This powerful piece has been written by Laura and is sure to resonate with many. If you feel affected by what you read and would like support then Nacoa is there to offer it. If you would like to share your story, or anything, as someone impacted by a parents drinking, then please get in touch.
It’s been seven years now since I lived with my mother. In that time, the traumatic memories of crying myself to sleep night after night, feeling fear and dread at the prospect of going home, and my parents arguing have subsided. I’ve grown so much and achieved more than I ever thought possible and yet…
There’s always that nagging feeling. If I react poorly to something, my mind wonders: is this a result of my mother’s drinking? If I step into a club and smell alcohol, I remember and instinctively feel like I need to curl up and cry. If I can’t sleep at night, my minder wanders to dark places and I relive the haunted memories of my past.
I’m 19 years old now, in my second year of university. I’ve not seen my mother for almost a year. Most days I barely remember that part of my life, continuing as normal. But the fear clings to me. I’m in constant worry about whether or not I’m damaged, if I’m hurting people without meaning to or knowing because I developed poor coping mechanisms as a child. If I get into arguments, my first instinct is to hide my face; I regress within a matter of seconds, without meaning to, without wanting to.
I have trouble with mother figures as a result of my mother’s alcoholism. I don’t like being fussed over or having things done for me. When well-meaning mothers try to take care of me, I get defensive and irritated.
I’ve been looking after myself for so long, I don’t need other people to do it for me. It makes me feel like they think I’m not capable.
I worry for the future as well; my mother seems almost immortal and my fear is that she will linger in my life for a long time to come. I don’t wish her dead – I love her – but I’ve known for a long time now that she will never recover, simply because she doesn’t want to. When I think of all the happiest moments of my life yet to come, instead of feeling excitement or happiness, I feel dread. When I get married, for example, will I invite her? If I invite her, she’ll get drunk and ruin the night with some awful, hateful speech. But if I don’t invite her, she’ll be furious and make a scene elsewhere. These are the kinds of thoughts that few other people will ever experience; they have the luxury of knowing they can rely on their parents. Why can’t I invite my mother of all people to my wedding and not have to wonder whether she’ll try to spoil it or make it about her?
I worry for when I have children too. Not just because they won’t be able to have a relationship with their grandmother, but also because I am scared to be a mother myself. I don’t know how. My role model for mothership is my older sister. I’m scared of messing up, of being a bad parent like my parents before me. I desperately want to do better.
I used to feel more defined by my childhood but I suppose, as time goes on and old wounds heal, it becomes easier to forget and move on.
I know I will always bear the scars, and always wonder how far I am who I am because of what happened; the answer I have come to is that, yes, I am the result of traumatic childhood but that it doesn’t have to be all that I am.
My past made me strong, independent, resourceful and self-reliant but my present is shaping what I am and what I will be. And though the memories are still painful and I wish that it hadn’t happened sometimes, I wouldn’t change it. I have moments of self-doubt and self-loathing, just as everyone else does at some stage, but I love myself just the way I am. And in order to love myself, I have to accept everything, including my past.