I have thought about this many times and it’s difficult to know what I would advise the younger me because the younger me was so headstrong and idealistic that they probably wouldn’t have listened anyway.
I have read other peoples’ shared experiences and they’ve made me feel grateful because I had a fantastic childhood up until about the age of 7 but then conversely I wonder whether this made me live in hope thereafter; desperately clinging on to the fact that dad was once – well my dad… I also feel grateful that I had, and have, a brilliant mum and awe-inspiring brother who helped form a team. If it hadn’t been for them I think I could have ended up in the darkest of dark places.
Growing up as the child of an alcoholic, and indeed the adult of an alcoholic, is a frightening and sad existence. If you haven’t lived this life (and thankfully) I don’t think you can ever appreciate what it is like; those constant feelings of fear and hope. Until you hear the key scraping on the front door because he can’t find the lock, he’s so pissed that this simple task of opening a door is impossible, and at that point your hope that he’ll come home sober is shattered.
When my brother and I were growing up arguments were a constant and we would take it in turns to run into my parent’s room and say to dad to stop shouting at mum and then we would quickly run back to our bedrooms. Consequently I can’t deal with arguments and if I am pushed into one I will end up making it a hundred times worse. I will often force the person I am arguing with to completely push me away so that I can tell myself that they never really cared about me.
Also, as you grow up, you’ve no-one to talk to about this because how can your friends understand. A moment that will always stand out is one day in the sixth form. Every evening dad drove to a pub a few miles away and would then drive home – drunk. I remember thinking at the time that I should report him to the police but you don’t and then one evening he didn’t come home. After midnight though there was a knock on the door and it was the police, dad had crashed the car and was in hospital. In school the next day my friends were talking about this crash they had seen and how there was no way anyone could have survived but I knew better. I just sat there listening thinking you have no idea.
The names he called us and the way he spoke to us throughout our lives was humiliating and the level of embarrassment he caused me, mum and my brother was excruciating, an alcoholic can turn within an instance and so you’re always living life on the edge. However he would then often show remorse, say he was sorry and that he would get better. And so I spent years and years believing in him until at the age of 40 I told him I didn’t want to see or speak to him again. Four years after that my dad died at the age of 69; I never saw him in those intervening years and it was my brother who looked after him and who was with him at the end. His death was a relief because I had effectively been grieving him for four years and also living in hope that he would come and see me and beg my forgiveness and say how sorry he was but that’s the thing, he was a very selfish man who would never do that, I think alcohol makes you that way.
So what would I say to the younger me? I would say “Please Tracey have greater belief in yourself and your ability to make decisions throughout your life. Stop trying to change your dad and more importantly stop trying to get his approval. Don’t be ashamed by his actions towards you, they don’t define you. Finally appreciate those who love you, they are more than enough.”
This brilliant post was written by Tracey. Find out how you can have your story as the child of an alcoholic posted, here.
Finally, always remember that Nacoa is here for any help you feel you may need as someone whose parents drink too much. No matter what your age, Nacoa volunteers will listen with the compassion and understanding that you deserve.