The Queen's Award for Voluntary Service

Experiences

Reading experiences of other people affected by their parent’s drinking helps you to know you are not alone.

Hearing how other people felt as children and as adults can help us make sense of our own experiences. Whilst every family is unique, many families affected by alcohol problems face similar issues.

There are lots of personal stories in the followings sections. Why not try reading a few and perhaps come back another time to read some more? Remember you can always talk to Nacoa about what’s going on for you and your feelings and memories.

You may also find it cathartic to write about your own experiences. If you would like to contribute your experience for others to read, please email Hilary Henriques.

Feeling different from other people and guessing what normal is

+- I lost my superpower: Strength (Samantha)

A few days after I turned 28 this year I watched my 47 year old mother die in hospital due to years and years of drinking. I had not seen my mum in 10 years, I had 10 minutes with her while she was conscious and I sat with her for two days until she died in front of me at around 10:00 in the morning.

I spent years with my mum when I was a teenager trying to get her to stop drinking. I was attacked verbally on a daily basis but continued to fight her to show her that there was a different path she could take. Unfortunately my mum didn’t want the help and didn’t want to change. I have so much guilt about this, but I know I did the best I could.

I have spent most of my adult life striving to be the best version of me. I had fuelled a strength and had promised myself that I would be better.

The moment my mum passed my strength disappeared. I held it together at the hospital, during the funeral planning and even the funeral, but it’s only now that cracks are starting to show. The wounds of having an alcoholic parent feel as if they have resurfaced for the first time in many years. I am back to the first step; figuring out how I forgive my mum.

In the days after my mum passed I wrote these words down on my phone and wanted to keep and share them when I was ready;

When it’s time to say goodbye, there is no movement. There is no sound. They say “She is gone”.

Time didn’t matter in the days or hours before. They meant something in the missing years but not anymore.

The guilt, the anger, the rows have to all be forgiven. I am told “You have to forgive”.

It’s only after when the plans are made, flowers chosen and family have parted that you think was there more I could have done?

Nothing feels the same. Tastes, sounds or smells. I am numb to it all.

The daily worries are no longer mine as if the rose-coloured lenses were never mine.

The questions I had will never be answered. The answers I wanted will never be given.

I am still not prepared even though we have said goodbye. Maybe one day I will get the chance to get the answers that are mine.

My grief starts here.

Samantha

+- My story so far (Emma)

My mum is an alcoholic and has been for about 20 years. I am the eldest of three girls. My mum was the main carer for my dad who had a long term condition and sadly we lost dad 3 years ago. I remember living at home in my late 20’s and often having to care for my dad, assist him to bed because my mum was drunk, be there to get him up in the morning as mum was poorly from the day before. These occasions were few and far between with mum going as long as 5 years without a drink!!!

I moved out into my own place and would often receive calls from my dad saying that mum had gone up to bed at say 4pm for a ‘lie down’ and it was now 8pm and she hadn’t come down. I would drive round, wake mum up, do what was required for my dad and often stay the night. One phone call ended up me staying at mum and dads for over a week because mum had been on the drink for days!!!!

As mentioned we lost dad in 2015, mum lost her soulmate, her life partner (they had been married 43 years) and what she saw as her purpose. This resulted in several hospital admissions, kidney failure at one point and even being intubated in ITU on 2 occasions. She has been in a mental health unit, private rehab none of which have helped and to this day she is still drinking.

Mum now goes maybe 5 or 6 days where she doesn’t drink but then once she’s back on it again she becomes unable to do anything. I have lost count of the times mum has been ‘rescued’ as I call it only to do it all over again. I have accepted the fact that she will never stop now or have I? Is that something I maybe tell myself to make it appear I have? I struggle now with the ‘is mum ok today’? ‘will she answer the phone’? ‘will she reply to my text’?. I imagine finding her at home and the drink has finally taken her. It’s the last thing I think of at night and the first thing I think about when I wake and that’s if I’m lucky to sleep through without a horrible dream about my mum and her drinking. I feel responsible for mum now and am just waiting for the day I do find her and it’s too late, it’s a case of when and not if and I seem to say that so easily to those around me who know about mum. I feel extreme sadness for mum most of the time and terrible anger and loss also at what life has now become for mum. She doesn’t leave the house and orders her drink online. I will never stop that I realise that. One of my sisters has nothing more to do with mum as it was too damaging and the other sister lives hours away.

Writing this down for someone else to read feels surreal. I feel embarrassed that my mum is an alcoholic. I am aware I have some of the characteristics closely associated with being a child of an alcoholic, I never knew how I am at times is down to how mum is but seeing it in black and white I recognise myself. I feel anxious daily and worry all the time. I want to feel ‘normal’ but am unsure what that is after such a long time now.

My wish for my mum is to see that there are people around her who care for her and love her and she does have a purpose but I feel that is never going to happen. Me and my sisters are not enough for mum to stop and that is hard to accept. Have I accepted that things are never going to change? I honestly don’t know. Will I be relieved when the alcohol finally takes mum? I don’t know.

Emma, 43 years.

+- We were a complicated family (Anon)

I know that each time you remember something, you remember the memory, so I guess when I tell my story, I may be merging a number of memories into one.

We were a complicated family. Both my parents passed away quite some time ago. Mums first husband had died and in the late fifties in Ireland, this was not good when you had a young family to bring up, but she met my Dad, moved to England where he had a house and a job. Mum missed her family in Ireland and probably never settled, and in her unhappiness began to drink and blamed Dad I guess – there were lots of arguments fuelled by alcohol. He eventually left home.

Mum worked in the school I went to and she always had a cup full of sherry in her hand. I hate the smell of sherry. Kids would make fun, calling us as mum was drinking. I remember being with her coming home from work one time, waiting to get on a bus – the driver refused to let us on the bus she was so drunk. I was maybe 10 at the time. I remember a boy at the bus stop spitting at me, wiping spit in my hair – because mum was drunk.

When she had been drinking I remember her screaming abuse at me and my siblings from a very young age – using language like ‘whores, bastards, dirty bitches, etc. I remember one time; my mum really did batter me in front of her work colleagues. I was bruised, I was ashamed, and I ran away. I began to not care about her, or about me. The physical stuff was easier to deal with than the verbal abuse. I have no doubt that we went to school in unwashed clothes and unwashed ourselves – gas and electricity was often cut off as bills weren’t paid. She was always in rent arrears. I imagine I was that smelly kid in the class.

Dad gave mum money via us for ‘keep’ when we went to see him. We learned to keep it and not pass it on and go straight to the supermarket to do food shopping otherwise we might not eat – we probably got into trouble for that.

I was friendless; I was so shy, and withdrawn. I worked hard at school, I didn’t know how to be friends with my peers. On parents evening at secondary school she would often be drunk telling the teachers that I was lazy, disrespectful, etc my teachers would say I worked hard, I was bright, I was a good kid. I grew up believing my mum.

I remember taking photos of her when she was drunk, showing them to her when she was sober, and asking why did she want to be like that – she would say she was not drunk, she was just kidding. To the outside world, mum was a lovely lady, people loved her. Her family in Ireland adore her, and tell me what a wonderful woman she was – I struggle to see it – well maybe I saw glimpses – I resent the affection they have for her.

The older I get the less I feel anything about her and that saddens me to the core. I want to miss my mum, I want to need her, I want to love her, but she never let us in.

I am blessed with a wonderful family now of whom I am deeply, deeply proud – I don’t know how I got here. I just pray I have allowed my children to be themselves and that they can face this world with confidence in themselves, and never to feel ashamed of who they are or never to feel ashamed of me.

The older I get the less it matters, but the more it matters. It’s a bit confusing. I want to tell the world, and I don’t want to tell the world. I have just begun to learn who I am. I don’t blame Mum. She was I think desperately sad, unhappy, and lonely. She pushed us away, there was no way in. All I wanted was for her to love us, to love me, and I think she did but just could not show it. I didn’t know how to fix it, or make it better, and there is nothing I can do about it.

Anon

+- My mother drank through guilt (Debra)

I am 44 years old.

My mother started drinking through guilt over her own mothers death a year before I was born.

I have no idea when it turned to an addiction and am not sure if I have blocked out a lot of my memories. After she got arrested for drunk driving I realised it was alcoholism and rang the AA for her & handed over the phone. She must have realised herself as she did go on to recovery & helped a lot of others on her journey. It was only then I realised I had cleared up her sick before not because she had been sick but because she has drank so much.

My older brother was also an alcoholic & drug addict & he died as a result at the age of 37 when I was 28.

My mum past away 4 years ago, shortly before my fortieth birthday. It was not alcohol related and she had remained sober since I was 18 I believe.

I myself have had anxiety issues since my parents divorced in my late teens. This year I was told I am suffering from depression & have been getting help from my doctor & a counsellor.

It has been tough. The bit I find most distressing is having flashbacks. My counsellor believes they relate to childhood trauma. I am still trying to associate my flashbacks with my experiences. This may sound strange but I am told our brains try & protect us from major trauma by hiding the events behind a barrier in our minds as a way of protecting us.

It is common for childhood trauma to surface in peoples early to mid forties, or so I am told. I would encourage anyone who is struggling to try counselling – even if you have been through it before and are left thinking it is a waste of time as a result. I was there. I thought when I turned up at my first appointment that I was a fraud & it was a waste of time for myself & my counsellor. I have been lucky though & found a wonderful counsellor this time.

I struggle particularly with thoughts of my Mum, as I feel I never knew the real her. I knew the one who was alcohol dependent and I knew the one in recovery but wonder if I ever knew the real Mum.

