So after a short break we are back. This piece has been written anonymously. Want to share something as a child of an alcoholic? Then please get in touch. As always, remember Nacoa is always there if you need help and support.
It’s difficult to know exactly when in my childhood it started and when I realised my mum was on a one way journey to destruction, but what I know is that her secret daily drinking became more and more important to her until it was her only activity.
She had been a good mother in my early years looking after me and my older brothers, talented and funny, but from the age of eight or nine I remember her changing, and her drinking pattern changed from party / socialising heavy drinking to secret drinking in the house with bottles of whisky or martini hidden in kitchen cupboards, wardrobes and clothes drawers.
I would find glasses at any time of day half full of drink in random cup cupboards, under the sink, behind curtains and when I smelled them and asked what they were , there would always be some excuse.
The secret carried on as well as the drinking as I went into my teenage years.
The denial about her heavy and all day drinking and the lack of explanation for it seemed to be about her choice to continue despite the fact it was out of control, and about my fathers reluctance to address it or discuss it, with her or with us. I broached the subject over time with her later on several times, she always said she would cut down, she would never accept any help and rejected any suggestions. Her telltale fake telephone voice, fake laugh, exaggerated gestures, slurred voice on the phone, forgetting things, saying ridiculous things and developing strong beliefs about astrology, witch craft, tarot, became disconcerting for me and I started to see her as someone odd, to be wary of, to try to fix , instead of a mother.
Sleeping in the day, staying up listening to records at night, drinking, smoking , long curved cigarette ash tipping on to the floor. Me going back and forth asking her to go to bed, to put the cigarettes out safely. Calling out gas technicians , then too drunk to speak. Calling the doctor, then incoherent. Starting meals but unable to organise it properly. Never listening. Lying. Forgetting what you told her or asked her.
Driving us as children when she was completely drunk, over the grass and garden and then zig zagging down the main road.
By now she had her poison of choice– gin, her constant companion.
Telephone calls with slurred speech, nonsensical conversations never remembered. She started to have a poor memory , repeating questions. Her muscles wasted, her nerves to her hands and feet lost their use. She refused to see the doctor. She started to sleep all day, lost weight. She looked terrible. We couldn’t persuade her to go to the doctor and suddenly in the middle of this my father had a heart attack and collapsed in the garden with a cardiac arrest. My mum was in the utility drinking gin. The paramedics and doctors couldn’t revive him and he died. That’s when my world fell apart as both parents died at the same time, my father, and my mother in her living death as she got even more intoxicated and was admitted to hospital for alcohol detox and diagnosed with Alcohol related brain damage. I thought – finally she’s been detoxed, maybe she’ll be better and stop drinking and return to normal ? But like many other stories I’ve read on here, that wasn’t the case. After the detox she came out of hospital, hardly knowing us, having forgotten her own husband had just died, yet the first thing she said was ‘ Can I have a gin then?’ We had about about six bottles we’d hidden in the boot of the car – had to get one out, secretly dilute it and give her a dilute gin to placate her. That pivotal disappointing frightening moment says it all for me. Life with an alcoholic.
After this over the next few weeks and months mum continued to drink and became even more out of control. We asked for help, the social workers said they couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t manage her behaviour. She would drink, sleep, get a taxi for gin and same again. We organised carers, she wouldn’t let them in. She had social workers and she wouldnt let them in either. The neighbours were calling me saying there was an ambulance in the drive , they were worried she was eating cat food, she was neglecting herself even more. Eventually a different social worker came one day, couldn’t get access and called for a mental health section and she was put under section and detained in the psychiatric unit. She stayed in the psychiatric ward for three or four months until they found somewhere for her to live. I was told that it was impossible for her to live independently or with us and I could never leave her alone with the children( not that I ever had). She stayed under a mental health section in a home until she died.
How does this make me feel? When I was younger, I felt strong – as if I was her parent, and determined never to be an alcoholic after the horrors I’d witnessed. It left me with insecurity and anxiety though. I also felt ashamed, unconfident, anxious, uncertain about my own future,different, intrinsically faulty in some way as if despite not being an alcoholic, somehow I might follow her path in another way. I’ve achieved, but there’s still been a high cost, and until recently, when the anxiety became really bad, none of this was addressed. Instead, like a true COA I had just moved on and denied / shelved the feelings.
If I had had nacoa or other support as a child, teenager and young adult, it would have helped so much. All of those confusing events and feelings I didn’t understand and my dad didn’t explain , could have been talked through in the open.
There was a real trauma of losing my mum into a caricature of herself halfway through my childhood, then crushing disappointment when it was too late for her to recover despite all my efforts , and finally acceptance she chose her path of substance misuse over me.