This is a really powerful piece written by Bea showing the resilience needed to grow up with the progression of a parents alcoholism. It also highlights how important it is for people to try to understand the complexities of trying to support someone in the family with alcoholism. If you feel impacted by what you read then remember that Nacoa can offer help and support. If you would like to share as a Coa then please get in touch.
I come from a family of superhero’s.
What is our power you ask?
We are female orientated, strong, loyal – and most importantly – resilient.
What makes you want to engage or follow a superhero in the beginning? There backstory – Deadpool was on the verge of death, totally focused on trying to sacrifice himself to have one last chance at happiness, Harlequin – the antihero, suffering emotional abuse, narcissism and all for the sake of wanting to be loved – see the common ground?
All stories start with a messy beginning, something triggers what we become, and ultimately it is out choice. And me and my four sisters, we had the best superhero.
She was born into a conservative family; you conformed to societies expectations and didn’t waver from the norm. So when rumours of sexual abuse from family members came around, these were pushed to the side, hidden in plain sight – and so the power of resilience started.
It carried on, into her early twenties, in which she married her first husband, someone who was suffering also from his own issues, and then became the issue of loyalty. She had 3 girls, my sisters. Pretty close together, her husband, left often, physical abuse began again – and being left with 3 toddlers, isolated from your family – the family that have already turned their back on your abuse once, was enough. Staying loyal to the situation was not the right thing to do in this case.
That’s when she needed another way to cope – a way to block out the pain and survive – because she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. And that’s when the drinking began.
My eldest sister – has a powerful memory – like me, which is self-sabotaging. We remember the negatives, they sit at the forefront of our minds, and we are left in a state of stagnant anxiety like a crocodile, waiting to snap. We are always prepared to be met with the negatives – but due to the trauma we share, we are resilient – and will not share out weakness or accept pity surrounding our situation. My other sisters, they block it out, I’ve heard my middle sister say repeatedly she thinks the fact her childhood was so traumatic, she has selectively blocked out most of her childhood, which again, is another form of coping another “superpower”.
My mum’s coping method meant that she was now the family secret, our grandparents sent her to rehab many times, my sisters ended up living with there dad and my mum moved back home, which 10 years later, resulted in her meeting my dad, and having an “accident” – resulting in me.
At 40 years old, being an alcoholic and having a baby with someone 10 years younger than you is probably one not the path to follow, two alone moving out of your parents house and in with my dad – who at 30, was not ready for children, and although not an alcoholic – liked drinking. A lot.
Queue my first memory – the start of my superhero training.
I must have been around 4 or 5 – I was fully aware my mum was a sneak drinker – she would hide it, down it – and re-appear clearly drunk. Her behaviour was erratic, she would cry and tell me how she just wanted to be loved, and how she was sexually abused as a child and no one believed her, this one night in particular – she had disappeared and left me with my sisters on our own. My dad was at the pub, and we couldn’t find her.
When he finally came home, he went looking for her with my eldest sister – I think, and found her, another suicide attempt – overdose, laid on a bench near our house.
My sisters were sent packing with me in my dolls pram to our grandparents, I remember the walk to the house in the dark, whilst my dad waited for an ambulance for mum.
This – was normal for me. I knew no different.
It carried on for years, suicide attempts, being found passed out, rehab stints, and then she found a new boyfriend – the worst thing to happen.
He was controlling, violent, abusive. I suffered one of the worst experiences of my life with my grandma whilst on holiday with them both, and still now I have seen him in the streets and my entire body is filled with hate.
The last straw I think I was 11 – he had plied my mum with alcohol at his flat, I was there and tried to stop him, he hit me, locked me in the bathroom, the next thing I remember my eldest sister taking me home, and my other sister coming back to get mum.
She was totally unconscious, I sat on the steps with my grandma as we watched them carry her upstairs completely out of it – we never saw him again after that.