I am doing better now & have decided to go ‘Sober for a quarter’ raising money for, amongst others, NACOA. I find it comforting finding stories of others in similar situations as you feel you are not alone & will be OK.

Debra

+- One of the many painful facts of being the child of an alcoholic parent is struggling to define what you have made for yourself, and what others have made you into. (Jonathan)

One of the hardest things about being the child of an alcoholic is being one after the fact. My father died nine years ago, in 2008, when I was fifteen. My grief for his passing, and my experiences since, are compounded by the fact that he caused so much pain in his life.

I was raised by disabled parents. The strained tense in that sentence is the very epitome of the difficulty in talking about my childhood. My mum is deaf; my dad was deaf. My dad was deaf not because he is no longer deaf, but because he is dead. Hence: I was raised by disabled parents. I often feel a pang of remorse that the only way to explain that in a grammatically correct way suggests somewhat that my mum is no longer around.

We were also Jehovah’s Witnesses when I was growing up. I can’t talk ill of a religion that so many millions willingly prescribe to, but I can say from experience that growing up not celebrating your birthday, or Christmas, or Easter, being removed from class at any celebration or religious education lesson, and spending four of the seven days of a week in church or knocking on peoples doors does not make for an especially happy childhood in and of itself.

After my father died, my brother and myself also came to the realisation that we were both gay. Aside from the religion, the disability, and Dad’s alcoholism, this confusing experience made us both easy targets for bullying when we were growing up (no matter how many girls we dated.)

It is often hard to know where to begin in discussing dad’s alcoholism. Dad was not an active parent, even before his addiction consumed him. I have a vague memory of being six years old and watching him pull in to the driveway and feeling upset about it. That was around the same time that he lost his job as a toolmaker, and began relying too much on alcohol.

Memories of childhood are patchy. I had friends, but our relationship was stifled by my religion, by the barriers that disability presents (especially as a parent), and by the fact that my home was not a happy place to go to for most of my childhood. I could talk in intricate detail about the events of my childhood, which perhaps reflect who I am now. It is sometimes hard not to do that; it is hard not to over-psychoanalyse, and make assumptions that my behaviour is entirely indicative of my upbringing. One of the many painful facts of being the child of an alcoholic parent is struggling to define what you have made for yourself, and what others have made you into.

Rather, I find it easier to use three memories that are seared into my mind, which perhaps best sum up my experiences as the child of an alcoholic. I do not think that I will ever forget them.

The first was when a friend was invited over after school. I’m sure I was younger than ten. We were playing in the living room. Ordinarily, it was the prime place to be if dad had disappeared for the afternoon. The entrance to the front door and the side door were visible from the living room, and it gave us the advantage of being prepared for his drunken arrival. I had, however, not noticed that he’d arrived home until I’d heard the side door slam open and a crash come from the kitchen. With Mum being deaf, it was instinctive to investigate noises in the house, even if they came from Dad and even if I was terrified of them. He’d lost his balance on the step up into the kitchen and fallen flat on his face. Mum was trying to help him up and he had pushed her on to the floor in his effort to regain his balance. His nose was bloody, and they had immediately begun arguing. Profoundly deaf people often struggle to know the volume of their speech; when they argue with their voices, it can get loud. And it did. I was scared for my mum because he was being aggressive, but I was also mortified knowing that my friend was in the living room, unintentionally listening in. I walked away back to my friend, and Dad followed me. He fell – literally – on to the newly bought sofa and immediately wet himself. He urinated so much that the sofa dripped with his urine, and it had to be professionally cleaned. He passed out before he knew that he’d done any of this, and I had to ask my friend to wait in my bedroom while Mum and I carried a soaking wet grown adult into his own bed.

Alcoholism is dealt with privately. It always has been: that is not to say it is right. People don’t discuss alcoholism in public, because they worry about the potentially embarrassing repercussions. When you are a child you are indoctrinated into this belief. And when that privacy is broken, no matter how understanding the closest of friends can be, it is harrowing to experience. I struggled to maintain that friendship afterwards.

The second memory is shortly preceded by the third. It is brief. Dad’s alcoholism, his unemployment, his disability and his inability to resolve any of these things made him aggressive and suicidal. He’d taken it upon himself, on numerous occasions, to try and commit suicide. A neighbour had twice talked him down from a bridge near us, and driven him home. What does a child say to a man who wants to die? And what does a child say to their father who wants to die? I don’t think any COA with an abusive alcoholic parent could ever deny wondering in what ways their parent’s death would free them from the abuse or the oppression they may suffer. It is a sad thought to have. On this occasion, I’d come downstairs because I could hear screaming, and I saw my brother and mum wrestling knives from Dad’s hand. He’d had an argument with the both of them and he’d run to the kitchen to try and slit his wrists. My brother is older than me, but he was still too young at that time to be wrestling a fully-grown man to the ground. We’d collectively taken all the knives from him, and from the draw, and I was tasked with taking them upstairs and hiding them. I put them all under my bed. When I came out of my room, Dad had stumbled his way up the stairs and on to the landing, and had me by the neck before I had a chance to get away. I don’t have the strongest of relationships with my brother, but I will never forget his fearlessness in facing Dad. He’d wrenched his hand off my neck and thrown me into Mum and Dad’s bedroom. He stood face to face with my dad in the doorway, goading him to see what happens if he tried to hurt me again. He must have been thirteen at the time. My dad head-butted him, smacking my brother’s head into the doorframe and knocking him out. I have no memory of what happened after. All I remember is going to sleep that night with knives under my bed, and asking my mum if she thought Dad would try and kill me.

An alcoholic person provides family members with the great difficulty of having to protect each other from them. It is no mean feat, especially for children. My brother was brave, and fearless, and so angry all of the time. He protected me. My mother was – and still is – a beacon of strength and power and kindness and love. She still protects me. But my relationship with both of them faced the same strife as it did with my dad, because we were brought together through abuse, and through fear, rather than through love. And that experience does one of two things: it either binds two people in an inextricable way, or it makes two people further from each other than they’d ever hoped to be. In a bittersweet way, I have endured both of those things.

The third memory that is perhaps the most impactful is perhaps the easiest to explain. I was nine, and playing with action figures in the living room. Dad was behind me, sat on his armchair; my brother and mum were upstairs looking at something on the computer. My dad was drunk, but very calmly said my name. I remember feeling angry the second he did. I turned round to look at him, and saw him with his hands clenched together in the air. I had no idea why, until he said that he was sorry and until I saw the glimmer that made me realise he was holding a knife. He brought it down on his stomach at the same time I ran upstairs screaming that he had stabbed himself. My brother and mum raced down to find that he had – miraculously – caught his belt buckle, and not managed to pierce his stomach.

I have no idea of the events that occurred before or after that memory. It is black. But that memory, etched indelibly in my head, is impossible to think of in objective terms. I relive the terror I felt at that moment each and every time I think back to it. I try to exorcise the memory by writing about it or talking about it, by blocking it out or by thinking of nothing else but it. Nevertheless, it persists. It always will. That moment was, I think, very much when my childhood died. I never thought of Dad the same way again, or thought of life the same way again. That transient moment, compounded by years of abuse and fear, robbed me of a childhood that was rightfully mine. Any person should feel so much anger in the knowledge that joy and freedom and love was taken from them. For a long time, I did.

And yet, years later, when we had the word from the doctor that my dad would die within weeks, I was overwhelmed with grief. He stayed in hospital for six weeks and we visited him every day. By that time, Mum and he were divorced. This was the most time I’d spent with him in two years. I had been happier than I’d been before. He was not a source of daily anguish any more. And yet, when he slipped into a coma after the sixth week, and died hours later – ten minutes before I was due to sit a GCSE exam – I wept in a way that I never had and never have since. I held his hand and watched the last breath leave his body, and all those years that I expected to feel relief and joy at this moment were met with nothing but incomparable sadness. I took his watch from his wrist. My brother took his wedding ring. We both wear those things every day, still.

There are, in my mind, two things that can happen as a result of being the child of an alcoholic. You can let it become a part of your past; a distant and unfortunate memory that only rears its head on occasions where people discuss the apparent joys of childhood. Or you can use that pain, that anger, and that grief as a vehicle to make positive changes for yourself and the world around you. Being a COA means facing up to the demons of your past each and every day. It means long nights of silent sadness, and days where you’re so low without really understanding why. But it also gives us the opportunity to be better people. It gives us the chance to take our pain and make something useful out of it: to teach others the power and potential of respect, and kindness, and love.

I pride myself on being a listener. I pride myself on being a good friend. I pride myself on caring about other people. Sometimes I stumble in my efforts to be a good person, and sometimes I think too much about myself and not others. But when those moments happen, I think back to that hospital bed – to a man, fifty years old, surrounded by a family that loved him and about to draw his last breath. That man was ill; that man caused so much pain. But if I can have the strength to love him still, I can have the strength to be a better person for the sake of all the people that are my Dad and are a younger me. And that is both the pain and joy of being a child of an alcoholic parent.

Jonathan

+- My dad’s alcoholism took a turn for the worse when I was 7 years old (Tara)

My mum had just filed for divorce and was admitted into hospital with serious mental health problems. From there, myself and my brothers went through the endless cycle of my dad being completely drunk and taking our dinner money for a few months, to being completely alcohol free for a few months. He and my mum stayed together but had a very volatile relationship and because she had her own issues, there wasn’t a lot of stability or support coming from her either.

My dad died when I was 14. He was alone, in his flat and his organs basically gave up. At the time of his death, we hadn’t spoken for a while and it really affected me that we’d never been able to make up. For a number of years it really affected my relationship choices as I’d not had any good examples of how men should behave.
I’ve never had any issues with alcohol myself, as I would never let myself become my father. Unfortunately my mum now also has a pretty serious alcohol problem too, so the cycle has been never ending.

