These are the three principles I have spent most of my adult life trying to break after growing up in a household where the primary caregiver was an alcoholic. Not an alcoholic in a string vest, jobless, sipping out of a brown paper bag covered bottle. No, my mother was one of those spectacular white-collar middle class professionals in the nursing vocation, sainted to all, a member of various organisations that ‘helped the other’. She simultaneously managed to drink nearly a bottle of whisky
with Canada ginger ale every night and day off.
Her cruelty, mental torture, neglect and violence was only rivalled by her ability to pass off as a modern-day Florence Nightingale to those outside of the living hell that was our house. I say house because it wasn’t a home, because we were terrified, all the time, day in, day out.
I grew up exhausted, frightened, angry and believing it was all my fault. When she wasn’t trying to smother or stab us, she was mentally trying to break our hearts by sitting us down and telling us lie after lie about how our daddy didn’t love us, how he had AIDS, how he had a woman in every port (which he didn’t – but I really wouldn’t have blamed him if he had!)
My cousin passed comment the other day that they had always laughed at how much I hated baths. I said to her “don’t you know why?”
She said “no.” I replied “have you any idea how hard it is to fight off a fully grown drunk woman who sees bath time as the ideal opportunity to “rid the world of the disgrace that you, child are.” Your reader might pleased to know that one of the things I absolutely relish now is sinking into a huge deep bubble bath, safe that in my own home, I am safe.
You see as Nacoa once said “change is gonna come”. I’m 42 now. I am a mum of two. I hold down a full-time emotionally demanding job. I had a first career as an army officer and these days, I just about like me – most of the time. It hasn’tbeen an easy journey. I have had my problems.
I have had to fight the demons of being a child of an alcoholic.
The change came for me when my first child was born, I suddenly realised there was no way in this universe was I going to let my mother come anywhere
near my children. If I was going to break the cycle of emotional abuse and manipulation which had continue into my adult life, it was going to have to be me who took the steps to implement it. My unconditional love for my child and the desire to protect her overrode
every other emotion.
I had tried in the past to cut my mother from my life but each time her manipulative actions and her downright evil tactics had tapped directly into those three learnt childhood principles and I had come at her beck and call to carry on being abused. But the arrival of this bundle changed everything for me. I feel no guilt that the woman who gave birth to me has no relationship with my children. They asked who my mummy was and why we didn’t see her. I explained to them gently that sometimes
people have illnesses that change who they are, that it isn’t always safe to be around them and that my job is to protect them from anything that might hurt them. They accept that for now.
I first came across Nacoa in 1994 randomly in a newspaper article, I say randomly because at the time I was serving in Bosnia and a friend had sent me a pile of papers to read. I have been a member of the Nacoa family since that day. I have served as a Trustee and continue to be on the consultative council.
I wish with all my heart that the Nacoa helpline had been there when I was younger and wonder how different life would have been now. But I am forever grateful for them and the amazing work they do, you see they are a part of my journey, my healing and my growth. They bring me hope that somewhere in the country a youngster is able to pick up the phone and tell someone that they ‘got all their spellings right today’ and to be congratulated,
nurtured and encouraged or ‘that today mummy drank so much that she fell asleep in her own sick’ and be told by a caring voice “that it isn’t your fault, you didn’t do anything and it isn’t down to you to change mummy.”
Nacoa is full of angels, you can’t see their wings, you can’t see their haloes but they are there. Holding the vulnerable, caring for those who think it is all their fault, who believe they are worthless and are terrified because the person(s) who should be caring for them, don’t.
This post was written by Katie Watson who has her own blog which you can find here.
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