Mum had peaks in which she would do really well – she was a creative and passionate person, she was so caring and considerate – always doing things for people and encouraging us to follow our dreams. But she had a dark side, that she couldn’t escape.
She met her last boyfriend – who became her fiancé a few years after. He had been a recluse, barely socializing, full of his own demons, but a kind heart and just the soul that mum needed in her life to take away the pain.
We had so many good memories, he pulled her out of the darkness – and although she didn’t stop drinking, it eased off – and her happiness came through – and as a 13 year old I thought it was getting better. I could see a future with them both, a normal family aesthetic, instead of the “I have to live with my grandma and my mum and I can’t have friends over in case mum has been drinking again” my sisters were starting families of their own, and it looked like a calm end to the storm was finally coming.
This wasn’t the case, mum had a diary that she put ticks in on her good days, I remember reading it and counting to 10, and being so happy that finally, mum was getting better. But it didn’t stay that way. We didn’t speak about it ever when she was sober – just a smile when she showed me the diary.
She got triggered, and I don’t think any of us will ever know the full root cause of the issue, but one day she started drinking, and it continued, for 10 days, when she was sober, she wasn’t really sober – she was just there – waiting for the next opportunity to get drunk and block her demons out. The ticks changed to question marks, You could see in her eyes she was in pain. One night she got ready to go stay with her fiancé, she had had a drink – I could tell, I did her makeup and helped her put her contact’s in as I always did, and I remember being mad that she had drank again when she had been doing so good. And that was the last time I saw her.
I was woken by my grandma screaming down the house phone and then dragging me out of bed, “Your mum has done herself in – she’s gone..” over – and over and over.
I was in a cream nightie, I remember her ringing people and I just walked out the front door and started running towards the flat. I saw the ambulances go past and realised I had no shoes on, so turned around and went back. My grandma was still on the phone upstairs in the hallway. And I just sat on the sofa. Numb.
My sisters appeared one by one, I don’t remember what we said to each other, I remember my youngest – older sister squeezing me, and feeling like it was some sort of sick joke, a dream.
The weeks after that flew by, I went back to school after a week, no one spoke to me about it and my secret was safe, teachers asked if I needed support – I shunned them away – resilience, pretend everything is ok, don’t let them see through the cracks. Be the brave hero.
The toxic silence passed down from out grandparents had rubbed off on all of us – keep calm and carry on.
And then it was churned out unexpectedly – like a volcano. Leaving us all exposed and bare, burned and empty.
The local newspaper, despite expensive legal fights went ahead, and not only released out mum’s name, they pin pointed it down using my grandmas full name, headlining the story “Alcohol level worst coroner had ever seen”
They got the details of her death wrong, where she was found, misquoted people and ultimately used half a page to gossip about our situation.
Everyone at school knew, and so came forth the bullying, my secret was out. Everyone knew.
Not only that – but when the article was printed, as large as it was – they inserted a tiny piece underneath it – about how families should “offer support”
They explained how our mum had died on the anniversary of her dad’s death, and this was probably why she did it – and families should support each other.
Of course – we all knew – this too was incorrect. His quote at the end “I wonder if it suggests she did not care for her safety?”
At 13 I wrote to the paper – in anger, to tell them how they had twisted my mums’ story, printed half-truths and lies and then made us feel even worse because “families should offer support” and surprise – I never heard anything back.
This is where superpowers get handed down. We as sisters are resilient, we speak our mums truth and have no shame now, that’s taken a long time – and we will all need healing for the rest of our lives due to what we experienced, and although my mum’s story is over, I’m grateful that there is much better education, support and resources for children of alcoholics and support for people with substance abuse issues – because if we had that during our battle – our backstory, I honestly think the outcome would have been so different. But its people like our mum, that we lost far too soon, that gave us our resilience to overcome all the trauma, and then some – and still be the strong sisters, daughters, mothers, friends and superhero’s that people need.
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