Thankfully I came through the other side and I’m married to a lovely man with a great career. I wanted to share my story so other people know that just because you’ve had an alcoholic parent, doesn’t mean you’re destined to go down that path and you can make something great of your life.

Tara

+- One year ago this week, my Dad died peacefully in his hospice bed (Joe)

I was standing right next to him at the time, trying to comfort him during his last few breaths. Somehow, I found that I still loved him, although how this could possibly be the case after all that he had done, all that he had put me through was totally beyond me.

The truth was that, up until the age of about 13 years old, he had been my hero. I had idolised him. He had given me a passion for life, for sport, for so many other exciting childhood things and with it, I had grown a belief that I could do anything I wanted to do in life. I remember feeling really proud of him and all that he stood for. He was everything I ever wanted to be.

My very innocent life was suddenly turned upside down when unexpectedly my parents announced that they were separating. Within what seemed like only days, my Dad (my hero) had vanished too, into the depths of alcoholism, of isolation and of self-pity.

In place of my Dad there was now an imposter. This man looked the same as my Dad and sounded the same as my Dad, but he had lost any inkling of interest in me. His sole interest from that point onwards was in drowning his sorrows in endless bottles of whisky. He would start (without exception) from the moment he arrived home from work and he would continue through to the point of black-out, pretty much every night. I would often wake up and find him collapsed in front of the TV in his armchair. I would often try to wake him up, but wouldn’t be able to do so – I guess this must have been quite frightening for me at the time…..

The feelings of pride I had for him were very quickly replaced with (what I realise now were) overpowering emotions of fear, of shame, of guilt, of humiliation, of pain and of loneliness.

His alcoholism felt so personal to me and so public. Living in a small village, I imagined that the whole world were all gossiping about my Dad, and worse still, about me. It felt like everything that was happening was my fault. It was as if I shared responsibility for his addiction and I felt all of those incredibly harmful, negative emotions that he must have been experiencing, as he gradually lost all control of his life.

I remember thinking to myself that it was time to grow up and take responsibility. I suppose that I actually went into survival mode as that helped me to protect myself against any further hurt. I’m not sure how consciously this choice was made, or whether it was just through instinct, however I’m pretty sure that I knew that I had to change to be able to cope with what had suddenly become a much more difficult, more serious and much less innocent life.

I remember at the time often being told that I was “very mature for my age” (by friends’ parents etc). In a strange sort of way, I would feel really proud of myself for this. I wasn’t a child anymore and could look after myself. I was obviously behaving in the right way.

I soon started to lose interest in all the passions I had had before, in all the exciting hobbies and activities Dad had previously encouraged me to pursue. Instead, I would choose less healthy and more grown up things to do.

I remember feeling very different from my school friends as I seemed to have more freedom than they had and was able to do more of what I wanted to do, without any apparent repercussions. I would be scared to invite my friends back to my home, as I would never know what state Dad may be in. The fact was that Dad was so pre-occupied with his own self-pity and bottles of whisky that he wasn’t the slightest bit concerned about what I was up to.

As I grew older, I would remind myself all the time that I wasn’t the same as everyone else. Gradually, this began to affect my friendships and relationships. I found it hard to trust others and so I felt that I could only really rely on myself. The truth was that I would subconsciously push people away when they became too close, through fear of being hurt.

I would still go to ridiculous lengths however to protect this unrecognisable, alcoholic man who lived in our house from the outside world. I would tell everyone that everything was absolutely fine and that Dad was actually very well. It was always so much easier to lie than to be truthful about how incredibly difficult and frightening things really were.

I learnt not to talk, not to trust and not to feel.

In later life, and as Dad’s alcoholism got progressively worse, I found it easier to distance myself more and more from my Dad and not to have any form of communication with him. If the truth be told, I would always feel so much guilt for losing contact with him and such a weight of responsibility for him, despite my disgust and hatred for what he had become.

On many occasions I would visit him – having had no contact for several months or even longer – unsure as to whether I would find him still alive, whether he would have committed suicide or just passed away in a pool of his own vomit. He became a complete recluse and seemed to enjoy his isolation.

Meanwhile, I had grown up to become very independent, to have a beautiful wife and three wonderful young daughters of my own. Together with a good job and a lovely home, to all outward appearances, I led a reasonably successful and happy life.

The truth was however, that at the age of 42 years old, as my Dad was finally losing his fight to alcoholism (and his cancer), I realised that I no longer recognised nor liked myself. I had well and truly lost my true-self and I was equally concerned that my methods of coping with life were leading me in the wrong direction.

During my earlier years and in my determination to protect myself from further hurt and pain, I had learnt to control everything to cope with life. This would include both things within my power to control and things I had no right or power to control. I never thought for a minute that I was acting unhealthily (I guess I was still in survival mode) as this was just what I had done all of my life and I knew no other way.

I learned an incredible knack for being able to dismiss my own feelings in favour of trying to make everything alright for everyone else, avoiding any sort of conflict, anger, hurt or pain.

In my own mind, I wanted to make everything alright for other people so that they would like me. More often than not, I was actually diverting my attention from my own feelings onto something much more worthy, much more tangible, but belonging to someone else.

My life had become unmanageable. I was taking on so much and trying to control so much that I had started to drop all of the balls I was juggling. I had stuffed away all my feelings for over 30 years and these were now surfacing. I had no idea of how to cope with them. My self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem had hit rock-bottom. I was in need of help.

Since my Dad passed away and over the past 12 months, I have gone into recovery. I have rediscovered myself with the help of NACOA and 12-Step Fellowships such as ACA & CoDA and I feel I have regained my identity.

Until recently, I had absolutely no idea that there were other people in similar positions to me, who were willing to talk about their experiences, their feelings and their truths so openly and honestly, and best of all, to support each other without judgement.

My life is now unrecognisable from where I was a year ago. I am gradually learning new and healthy behaviours. As a good friend of mine says, it’s like “learning a new language”.

With three small daughters, I am really excited to learn about how I can help them to be open, to talk, trust and feel in their own ways. I am really hopeful that this will allow them to cope healthily with the challenges which life throws at them in future.

My recovery is providing me with a sense of self-worth and self-love which I can honestly say that I have not felt before.

I have also learned gradually to let go of those negative emotions and in turn, this has allowed me to make peace with my Dad.

Actually, if it weren’t for his alcoholism, I wouldn’t be the person I am now…….so for that Dad, I am grateful

…Rest easy my hero x

#coaisathing

+- My awareness of my father’s drinking may not have been from the very beginning but I remember enough. (Jo)

It is interesting to think back at it all now as an adult child of an alcoholic and someone that has come out the other side and let me reassure you that there is another side.

The main things I can remember about my dad’s drinking was that I was probably around 8 years old and I began to understand that dad didn’t really play a big part in our lives, when I say “our lives” I mean my mum and my older sister’s life. My younger sister came along 9 years later so she had a very different view of my dad and ultimately a different life.

My older sister and I would help my mum around the house a lot, mum had 2 or 3 jobs plus being a mum to my sister and I. At the time I just remember feeling angry because I didn’t want to be responsible and I didn’t want to have to do chores, I wanted to be out with my friends and have fun. The jobs and helping out just seemed to be all the time, or at least that is how I remember it, but my mum needed our help because dad wasn’t around much. The positive I can take from it all is that I learnt a lot of valuable skills that have helped me in my life now.

Living in an alcoholic home is what was normal to me, I didn’t know any different. My dad had ups and downs and sometimes he managed to kick the habit without any help from Alcoholics Anonymous or the doctor. The other times he didn’t do so well, he would spend a lot of his time sat in his car in the driveway, listening to the radio and drinking. I found it so embarrassing and people would ask what he was doing, my friends that lived nearby would say “why does your dad always sit in his car”, and as a child that was humiliating but I kept his secret and never said anything about the drinking. It is interesting how you learn to be creative with the truth, you have to learn to keep it a secret and to not tell other people because ultimately we were afraid.

My dad was aggressive when he drank, he would chase us around the kitchen table and we used to stand in a certain place so we kept enough distance between us and him. We weren’t always quick enough and he would hit us round the head or legs. Dad would always get really angry and then calm down and talk and then get angry again. His behaviour was so unpredictable you never knew what mood he would be in or how he was going to react. This in turn had a negative impact on me growing up because I became quite anxious, but I didn’t know that was what it was. I have to admit it wasn’t until a few years ago I realised I had anxiety, obviously I knew a little bit about how I felt but I didn’t label it.

The household was like dad at times, like Jekyll and Hyde, one minute he was really nice and the next minute not so much. The house could be like that too but of course that was connected to his mood a lot of the time. As an adult child of an alcoholic I can reflect back now and see the damage that was done but I am not totally convinced I appreciate just how much and how bad it was.

I don’t know why my dad started the drinking and I will never know now because sadly he passed away 2 months to the day before my 21st birthday, my younger sister was 11 years old. Dad was riddled with alcoholism and his body just couldn’t survive it anymore. He had been sectioned a few times and I remember him experiencing quite bad hallucinations, I remember him not recognising his own children (my older sister and I) when we were leaving the house to go and stay with my grandparents, I was so scared.
My dad was also quite abusive and he would touch our bodies, he once locked the lounge door and made us watch a pornographic movie and other times he would say he wanted to check on our development and make us take our clothes off. It sounds awful now as I write this but that is the reality of it, it may be hard to hear for some because it may sound horrific and disturbing but to me I don’t know any different. As an adult I can absolutely see that it was completely inappropriate but I am not sure I totally see the scale of it.
We did have the social services involved at various times but as is quite normal in an alcoholic home you don’t discuss anything, so we kept his secret and the drinking continued and we continued to live in fear of him. Unfortunately the damage of alcoholism is wide spread, it affects the money in the family – a lot of the time my dad would spend the mortgage money on drink and so that put a massive pressure on my mum to find it in time for the bank to make their withdrawal. It affects the atmosphere, it affects the relationships, the trust and so much more.

