Today’s piece has been written anonymously and is an important piece. It shows how peoples drinking can creep up on a family and how the behaviour can become normalised. It also highlights the importance of finding support and how far reaching the impact is.
From the outside we seemed like the perfect family. My parents ran their own successful business, we lived in a big house with lots of land, had posh cars and employed a cleaner, gardener and someone to muck out our horses….
My early childhood was normal, my parents were attentive and though at that time we didn’t have much money, we had everything we needed. We all did well at school and had good friendships. As my parents business grew we eventually moved into a house which my dad had designed and had built as we wanted it. It was to be the start of great times.
After moving, my parents began socialising with those in the racing industry who frequented our local pub. My dad was always sociable but also tried a bit too hard to be liked… he was always trying to impress. My parents would attend balls, dinners and the pub with their new found friends and my dad soon was co-owner of a racehorse which widened the circle of friends further. He enjoyed showing off how well-off we were and money was often a topic of conversation. My dad would go to the pub most evenings to catch up with his new-found friends. Then he started going more often…. and more…
As well as showing off my dad was also a flirt and my mum began to worry about what he was up to so she began going to the pub too to keep an eye on him. Most nights we would get home from school, mum and dad would go to the pub and we’d sort out our own dinners and take ourselves off to bed.
Their business began struggling and eventually fell into liquidation. We lost the cars, the ‘staff’ and the money but did manage to keep hold of the house. A lot of my parents ‘friends’ didn’t want to know them anymore and my dad had nothing to show off. That’s when the drinking intensified.
My parents could no longer afford to drink in the pub as often as they had done so they would buy wine from the supermarket and both polish off a bottle a night… then a couple of bottles. Whenever they did go to the pub they would come back staggering.
I began to get concerned about their drinking and brought it up with them but they didn’t have a drinking problem. If they did then they’d “be reaching for a drink as soon as they woke up.”
They worked hard to restart their business and did get the company back up and running but on a much smaller scale. However, their arguments increased which led to more drinking and both were prescribed anti-depressants. This I think was the moment things really changed.
They were told not to drink on these tablets but still would. Sometimes it would only take a couple of glasses of wine for my dad to be legless. We’d regularly drag him out of the chair he’d fallen asleep in to persuade him to go to bed and he’d stagger and slur his way there. Sometimes though he’d shout at us to leave him alone.
Again, I raised the issue of their drinking and said they shouldn’t drink on the tablets. This argument escalated to shouting and being sent to my room.
I don’t know when the physical abuse began or how, I think my mind has blanked it out, but soon the arguments would escalate into a smack from my dad…. and then a punch. My dad would argue regularly at my mum, screaming and lashing out at her. I would rush to her defence and that immediately put me in the firing line and I would take the hits instead.
The physical violence became a regular occurrence, it didn’t take much for my dad to flare up and he’d instantly lash out. Sometimes we’d be in bed before they got back from the pub and we’d be woken up by mums screams. I’d always run to her defence and take the hits instead. One night the only way I could get him off my mum was to hit him over the head with a deodorant can, this led to him chasing me and my sister with a knife. We ran into the study and I called the police while my sister held the door against him. I was hysterical and so the police arrived quickly and arrested him but he returned the next day after my mum said she wouldn’t press charges.
We lived in fear every day and violence soon became a normal way of life for us. If someone upset me, I’d hit them. I broke my sisters nose, I kicked my other sister in the head and I think the first sign my friends knew something wasn’t right was when I beat my friend to the floor and repeatedly punched them for spilling some crisps on the floor.
We didn’t tell anyone what went on, we were the perfect family after all. Family didn’t know, friends didn’t know but looking back I don’t know why we didn’t speak out.
Eventually, after several years my parents marriage broke down. We moved with my mum and once in a new house and away from my dad my mum stopped drinking and soon came off her anti-depressants. She now sometimes drinks but no more often than anyone else would and most importantly, she’s happy.
I was still very angry and would often lash out (though never at my mum). I did eventually talk to some of my friends and then met my now husband who had a really calming influence on me. I knuckled down at college and have always worked hard. I’ve managed to create a successful career but I often put too much pressure on myself, trying to hard to impress because no matter what I did never impressed my dad. He would always put us down and tell us we’d never amount to anything, I have always been determined to prove him wrong and until recently maintained a civil relationship with him.
My dad still drinks everyday. But he’s not an alcoholic because he “only drinks a bottle of wine a day and never drinks in the morning.” He looks old, he has the shakes and he never goes a whole day without at least one glass of wine.
I thought I’d put the past behind me but after someone got drunk and abusive at a wedding shouting into people’s faces, including me, I began to have nightmares about my dad. I decided to see a counsellor and I wish I’d done it sooner. I hadn’t realised just how much I had been affected by the trauma. Recurring dreams I had, that I didn’t think were related to my dad were as a result of being on ‘hyper alert’. Because I’d always been on edge, listening out for shouts and rushing to the defence of my mum, I was always on full alert. The slightest noise at night would wake me up and I was always afraid something bad was going to happen, worrying myself sick about stupid things. The counselling helped massively though it also highlighted just how bad things were. For us it was normal, part of our upbringing but my counsellor was genuinely shocked at the level of violence we had experienced.
So, why tell my story? Firstly, because those with alcohol problems aren’t always easy to see and the perfect families you see may not be so perfect behind closed doors. Look out for your friends and family and if you suspect something may be going on, just be there for them. They probably won’t talk, most of my friends and family still have no idea what went on and I have no plans to tell them. Why? Because I don’t want sympathy, I want to move on, to be free and live my life. Since my counselling I’ve ceased all contact with my dad and I’ve never felt happier.
And why remain anonymous? Because my mum blames herself for everything. She feels she should have left him sooner, not moved etc… I tell her she mustn’t blame herself but I know she does. Plus, I look to the positives and what happened shaped who I am today. I am strong, I am fearless and, as I tell myself every day, I am safe ☺