There is a lot to be learned from this brave anonymous piece. Fitting for COAweek and captures the importance of listening to children of alcoholics. If you feel you need support then please reach out to Nacoa. If you would like to share your story, then please get in touch.
Telling my story is important to me because when I was growing up, nobody asked me how I was feeling, it was all about the adults around me.
I remember the first time I knew my mum was drinking, I must have been about 7 years old, she’d locked herself in her room and I could hear the clanking of beer cans. At this time I wasn’t scared but I do remember feeling confused. I’m sure mum was a drinker long before this moment but this is at least where I first remember it.
The memories don’t come in chronological order but I remember being made to go bed really early when it was still light and the other children played outside. I remember most mornings I’d be begging my mum to get out of bed to take us to school and I remember often sitting in the teachers staff room long after school had finished because mum hadn’t collected us because she was too drunk. The teachers used to give me a Kit-Kat, this was lovely at the time but I wish now that they’d instead asked how I was feeling and what was going on, rather than ignore the elephant in the room.
My dad was a functioning alcoholic and a violent drunk, I suspect this is where mum’s relationship with drink probably started and adult me completely understands the strain she was under. Dad relished in my mums lack of ability to function, perhaps because it made him feel better about his own addiction, more in control.
Mum attempted suicide many times, I recall finding scribbled notes on things, she’d smash things up, I vividly remember being left with the neighbours whilst the ambulance was parked outside our house.
My parents split up for a while and I remember having a great day out with dad but coming home to find mum passed out at the bottom of the stairs. She used to pass out a lot and I usually couldn’t wake her, a few times I called a neighbour and once, my grandad in the middle of the night.
Mum used to get kittens for us, I think this was her way of trying to repair her mistakes but the house was covered in fleas and the bills weren’t paid. She’d send us to cash cheques at the shop (presumably these bounced but I was far to young to understand this). I remember the shopkeeper one day refusing to cash it and I remember feeling really silly.
I remember feeling so helpless and scared, I dreamed of a family life like that of my friends or the children on TV. I was afraid to have friends over and I felt so inferior. I carried that shame until my mid-twenties, I couldn’t socialise because I didn’t feel good enough, I also stumbled into bad relationships.
In the end I got counselling and this really helped to process everything, I’m now a mum myself and my biggest therapy has been protecting her and ensuring she always feels safe and loved, surrounded by responsible adults. Mum and dad eventually split for good and mum has been alcohol free for many years, dad remains a functional alcoholic. My little sister has made a very successful life for herself and I’ve no doubt she’ll one day make an excellent mum herself.
You do come through it and you don’t have to repeat the same mistakes, talking is a lifesaver, building your own emotional intelligence and loving yourself and others.