Now I am older I have learnt more about alcoholism and I decided to attend a local Al-Anon meeting a few years ago and I have to say it changed my life. I felt like a fraud attending because I was no longer living with an alcoholic and surely I shouldn’t go because that was for people that are in that situation now. I experienced this years and years ago so I felt attending so many years later was a bit of a waste of time, how wrong I was. I felt so accepted when I went there and this was the turning point in my life, I felt totally understood and I felt like there were others like me, that I am “not mad”. The relief I felt was immense and something I am forever grateful for.

My biggest learning from this experience has been that alcoholism affects not just the drinker but everyone they are connected to, particularly the immediate family. In order for us as a family to cope with the situation we had to develop our own coping strategies. I learnt to be on hyper alert so I could prepare for the unknown, I became obsessed with being in control of everything so it would limit damage and reduce problems, I did spend a lot of time on my own, I wanted to fix the problems, I blamed myself and I learnt I didn’t know how to deal with my emotions.

I was very good at getting angry and being brutally honest but as an adult I have learnt that isn’t the way and that I need to address this. It is still something I find very hard to do because it makes me vulnerable and it isn’t natural to me to do but with years of therapy and support things have turned around and I am able to say when I feel hurt or upset rather than just tell someone they annoyed me and not how it made me feel. It is tough because in my mind I felt it made me weak and that wasn’t something I could afford to be in an alcoholic home if I wanted to survive.

I was a scared child with no voice, no one listened to me. I had to do as I was told and I had no one to help me, to explain what was going on, to really understand where I was coming from.

I spoke to someone recently and she said “of all the people I treat, people that are children of alcoholics or had some connection to alcoholism are the most damaged”. I had to learn ways to cope and as a child they were perfect or at least helped me at the time, but as an adult they no longer serve me in a positive way so I have had to and continue to learn how to find new ways of being.

There is hope, but it is a long journey and one that can’t be rushed.

Jo

+- I’ve Struggled Today (Tracey)

I’ve struggled today
The light’s not been quite right
My eyelids felt heavy
And the room looked so bright

I’ve struggled today
To move far from this spot
I’ve a temperature, I’m sure
Oh so cold, then too hot

I’ve struggled today
There’s something going round
Maybe flu is a-brewing
Don’t you worry, I’m sound!

I’ve just struggled today
To find get up and go
Perhaps I’m doing too much
I should learn to say no

You’d have struggled today
If you’d been in my head
All the words rolled around
Could you be me instead?

Not forever, temporarily
’Til I get back on track
’Cos I’ve struggled today
And the kids are due back

They’ll say, “Mum, have you moved?”
I’ll say, “Course, I’ve been busy!”
I spun around doing nothing
’Til it made me feel dizzy

I’ve struggled today
And I’ll struggle tonight
Must I really cook dinner?
Cheese on toast is all right

I must peg the washing out
It’s been sat there for days
I can smell it’s gone musty
God, I’ve struggled today

I’m not even sure if I’ve been for a wee
I did boil the kettle, had two cups of tea
I’m not drowning my sorrows, that’s just not for me!
But I’ve struggled today to do much more than breathe…

Oh woman, snap out of it!
Everything’s falling apart
As I struggle to mend
My bruised and battered heart

No…

For now I’ll do sitting
Having quiet ‘me’ time
’Cos I’ve struggled today
Tomorrow, I’ll be just fine

Tracey

+- This year it will be 20 years since she passed away and the saying goes, time does heal. I have learned to cope. But I do feel robbed of having my mum and wish that she was here. (Marian)

To the outside world my family appeared perfect. A young couple, two children, nice house etc. However, a dark cloud was forming over us. Somethings I didn’t like, didn’t understand and wanted to go away. This cloud was my mums growing dependence on alcohol.

It was a gradual thing and I have vague memories of arguments, people trying to help, staying with relatives and looking after my younger brother when my dad wasn’t there. I would have been no older than 12 by this time. Throughout all this time my mum did try and look after us. Family and her friends have told me that she adored my brother and me. This “dark cloud” was stronger than anyone realised.

When I saw my friends’ families, they seemed so different to mine and they didn’t seem to deal with what I had to. They seemed “normal” and I felt very confused and to be honest alone. Also, I had lots of questions, for example “Why wasn’t my family like theirs? What made it harder was that I was told that I wasn’t allowed to talk about what was happening to those outwith my family. So I kept all my thoughts and feelings in. Looking back, a fear of judgment probably played a major part in this

When my mum was stopped for drink-driving, was when things really began to deteriorate. My parents separated and my brother and I went to live my grandparents. It was all meant to be a temporary situation but when my dad met someone else, my brother and I decided to stay with them.

My family had broken beyond repair and again, we couldn’t talk really about it. Friends did question me, but I made excuses and didn’t let them know. My mums drinking really went into a downward spiral. Yes, she did try, went into treatment centres and I had the hope that “things would change and get better” So I learned to try and cope with whatever happened. However, we have all said now on reflection, leaving a place to go home alone and not have a husband, children, it would have taken a considerable amount of strength to overcome this.

None of us know why she drank; people have put forward many reasons as to why. To hear them does upset me to be honest, knowing that she carried something that was difficult to deal with and this made her find something to block it out. Something that took her away from us.

I will never ever forget the last conversations we had. During a particularly difficult situation she turned to me and said that she didn’t like me seeing her like this. Her appearance was changing, it was obvious that something was wrong. Also, the person she was living with wasn’t a nice person. I reassured her and said, it doesn’t matter, you are my mum.

The very last time we spoke was just after my first holiday with friends, we talked for ages and I remember feeling so happy. We laughed and talked about all sorts of things. I said that I would come and see her the next day. I remember it was a Tuesday. She asked me to come on Wednesday. I never questioned this. This was something we had grown used too. She would sometimes change when to see people. On the Wednesday, my dad came to see us and told my brother and I she was gone, she had passed away early in the morning. I remember standing and looking at him and not questioning him. I just knew. The pain I felt, it was something that I had never felt before. There were so many difficult things that followed, and during this my family tried to look after my brother and me. On reflection again, they have said they wish things had been different. I am though very thankful for my grandmothers, for all the love, support, and all they did for my brother and me. Who knows where we would have ended up without them?

This year it will be 20 years since she passed away and the saying, time does heal. I have learned to cope. But I do feel robbed of having my mum and wish that she was here. Life has been very difficult over the last month. I can talk to family and friends but to have her also – I would love!

Being involved with Nacoa and meeting so many lovely people along the way, some of whom have experiences the same as me, has changed me and I am so happy to be a part of something that gives people like me a safe place to be heard. It was a chance reading of an article and taking a chance which has helped me find answers to questions, understand more about what happened and the confidence to talk.

Marian

+- ‘If he loved you enough he’d stop’ (Josh)

It’s a sentence that’s been with me most of my life, one that I’ve argued against, through belief it just isn’t true, but sometimes just because I don’t want to believe it.
My names Josh and my dad was an alcoholic and died when I was about 8.
Telling my story is difficult, not because I find it upsetting, but because my memory is so patchy, at times non-existent, and sometimes pretty untrustworthy. I often question in my head if I have fabricated a memory or even made it up from scratch!
What I do remember is how I felt as I came into my teenage years. I felt I was different. I had no trouble making friends but found it almost impossible to connect with them on any level.
Like the world took place on the other side of a clear screen while I watched, but didn’t really take part. Confidence didn’t really seem a problem but it was only masking a terribly low opinion of myself.
Life itself scared me and I was always angry. My anger came out in all sorts of ways. I often thought everyone else was crazy, that they were blind to the real world and that’s why they managed happiness in life and I didn’t.
I was confused by life, like nothing was enough and life was hard. I tried to think about my dad and was often filled with guilt at the fact I didn’t remember much, but I still cried a lot. Only when I was alone, so no one knew. I never knew why though. I knew somewhere in me I was sad, but I learned to bury it, everyone experienced tough times and you just had to get on with it.
That became my logic. I didn’t speak to anyone, I didn’t know who I could, I thought people would be disgusted with me and me being ok kept my mum happy so I felt I couldn’t turn to her, even though we were close.
I began to seek release. I found that most easily in drink. By 18 drink was causing problems in my life. I needed it to cope with everything, from love to hate, and happiness to sadness. I started having children, and that statement was back, ‘if he loved them enough he’d stop’. But I couldn’t. The denial I had for the way I felt about my dad’s alcoholism was deep routed and perhaps even stronger in my own drinking. The world was the problem not me.
Today I have recovery. I haven’t had a drink for nearly 4 years and live an amazing life with my wife and I’ll be 29 this year, thanks to a whole bunch of different reasons, some that I don’t even know or understand, but not least because I’ve began to accept and address the way I’ve felt and feel.
Talking has always been the first step to solving any of the ways I feel. The most surprising thing to me is just how many people think and feel exactly as I do and how it is all so closely linked to being a COA. If alcoholism was simply a case of loving enough I don’t think alcoholism would exist. I consider myself lucky today, and that in itself is a dream.

Josh

+- My name is Mandeep. I am 38-years-old and my father was an alcoholic (Mandeep)

My earliest memories were of my father drinking. I remember one of the dreams I had when I was five. I had three daddies. ‘Nice daddy’, ‘funny daddy’ who was just slightly drunk, and then of course ‘nasty daddy’. That is what it was like. You never had any stability, any security, any normality.

