ill-health and was drinking more than ever, the last time I saw him he said he didn’t want anything to do with any of us. Following that, the next time I saw him was at his funeral. NACOA would have helped me as a child, it would have helped me to understand, and to not blame myself for things I couldn’t control and to hide the things that were going on at home. When I think about my dad, I can’t ever deny I loved and adored him, but I love what he was before he was an alcoholic and when he was sober. I don’t forgive him for what he did when he was drunk but I’ve learnt it’s not my fault. Childline didn’t help me. I think most children could memorise the phone number, but you worry about being lost in a system. The system didn’t support or have the knowledge to help children of alcoholics… But those children have a voice now.
Thank you again to Rowan Parry for such an honest account. if you feel inspired to tell your story click here.