Here, Lauren Claxton writes such a courageous piece that highlights how having an alcoholic parent can seep into your whole life. So very apt that is it is being posted as part of #COAWeek2018.
It’s taken me almost a year to reach out. One day, last summer I was watching a TV programme about Calum Best ‘In Therapy‘ and suddenly so much hit home. I had been in denial and didn’t want to accept that my childhood had affected me in adulthood.
My mum, so sadly passed away 12th February 2017 (it makes me feel so ill that it has already been a year). To say that it was a shock is maybe a lie as the life style she lead was so detrimental to her health… but at the end of the day no-one can prepare you for the sudden death of your own mum.
A freezing cold Sunday afternoon, i had the flu so was watching a film in bed. My phone rang and it was my mum’s husband…he said ”Lauren, you better get down here… They are trying to revive her but it’s not looking good”.
My partner and I live a 10 minute drive and he grabbed the keys and drove us to her house. With my mum, there is always and always has been a series of exaggerated stories. So although rushing and shaking like a leaf, I half didn’t believe what I had been told. We arrived and there were two ambulances and a team of paramedics. I watched her naked on the floor whilst they worked on her. They told me that they would stop the CPR if I would agree but I asked them to wrap her up warm and take her to hospital, to keep trying. I knew she had gone but I couldn’t bear the idea of her dying on that dirty living room floor, surrounded by alcohol and cigarette ash. She was 55, she was my mum and I loved her.
My mum had been an alcoholic for nearly my whole life. I’m 28 and an only child.
Mum was the life and soul. So vibrant, she had many friends, family – married my Dad and had me when she was 28 years old. We at first, had a good life full of love and nice things. I noticed her drinking would often get out of control at parties and eventually her behaviour and personality when she had had a drink became too much…for everyone. I remember being so young but still very aware that my mum was drinking too much. My Parents separated when I was 10 years old and our life turned upside down. Her Drinking spiralled. She met an old friend, he soon became her boyfriend, my childhood home was up for sale and she had moved us into his.
Her drinking was out of control, she’d hide vodka, whiskey & wine in the cupboards. I’d find them and poor half down the sink and then add water, in a desperate attempt to keep her sober for longer. She worked in a school with special needs children and eventually lost her job. Had a car crash (drunk) and had to go to court. Every child of any alcoholic i’m sure can list hundreds of horror stories…
I would be so scared of her drink-driving that I would purposely get in the car and go with her, in case I needed to grab the wheel, I was 11 years old!
I would get home from school (aged 12) and would regularly find her unconscious on the floor. This was a huge secret, my secret to protect my mum. Her drinking was too much for her new boyfriend and after lots of arguments and tears, we were ushered on. My grandparents took us in whilst they helped try and get her back on her feet. I don’t think they knew the half it despite us living with them.
I saw my Dad 4 nights a week. I was so close to him but I lied to him, I lied to everyone, I said mum was fine. She was so far from it. One day I caught her trying to over-dose using anti depressants… The threats/attempts of suicide would carry on for years. She had lost her marriage, her job, her boyfriend and we had no where to live.
My Mum and Dad’s divorce went through, so she used the money for a deposit for a 2 bedroom terraced house. I was 13 years old and desperately wanted to believe that this was the new start to turn our life around. We were now living in a different place and I would avoid the bus because I didn’t like our area and would walk mainly alone to school – 3 miles. I had friends, no way would I let on and I did everything I could to hide my home life.
Most children loved Christmas but I dreaded it. It meant one thing- Alcohol, all day and all night. My mum once fell asleep face down in her Xmas dinner, it was just the two of us, I cried, she shouted. Just one of many disaster Christmases.
The worst was yet to come. My mum met her new partner, at a pub. He had nothing. Not even a job but I believe he saw my mum as an opportunity. He quickly moved in, my mum trying to support the 3 of us on minimum wage (with child support from my dad) and an alcohol addiction. He was essentially her drinking buddy and enabler. He encouraged her to drink, get into debt, pawn her jewellery and basically used her for his gain. I would shout and cry at them both.
What was happening to my beautiful, fun and clever mum?