Dad was an intelligent man but also an incredibly intimidating and violent man. He and my mother had an arranged marriage in 1975 and divorce was never an option, even when she was battered and bruised, even when she had black eyes and wore sunglasses during the day, even when she was hospitalised after he threw a plate of steaming hot food over her stomach as he didn’t like the way she had cooked it, even when he smashed her head open with a wine bottle and the blood was smeared over every single wall in the house, even when he kicked her in the stomach when she was 8 months pregnant.

No, divorce was not an option because she did not want to bring shame to her family.

If ever we dared to get in the way we became the targets. God knows how many times neighbours called the police. God only knows what the social services thought of us.

I never had any friends. I never went to a birthday party. Nobody invited us anywhere. I couldn’t ride a bike. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do any of the normal things that kids do. I thought that I was a freak. My father became more controlling, almost psychopathic, as we got older, not allowing us any contact with the outside world apart from school. We were not allowed any freedom at all. I don’t know if that was the alcohol talking or whether that was just his personality.

I don’t know how but he managed to get a car, despite being unemployed. He would drive it with us in the back. He was completely off his face. We had no seatbelts and were terrified. He never got caught.

However, because my father was an intelligent man my school never found out. He would always wear a suit and tie and be ever so charming to our teachers. He would chew cardamom pods too, a trick that many Asians use to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Luckily his children were intelligent too. I excelled at my school work and became a straight A student. However, my father made me give up my education when I was 16 so that I could get a job. He took my wages and spent them on drink. However, I didn’t give up. I did my A-levels through distance learning. I secretly went back to my school, having confided in my form tutor, who would give me AA leaflets and also let me borrow A-level text books. I would sneak them under my coat and then secretly read them at home so that I could pass my exams.

I hated him. Every night I would pray to god that he would die.

A year before my father’s death when I was 17 he visited the doctor who told him he had to stop drinking otherwise he would die. My father denied that he drank, as he always did. He came home and just said ‘So what? Everyone has to die one day.’ A year later I sat by his bedside in the intensive care unit as he succumbed to alcoholic liver disease.

I felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately it took my family a while to adapt to life without him, to change their ways. My mother had lived under his shadow for so long. He had left us penniless and she was scared.

I asked her if I could go to university the following year and she said no. However, I made the toughest decision of my life because I knew it was the right thing to do. I continued working and saved up a load of cash. I passed my A-levels, got my university place, packed two suitcases, called a friend and left home. My mother was devastated but after three days we were talking again and we are best friends now.

I thought that life was ok but it was only last year that I realised it wasn’t really. I have always felt different, always felt left out, always felt lonely and depressed. I couldn’t understand why. I have a wonderful job, two beautiful children, the world is mine for the taking, but I still feel sad a lot of the time. It was only when I did research that I realised what I feel is normal. The legacy of a parent’s drinking does affect you for the rest of your life. However, just because you have a parent who drinks it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from. You are as special as everyone else on this planet and it is where you are heading to that counts. Life will get better, I promise.

Mandeep

+- For me, growing up with an alcoholic (single) mother meant never feeling safe.

It meant lying awake at night, from the age of 9, so I could check all the doors and windows were closed and locked, constantly feeling unsafe.

It meant never knowing whether she would be ‘normal’ and loving or raging at us, throwing things and attacking us physically.  I felt responsible for my younger siblings, always trying to protect and shield them. It meant dreading weekends at home with her, dreading visits to ‘friends’ and the drive home with a scarily drunken person behind the wheel.

I was never able to trust the adults who let things like that happen, who knew it was going on but gave her alcohol and then watched her stagger into a car with three children and drive 20 km or more.

I spent my childhood covering up for her and pretending things were fine when everybody knew they weren’t, but nobody said anything.

I lied to my friends, never having them round, never telling them the truth, always worried that I would be found out and judged (at 45 I have still never told my closest friends and am still covering up, at the same time craving honesty and the courage to let it out).

It meant me growing up to be a person who always has to be in control and who struggles to feel normal around alcohol. Someone who has a superficial relationship with her mother – who is hard to trust and still drinks. The hardest part now is trying (and often failing) to accept that she has chosen her path and is unlikely to change and watching her destroy herself, slowly but surely.

 Keira

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+- Don’t wake the Ogre (Dottie)

A family friend once said to me “you were such a solemn child, we rarely saw you smile”. I wasn’t just solemn I was desperately unhappy, anxious, frightened and trying to get by on my wits, constantly watching and trying to judge the mood, smoothing things over and not do or say anything to cause my Dad to “turn”. This pattern has followed me into adulthood. My Dad was a functioning alcoholic most of the times, interspersed with non-functioning spells where he would go missing leaving me to look after my younger brother both of us terrified of the dark and being left alone. I took on the role of acting parent. He was a policeman of some standing in the local community, well respected for his tough and fearless character, he was a desperately unhappy, intelligent, lonely man who dealt with his demons through drink.

My mother left when I was 13 and my brother was 11. It had been an unhappy marriage and she just couldn’t take anymore. I think she thought that by leaving it would be the short sharp shock that he needed and that she would return and that things would improve, however his ego prevented him from taking her back, he never forgave her for publicly humiliating him.

So I was left at the age of 13 to play Mum.

I cooked and cleaned as best I could, washed school uniforms, his uniform, did the shopping with what little money was left, this was in the day when a policeman’s wage was poor and the “entertainment” budget came first. There was a key on a piece of string behind the letterbox. I still can conjure up the feeling of apprehension at that door, not knowing what I was going to find once I went in, he could be asleep snoring on the sofa and woe betide us if we woke him, so I’d cook tea in silence trying not to wake the angry ogre. If the house was empty then that was a really bad sign ….

When he was on a night shift, things were fine he worked and came home to sleep. An early shift meant that he should finish at 2pm. The bus stopped right outside our window and came every 20 minutes. We awaited the arrival of every bus from 2:20 pm, rushing to the window to see if he was coming home or still in the pub, often every 20 minutes until 6 or 7 pm when all hope had dwindled and we were left with a sense of dread. This meant an early night to get out of the way. I still find it hard to settle and relax in the evenings. Often he would come home roaring, drag us out of bed and order that I cooked him some food. He was never particularly physically aggressive with me but was with my brother. It was worse if he came home with some of his drunken cronies, there would be no sleep until they left in the early morning regardless of the fact it was a school night.

Once during my O levels when I couldn’t take anymore I went and poured it all out to the doctor saying I couldn’t cope and could she do something. She sent me next door to social services where I saw a leftie bearded hippy social worker who asked this 15 year old child at the end of her tether “what do you want me to do about it…. if you want to pursue it the only thing I can do is to put you both into care” I soon backtracked and he ignored my call for help. It took so much for me to share our shameful secret, in my childlike naivety I thought they could just talk to my dad and it would all improve.

I left home at 16 when his drinking was particularly bad, I found the courage to stand up to him but feel so desperately bad at abandoning my brother. But I had to go. I was an intelligent girl and would dearly have loved to have gone to university and study law but there was no support and I just needed to escape that unhappy house. I managed to find a decent job in the Civil service but have always felt that I’ve under achieved, staying with a safe and steady position, not having the confidence to take a risk. I’m certainly not a risk taker and constantly look out for troubles, often trying to pre-empt them and devise a coping plan before they even happen. Always seeing the danger in every situation.

I loved him so much, and still do, although he died 10 years ago! I still miss him.
He was all we had.
I never doubted that he loved us fiercely, he was flawed and did the best he could. He had his own demons that he never faced. For the last 10 years of his life he was totally sober and I got to know the man behind the booze but the damage was done. He was a loving grandfather for those 10 years and my boys would never understand the man that he’d been before. My brother has rage issues and spent some time in prison. I have trust issues and am still a people pleaser, I hate confrontation and seek approval to validate myself. I have problems with emotional intimacy. I don’t really see my brother it’s almost as if it’s too painful to be reminded and it’s easier to disassociate. I strongly believe that we’re all products of our childhood, however we have the choice to follow the examples we’ve been set or to use them as a lesson and not repeat the pattern. I have a strong marriage to a good man and have raised 2 well-adjusted sons and I’m proud of that.

Dottie

+- Dad, do you remember? (Your 48 yr old little boy)

I was about 6 years old, it was the mid 1970s, we were sitting on the sofa watching Dr. Who together. I can still smell you while you have your arm around me keeping me as safe as ever. You were wearing your black & red check work shirt, I can feel your muscles in your big arms, I can see your work hands as big shovels with thick skin and fingers like big sausages. Me and my sister always wanted you to do that thing where you put your hands on your head and move your muscles up and down on your arms to the music just like the funny man used to on the TV, which you did and we all used to laugh and laugh and laugh!

Dad, about 20 years later I’m now watching you die in front of me in intensive care. You’re plugged into a machine, your big muscles have gone and now they are just the size of my wrists, your shovel hands and sausage fingers are now skin and bone, your arms and legs are covered in bruised skin. I hate to see you like this but all I can do to help you is cover your feet because they are cold…..

12 Months before this the doctor said if you didn’t stop drinking you would die ….12 months later, you died!!

Dad, we all loved you but that was not enough for you. I know sometimes life is crap and I know you had your fair share of it but so did Mam but she is still here fighting her corner, on her own, some 20 years later. You embarrassed me as a father, you spoke to me like shit and never showed me any love in my older years of growing up when I needed you. You never encouraged me or taught me anything about life when all I wanted was exactly that, so I’d just give you a wide berth and you did the same to me unless you just wanted somebody to shout at or put down that is.

Dad, we would make excuses for you: “he’s not that drunk today” or “he deserves a drink.” I watched you walk my sister down the aisle drunk. I’d watch you eat your food while you could just about get it into your mouth because you were so drunk. You would embarrass us at Xmas. I listened to you crying in bed drunk the night my Nan died. I listened nearly every night to you and Mam screaming and shouting downstairs. I’d see empty bottles of whisky in the kitchen, hoping I would never see a full one reappear but they did. I couldn’t get on in school due to these things but I was good at day dreaming so I would just drift off and wish I was somewhere else other than there. I watched as you lost your job, your self respect and your grip on life as we lost our house and you. I was an angry kid and would always be in trouble with the Police and do anything without a care in the world – maybe now I know why. I’m surprised I never ended up in prison, and I’m sure that was my Nan’s doing as she watched over me, because that was truly my destiny.

So here I am Dad, over 40 years later since that episode of Dr. Who, not far off the same age as you were then. Have a guess what? There is a lady Dr. Who now! Funny how life changes eh?! I’m sitting in my summer house with my dog on a lovely, warm, sunny early October afternoon as I managed to finish work early. I have progressed at lot since the last time I saw you. I moved to a place 200 miles away where nobody knows anything about me so they can’t judge, they just know me as me. I met my best friend who I married 10 years ago. I never ever thought I would find her but I did, we have a lovely house, good jobs and a fantastic life together. We are a loving couple, always being silly and messing around, laughing, travelling the world on amazing holidays or just watching Coronation Street on the sofa with the dog – whatever it is we are doing, we are happy…I’m happy, I’ve never met anyone who would be in my corner as much as my fantastic wife has, pretty much like your wife was, eh?

Dad, I loved you and then I hated you but now I just feel sorry for you because you felt that drinking yourself to death was better than staying with your family. How wrong you were….

Dad, I only have one picture of you by choice – it’s black and white and it was when you were in the RAF when you were in your 20s. You are smiling and I can hear you laughing in the picture. You look so happy and care free….I wish I knew you then, maybe we could have been friends.

This will be the last time I will speak to you so….

“Good Night Dad, God Bless”, maybe I’ll see you another time…

Your 48 yr old little boy x

+- My Name is Mary Cecil

My name is Mary Cecil and I live on Rathlin Island (pop:150) just off the coast of Northern Ireland. I was born and grew up in Glasgow, with my four brothers.  My father’s family came from Rathlin and I came to the island to find my roots, in my early twenties.

I became the mother of a large family and with my late husband, Tommy Cecil, a famous campaigning figure in Rathlin, set up one of Ireland’s first International Dive Centres which brought groups from all over the world. My husband died tragically when he was fifty one, in a diving accident exploring a shipwreck, and so I was plunged into widowhood with our young children.

This was a most serious setback and traumatic for my young children so I had to move to the mainland for their needs, although it nearly killed me to leave. We survived and along the way I managed successfully several international tourist businesses for community groups and also achieved a public appointment for a Criminal Legal Aid Board.

My children grew up to be successful people in their own rights, with one of my sons obtaining an OBE for services to the community & refugee work in Greece.

Now today I am back living on Rathlin and retired from my busy working life.

I am a published poet and enjoy reading. However I attribute my survival against the most adverse circumstances to the tenacity developed as a child with an alcoholic parent, my father.

My father was a highly intelligent man, well educated, who loved classical music, philosophy, astronomy and mathematics. He was called up in WW2 and after seeing a concentration camp during the war,  he lost all belief in God and became an alcoholic.

My brothers and I suffered the most terrible poverty and it scarred us all. When I was a child the humiliation and insecurity tortured me, and other children can be so cruel.

In my teenage years I rebelled against my father and would not listen to any advice, good or bad, which he gave. I made some bad choices and it wasn’t until I reached my middle twenties that I was able to re-assess my father as a person and be able to begin to come to terms with his failures and understand that underneath it all he was essentially a good man who suffered.

He gave me an appreciation of the finer qualities in humanity, to be caring and grateful and today I acknowledge that ultimately life can be cruel but it can develop the  strength you need to survive and pass on those experiences to help others in need.

So I am glad to see that there is greater recognition of the needs of children with parents who are suffering from addiction and hopefully bring some relief and joy into their young lives. The knowledge that people care and they are not alone will make a difference.

 

+- Poem – My Father’s Addiction (Mary)

My father’s addiction,
The poverty and the pain
The abiding sorrow,
The pervasive shame

His suffering and mine,
The struggle to escape
The scars of a childhood,
A defining landscape

The war and life,
The erosion of self
The grimmest reality,
Left on a shelf

The book of life,
The key to understand
The struggle to find,
What made this man

The poverty that trapped us,
The shame that we knew
Insecurity and turmoil,
Our deadly brew

Our lives could be different,
Our childhoods were grim
Lost in addiction,
That was the sin

©Mary Cecil

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone

+- What would have helped me when I was a child? (Mary)

I’m middle aged now, I have a sister. Our parents broke up when I was three and Mum remarried. Mum and our stepfather who we lived with drank heavily. Childhood was not knowing what I’d be coming home too, insecurity, would Mum be drunk and depressed.

I remember going to the birthday party of a friend at primary school but I couldn’t invite anyone to my house as they’d be shocked, and I’d be embarrassed by the mess and I wouldn’t know what state Mum would be in, I couldn’t tell anyone about it either. For a while Mum stayed sober but then for no reason started drinking again. I felt isolated, lonely, that I didn’t matter, and that life had to be better than this. School and the things that other kids were interested in like clothes and makeup seemed trivial compared to what was going on at home. Sadly, Mum didn’t decide to get help with her alcoholism and tragically she died from it at a young age. What a waste of what could have been. My stepfather died a few years after Mum. I remember Mum as being talented, although she couldn’t read music she could play the piano well. Unfortunately Mum tended to play when she was drunk and low, so if you heard the piano when you came home, it was a sign that all was not well!

I was lucky enough to get away in my early twenties, and start to try and build my own life. Many years of counselling enabled me to come to terms with my upbringing, although I still felt guilty talking about it, as if I was betraying my Mum.

There are things I still do like keep on trying long after others would have given up, sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s not. Childhood experiences, have given me the resilience to get through some challenging times, and helped make me the person I am today, for which I’m grateful.

What would have helped me when I was a child that helps children of alcoholics today?

Hearing that the support of Nacoa was available, and finding out details of where to call to speak to a neutral person would have helped me.

Mary

+- Finding Nacoa and making the decision to fundraise in the way I did has been truly life-changing for me. I feel I am on this path now, I have no idea where it’s going but I’m staying on it My Journey Part 3 – I become present in the room at last! (Laura)

In black and white, I’ve been sober for almost 7 out of the 9 months of this year to date… and the 2 months I drank were the most difficult. Now throughout my life I’ve made a lot of
ill-advised, poor choices for skewiff priorities…but I’m not an idiot. This is really basic – alcohol is not my friend. Having seen and experienced both sides of this I’m in a position where I can see that drinking doesn’t serve me; the cons outweigh the pros for days. Enough. It’s a shame it’s taken me this long to figure it out but I’m there or rather HERE now. Present, in my body and in the room at last. After 2 months off the wagon the only thing I’d really gained was weight and my mental health had dramatically deteriorated. What was once the norm of extreme highs and extreme lows – post 6 months of (albeit emotional) clarity – is just no longer acceptable. It’s just not good enough.

Having inspired a close friend who’d been feeling trapped in her boozey ways for at least a decade to finally knock -it; we agreed to support each other on our sober quest living on possibly the least sober place on earth. With a lot of feedback from my latest vlog I realised many in our little island community were facing similar problems. We decided to create an informal Ibiza support group for like-minded islanders called Raise the Bar Ibiza. (Come Down with me was a close second choice!) I’m really enjoying this venture and the weekly podcasts we make after each session. I’m also able to appreciate the benefits of sobriety this time around. With no set date in mind and no rules to rebel against – If I really want a drink I’ll just have one and of course with that being the case… I rarely want one. I’ve had multiple sober nights out in Ibiza over the closing parties and a couple of not so sober nights out and both were fun. It’s good to know I can still live on this hedonistic island without being inebriated… it’s also good to know that I can dip my toe in occasionally without diving head first back into that way of life.

I’ve started a youtube channel cataloging this rollercoaster and my musings on being a COA and figuring out how to live on this hedonistic island without losing my head. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC8r35_WqI8DYheUHarSV3ow

I’m so so grateful that i found Nacoa. It’s a shame I didn’t find them earlier, but I have now and it has genuinely been life-changing. I’m honoured to have been able to contribute to help fund the incredible work this completely donation based charity does. I really hope I can continue to be of use to them in the future.

They’ve helped me realise (along with Josh Connolly – Nacoa’s ambassador’s coaisathing.com) that being a COA – the child of an alcoholic is indeed a thing! I have all of those personality traits and struggles. But that’s alright; because I’m not alone; and I want to spread Nacoa’s message to all COAs… you are not alone.

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone
Laura

+- Finding Nacoa and making the decision to fundraise in the way I did has been truly life-changing for me. I feel I am on this path now, I have no idea where it’s going but I’m staying on it My Journey Part 2 – I embark upon a sponsored sober 6 months (Laura)

So that was that! I realised I could pull my finger out and actually do the thing I’d been saying all these years and raise awareness for this cause and funds to help whilst at the same time finally breaking out of the lifestyle I felt I couldn’t escape. I embarked upon a sponsored sober 6 months.