She had been given the green flag to drink all day and all night. They would fall asleep with the TV blaring. I will never forget how most nights i would be woken in the night by their TV and I would creep in and turn it off. They argued most nights too, so violently. Police were often called and there was violence on both sides. Promises of breakups and him being kicked out were not kept and he was always back. He then married her. She also, eventually ended up unemployed and deeply depressed, diagnosed with bipola.
Whilst this was going on my dad had met someone new. She was moving about 60 miles out and my dad decided to follow his heart and move with her. He had no idea of the severity of my problems at home. Dad would pick me up from home most weekends and we’d drive the hour to his. Of all the things we spoke about, I didn’t mention it once. I wasn’t shouting for help, so it didn’t get addressed.
I was so, so secretly sad. I’d look up at the stars out of my window and cry and cry. Wishing and praying for a different life… how can someone feel that at only 15 years old?!
At 17 I dropped out of 6th form, gave my mum an ultimatum to give up drinking or she would lose me forever… Who was I kidding. I knew how much she loved me but she was in total denial. I moved about for the next few years including my Dad and Step-mum – This didn’t last too long, we clashed and I was not used to following house rules. I was also damaged, something they didn’t fully understand because I still kept the life i had with mum a secret. I recognise now, that I have a heightened sensitivity to other people’s emotions, I am always worried of opinions of me, extremely scared to disappoint and anxious. But to hide it, I’m sure I came across as obnoxious. But I didn’t care, as long as I didn’t show the truth.
After much persuasion, moved in with my grandparents- again. I always pushed myself to make things work and I managed to get quite a good job at the time and saved hard. With my money I travelled the world, finally I had left it all behind and I felt happy for the first time for many years. I wrote postcards to my mum and letters asking to her to keep well but for the first time I felt free of responsibility or worry. I honestly thank God for the opportunity my grandparents gave me, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I feel forever grateful for them supporting me and letting me find my own path. I managed to lose myself in the wider world for a few years but it saved me.
It was only within the last 3 of years of being back in England that I felt I could put aside my hurt my mum caused me and could recognise how much of a mess she was in. It killed me. Her house was so filthy, she lived in squalor. She always looked so sad and unwell. She was so unkempt and she smelt where she wasn’t washing herself. She told me she hated her partner and that he wouldn’t help her.
So much guilt. Whilst i was off enjoying the world, it was like the life had been sucked out of her along with any chance of her ever getting better. I tried, I took her to the doctors, I tried to look into care, I phoned every week, I really wanted to help. She’d phone me in drunken rants and still make me cry in frustration. What made it harder was that she was still always deep down my thoughtful and caring mum. She always remembered birthdays and Christmas and with the little money (and agriphobia) she had, she would still go out and find something little to wrap up. It’s heart breaking for me, she was helpless and hopeless. I wished with all my heart I could of helped her.
I used to think I was a success story of an alcoholic, coming from an dis-functional life to the functional life I lead now. But I’ve learnt there is absolutely no success stories from growing up with an alcoholic parent, it rips a hole in your heart. Our parent’s are victims of the alcohol and we are victims of them. The guilt, the sadness and the what if’s. Also, the sense of feeling that you don’t need anyone to help you, you don’t need to be saved from anything. I’ve learnt to be so self sufficient. I feel it can be damaging to my relationships around me. It’s tough, I actually find it impossible to love anyone with my whole heart.
Losing my mum was so hard but as an alcoholic too, her husband wasn’t able to take care of anything. When she passed my grandparents paid for and I organised the entire funeral on my own. As much as I hated the role her husband had played, he seemed broken. He told me his own children rarely made contact, so I really tried to be help him out. Some months after mum’s funeral, I received an abusive phone call from his son and then a threatening legal letter to never visit my old house or to contact her husband again. My mum sadly had never sorted a will and all promises that he made to do the right thing by her are now lost. It was all so wrong... but really, It is the ultimate legacy of growing up with an alcoholic parent.
Nothing will ever take away the love I have for my mum. The one thing I am learning is to let go of any anger or hate that I have. It’s a wasted emotion that will eventually eat you up. I will always remember my mum for the kind soul that she once had before alcohol had took a hold. It doesn’t change what happened but I hope one day I might be able to help others in my situation too.