IT WAS HELL!
Literally every single step of the way was like pulling teeth. Ever the rebel, I gave myself something to kick against so it became a self imposed sentence. I thought about having a gin and tonic from about lunch time every single day for 6 months. Which ordinarily I would not have done! I was a complete emotional wreck and I walked around feeling like a grazed knee. This exposed open wound just seeping gore all over the place; what a mess! I wished away 6 months of my life waiting for this grand prize at the end… when I could have my life back; not really lost any weight anyway and I’m as emotional as ever, no point, YOLO, etc etc…

But despite being blinkered to the positives of sobriety I felt an enormous amount of pride in being able to raise £2700ish for Nacoa and raise awareness for the cause. A lot of people reached out to me telling me their stories. People I actually knew growing up had been going through similar things after all. Every day I felt a huge sense of achievement; my self worth, my self esteem, my confidence and productivity grew and grew – I was just too fixated on the first time I’d be able to go out-out again to notice.

So the day came at last , I got my G & T and it was lush…I’m not going to pretend otherwise.

However, very quickly the novelty wore off. Possibly just a week in I remembered that drinking isn’t the light at the end of the tunnel; it’s the same old thing I’ve been doing forever and was completely bored and disillusioned with. The very thing that has smited my life from birth and generations of my Dad’s family before me.

A young mind is so malleable; what’s indoctrinated into it is almost impossible to eradicate. For example, I never got confirmed as a catholic… I turned my back on the church in my early teens, but to this day I still say a Hail Mary faster than the speed of light under my breath whenever i hear a siren because ‘it means somebody’s in trouble’. It’s completely involuntary and I catch, stop and berate myself every single time! The point I’m making is that from a very young age I was taught that drinking was wrong; so fundamentally, deep down in the very back of my think-box I have taken on that belief system. In order to ‘survive’ as a ‘normal’ person ‘just like everybody else’ I’ve had to ignore that belief. But it’s there and I’ve always felt it. The shame, the guilt, the self loathing, the worthlessness, the hopelessness… so I’d just drink more to keep all that bay!

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone
Laura

+- Finding Nacoa and making the decision to fundraise in the way I did has been truly life-changing for me. I feel I am on this path now, I have no idea where it’s going but I’m staying on it My Journey Part I – It’s meant to be kept secret (Laura)

My Dad is a recovering alcoholic; he’s been in recovery my entire life. When I hear of the horror that families face living with a parent that continues to drink, and in many cases such families have to stand by helplessly watching their loved one drink themselves to death; I am overwhelmed with gratitude that my Dad found AA and was able – for the most part – to stick to his program and survive this disease.

Growing up however, I felt anything but lucky or grateful for my Dad’s addiction/affliction. It’s painful to write this because – as anyone who has an alcoholic in their immediate family will know – it’s meant to be kept secret.

We live in ever evolving times of openness and empathy, and the conversation about mental health and addiction are becoming less taboo with the help of charities like Nacoa. In the 1980s this just wasn’t the case. The help that was around to support families and help lift the stigma surrounding these very prevalent and serious issues was not so readily available or at least in pre-social media, etc times …I certainly didn’t know about it!

What was, and if I’m honest, still is difficult to deal with is people’s lack of understanding because if my Dad didn’t drink… ‘what was the problem then?!’ From an early age my defense mechanism was to make light of everything and I would joke… ‘that’s the problem; he just really wants one all the time, so he resents us for not letting him have one and is pretty much unbearable to be around. He should just have one and chill out!’

The truth is that although (aside from the – albeit very infrequent – truly traumatic blip) my Dad didn’t drink. But that doesn’t make him any less of an alcoholic! He has the disease. He has all of the personality traits – with bells on(!) and every 24 hours he fights a fresh battle with all of his might. In all of this (here comes the stereotypical COA guilt!) I never want to detract from how noble and truly commendable that daily battle is. Although at times his best efforts came up short, my Dad truly does try his best every.single.day. I don’t know anyone else that does… I certainly don’t; or at least I didn’t until I embarked on my own sober journey.

Growing up there was no alcohol in my house and getting drunk was literally the worst possible thing conceivable. Alcohol was the route of all evil and as I had potentially ‘bad genes’, I should ‘never touch a drop in my life’. Well we all know how that goes… all I will say is never give a kid something to kick against! To my knowledge at the time I was the only person in my year, at my school, IN THE WORLD that was dealing with this problem. To say I felt isolated and alone is a laughable understatement. In hindsight I realise I had pretty severe OCD, anxiety, depression, insomnia and one Dr suggested possibly PTSD from a very young age. I remember sitting in class aged 11 crossing all my fingers and then crossing them all together and then wrapping my tangled hands all in on each other chanting/praying under my breath that everything was going to be ok when I got home. My Dad would be there, he wouldn’t be angry and that we’d all be ok that night. I got in trouble for not paying attention in class… I just wasn’t in the room. I bit my finger nails down to nothing and my fingers would be red-raw and bleeding, right down to the knuckle at times. To this day I have to have acrylic nails to stop this seemingly involuntary lifetime habit.

There are so many stories I could share but the guilt just won’t let me. Suffice to say that Nacoa; which was founded in 1990 would’ve been an enormous and perhaps even life-changing help to seven year old me had I have known it existed.

So that defense mechanism of mine to make light and distract myself with fun came in handy! I threw myself into having as much fun as I possibly could, as often as I possibly could – all under that wonderful umbrella term hedonism. For the most part I managed to distract myself with all the fun, festivals, fiestas and frivolity it is physically possible to cram into about 2 decades. ‘Oh what fun we had!’ It’s hard to pin-point exactly when the disillusionment with hedonism started to creep in… but eventually it became impossible to ignore – believe me, I tried! I’d spent years and years and years constantly planning the next party, and either excited or exhausted. Any sad times I blamed on being hungover, etc. But eventually, now living in Ibiza, partying and even working in the clubs I began to feel trapped. I wasn’t so excited, just emotionally exhausted and the sadness and anger kept surfacing no matter what I did to try and escape it. I felt trapped in this role/ party persona I’d created and I couldn’t see a way out.

A friend on holiday was talking about some charity event he was working for and asked if I’d ever considered doing something similar, when I replied nonchalantly – the same old line I’d been saying for at least a decade – that I’d always wanted to get the message out to children that there is help out there for families of alcoholics and that they are not alone. Suddenly, the penny dropped! I got online and started searching for such charities and found Nacoa – went straight to their website and what’s the first thing I see… ‘You are not alone’.

Keeping secrets and feeling isolated and alone
Laura

+- I need to get in contact with someone (Lauren)

I’m making my daily commute home and I don’t know why today is different from other days but today I feel like I need to get in contact with someone. To get advice or help, to share my story with hopefully someone that can relate and maybe myself be able to eventually help others in my situation.

My mum was an alcoholic. She passed away February 2017. To say that it was a shock is maybe a lie as the life style she led was so detrimental to her health but no-one can prepare you for the 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”… the sentence repeats itself, over and over.

My partner and I only 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. Sure enough there were two ambulances and a team of paramedics, I watched her slip away, or maybe she was already gone. They told me that they would stop the CPR if I would agree but I asked them to take her to hospital to keep trying. I couldn’t bare 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 it became big problem at 11 years old which only got worse as time went by.

She was the life and soul, so vibrant, she had friends, family – married my Dad at 24 and had me at 28, and we had a good life. She gave up her career as a high flying PA to work as a Secretary in a school to suit having a young child and my dad worked hard as sales manager. We were fortunate to have holidays abroad, my mum had a life that a lot of people strive for. I noticed her drinking would often get out of control at parties and maybe that’s how it started. Eventually her behaviour when she had had a drink started to affect my parents relationship (I’m sure amongst other grown up things, which I wasn’t aware of.) This marked the end of her life (and mine) as she knew it, she met an old friend that taught at one of the schools she had worked at. He soon became her boyfriend, my childhood home was up for sale and she had moved us into his.

Her drinking was secretly out of control, she’d hide vodka, whiskey, wine in the cupboards of the new house. She lost her job, had a car crash (drunk) and would regularly pass out in the house. I would get home from school (aged 12) and have to wake her up from the floor to get her into bed. This was regular and also a secret, my secret to protect my mum.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t work out with her new boyfriend and we were soon ushered on, we moved into my grandparents whilst they helped try and get her back on her feet.

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. I don’t think my grandparents knew the half it despite us living with them. One day I caught her trying to overdose using anti-depressants…I desperately urged her to drink water and to be sick. The threats of suicide would carry on for years. She had lost her job, her marriage, her boyfriend but now it was time for a fresh start.

Mum still had the money from the divorce and the sale of the house from Dad, so she used this for a deposit for a 2 bedroom terraced house. I was 13 years old and desperately wanted to believe that this was the excuse she needed to turn her life around. She managed to get a new job working in Morrisons and found it hard to fit in. We were now living in a different area and I would walk mainly alone to school. I had friends, I desperately didn’t want to seem any different from my peers but this would be hard to invite them to mine. I would beg and make mum promise not to drink if I had them over. Normally it wouldn’t work but she would take herself to bed with her wine and I would make the excuse of her being tired and most of the time managed to pass it off. I think. Most children love Christmas but I dreaded it. It meant one thing- Alcohol. My mum once fell asleep face down in her Xmas dinner, it was just the two of us, I cried, it was a disaster.

The worst was yet to come, unfortunately. My mum then met John, at a pub. John was and is a loser. John had nothing. Financially or morally. He didn’t have assets or a job but 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 and basically used her for his gain. In the summer months I would wake up and would be horrified to see them drinking wine in the garden. I would shout and cry at them both. What was he doing to my beautiful, fun and clever mum? What was she becoming? He was her 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, violently. My mum would call the police on him, there was violence on both sides. Promises of breakups and him being kicked out were not kept and he was always back.

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 but now my only way out of this madness was taken away. I waited for my weekend visit which now happened every other Friday. Dad would pick me up from home and we’d drive the hour to his. Of all the things we spoke about, I didn’t mention it once. Did the adults know about my mum and ignore it…I don’t know. Looking at this now as an adult I think to myself, of course they must of knew but did they want to address the problem? No one was shouting for help, so to a degree it got swept under the carpet, unfortunately sweeping me with it.

I was at a mischievous age, cautioned for stealing, smoking weed with friends and staying out all night drinking aged14/15. Although this seems ‘off the rails’ I wasn’t much different from my friends with strict parents, it was just my mum was easier to fool. But nevertheless it was an influential point in my life and I could have gone a bad way. Luckily I met a boy, an older boy but he was a good person with a good family. He was naive, also careless, immature but steered me away from hanging out with bad people and spending my time on the streets. He was my outlet and my way out.

I remember one night, I could hear their TV blaring, I was so desperately unhappy. I looked up at the stars out of my window and cried and cried. Wishing and praying for a different life. At 17 I dropped out of 6th form, gave my mum and ultimatum to give up drinking or she would lose me forever… Who was I kidding, she was always going to choose alcohol. I knew how much she loved me but she was in total denial. I told my dad I didn’t want to live with my mum anymore and I moved in with my Dad and stepmum, away from every one I knew. This didn’t last too long, I clashed with them I was 18 and headstrong, used to being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted. I was also damaged, something I don’t think they understood or knew how to handle. What they didn’t realise was I was desperate to please.

This is something I recognise I do now, I have a heightened sensitivity to people’s emotions, I hate anyone feeling unhappy or unsatisfied and I am always worried of anyone’s opinion of me, scared to disappoint. After a year of Dad and Jan I moved again and rented a room and then again back to my home town and with much persuasion into my grandparents home. I managed to get quite a good job and saved hard. With all my money I travelled the world, finally I had left it all behind and I felt free and happy. 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 guilt.

Eventually the money and the visas ran out and at 25 years old I returned back to England and my grandparents.

In this time, I’ve once again I’ve got my life back together, met my boyfriend and we’ve bought our flat.

It was only in the last couple of years 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. I wished with all my heart I could have helped her. So much guilt. Anger that I let her husband suck everything out of her. I love her, I miss her, I miss my beautiful mum.

I used to think I was a success story of an alcoholic, coming from an dysfunctional 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 and I feel like constant plasters have to be applied to keep me afloat. Our parents are victims of the alcohol and we are victims of them. No one gets off free. The guilt, the sadness, 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 and you can do everything on your own. I’ve learnt to be so self sufficient I almost feel it can be damaging to my relationships around me. It’s tough.

That’s where I am now… This hasn’t been written on a commute home. It started on a commute home about 6 months ago. It’s so painful that I’ve had to keep coming back to it but feel determined to get it sent. Losing my mum was hard enough but as an alcoholic too, her husband wasn’t capable. When she passed my grandparents paid for and I organised the entire funeral. As much as I had distaste for her husband, he told me his own children didn’t have much to do with him, so I really tried to look after him too. After some months, his family soon worked out he was entitled to her property, I received a legal letter threatening me to never contact him again. My mum sadly had no will and her house she once worked so hard for has passed to him. The promises he made to do the right thing by her are now lost and the only contact I have with him now is with his solicitor to administer the estate (to him). He has turned out to be more caperable than I ever knew. My mum would be so sad and so angry… but really It is the ultimate sad legacy of growing up with an alcoholic parent.
Nothing will ever take away the love I have for my mum but I hope one day I might be able to help others in my situation. This is why I am contacting NACOA today. I would like to share my story for the first time and also I would like to be able to help/volunteer.

Lauren

+- I would hide the fact she drank like it was a dark secret and I never really opened up about it to anyone, as I got older I leaned on friends to help me cope. (Monica)

I am 37 years old and an only child.  For as long as I can remember my Mam has been an alcoholic.

My earliest memory is going with my Dad in the car to pick her up from a night out and she was falling over and sick out of the car door.  I thought it was just a one off. But as time went on she didn’t need to go out to get drunk.

She didn’t drink all the time, just now and again something would set her off and she would retreat to her bedroom for two or three weeks only leaving to shout abuse at me and my Dad or to go to the shops for more alcohol.  She drank constantly during that time and I would find empty bottles everywhere.  I used to fill half full ones with vinegar, pour them down the sink and even hide her keys and purse to stop her buying more.  Nothing worked.
It was like living with Jekyll and Hyde.  When she was sober she was lovely and when she was drunk she was awful!

I was blackmailed with toys as a child not to tell my Dad she had bought alcohol when we were out shopping, I told him anyway.

My Dad and her argued constantly and I begged him to leave her but he wouldn’t.  Life at home was hell most of the time and happy memories are few and far between.  I could tell if she had been drinking just by looking at the house from the outside and then as soon as I walked in and the fumes hit me I knew.  I spent a lot of childhood in my room alone or out with friends to hide from her, I wasn’t a bad child and didn’t turn to drugs or alcohol I was just a normal teenager.

She told me all the time that I wasn’t wanted and that she hated me!  Instead of supporting me on my achievements such as buying a car, a house, getting a degree she used them as reasons to get drunk because she couldn’t cope with me growing up!

She embarrassed me in front of my friends all the time and would come find me when I was out with them and scream and shout at me.  I would hide the fact she drank like it was a dark secret and I never really opened up about it to anyone, as I got older I leaned on friends to help me cope.

Christmas and my birthday were close together and she was always drunk.  As a result I hated Christmas and my Birthday as a child and still do.

I moved out at 14 to live with my Aunty as I couldn’t cope, then at 16 I moved in to a flat with friends but after assurances from her that she would try and stop I moved back at 18.  At 21 I bought my own house and moved out for good.  I felt guilty for leaving my Dad to deal with it all but I had no choice I had to get out.

Nothing I ever did was good enough for her and I never had her love.

She refused to accept she had a problem no matter what me and my Dad did she wouldn’t accept help and said she was in control, until the next time.  Each time she drank she was awful to us both but when she sobered up she apologized and it was forgotten.  Never dealt with. The longest I have known her not have a drink for is a year and she was great.

She ruined my wedding day, my children’s christenings and every birthday I can remember.  Then when my marriage broke down she made my life hell for over a year blaming me for it and drinking none stop hurling abuse at me down the phone.

I have been through so much more, more than I can ever explain to anyone and more than I can probably remember.

On New Year’s Day this year I had it out with her.  I told her everything she had put me through and how I felt about it all.  Screaming out for an apology or an acknowledgement of her wrong doings but nothing, she refused to believe everything I said.  All I got was blamed for it and I was the reason she drank.  To me that was it, the last time I would ever tell her what she did, I realised then there was no point I would never get the closure I needed from her so I had to fix myself.

I tried to cut her off after that and for 6 months I did and life was easier but I missed my Mam and therefore again I gave her another chance.

These past few months since we have been back in touch things have changed dramatically, she has gone from this woman I knew who took no crap and was opinionated and headstrong to a frail old lady with memory loss and the inability to process information I am telling her.  It’s like she aged overnight but the drinking has all but stopped.

The change in her has been surreal and is something I am struggling to deal with after knowing the person she was and the way she treated me my whole life! How can I continue to hold on to this anger I have at her for ruining my childhood when she can barely remember it.

The relationship I wanted was a Mam and daughter but I never had it.  I struggle with relationships with partners and friends because of my need to feel loved, something I have not felt from my parents.

I have never dealt with what I went through as a child and have fought to be different and strong but lately I feel that my past is holding me back and I need to talk about it and process it all in order to move forward.

My kids don’t know the things I have gone through and I refuse to ever tell them. I will not let them look at her in a different way nor do I want them to look at me differently.  I have protected them from it and will always do so.  I have fought to be everything to my kids that she wasn’t to me and I have broken the cycle.
I wish I had spoken more openly about this years ago and come to terms with it all and now as an adult I feel like I need to ‘get over it’ which is easier said than done.

Monica

+- My maternal grandparents asked me ’’what is wrong in your house’’ when I said Mum drank they emphatically said ‘’no, no, no she doesn’t’- you shouldn’t say such wicked things’’ (Julie)

I was born in 1963 hence I’m now a 52 year old woman who was brought up in an Alcoholic family with no help and whereby I could tell no one and besides who would listen?- so I am delighted that NACOA exists and is available confidentially for others. I thought I was the only one this had ever happened to.

I do not recall when I was fully aware of my Mothers drinking particularly (my Father was a heavy drinker too but cared for us when he was sober). I recall her being drunk in the day taking us (my younger brother and I) somewhere in the car when I was aged 6 ish and she was stopped by the Police at a road block and she had bubble gum to hide the smell of sherry she had been drinking.
My parents rowed continually -everything my Father did was wrong he didn’t try, he tried too much, he was stupid he was wonderful, he was violent, he was her saviour – we never knew what to expect – only to agree. They enjoyed drinking together.

In 1975 we moved away from close family and it worsened – the house was filthy, there was often a distinct lack of food and she smelt horrible- all kind of sour and sweet at the same time. Dad worked away in Scotland (leaving us with her for days at a time on our own) to make some money to try and make her happy – this was wrong too.

She attacked him with a knife when we were about 12 and 8 respectively and stabbed him in his back, we screamed to warn him but it was too late. He pushed her and she stumbled hitting her head, we left her there and were told to go to bed. She woke, and staggered to the nearest phone box ringing the Police saying Dad had hit her. They duly arrived claimed it was a ‘domestic’ didn’t come in to the house but spoke to Dad on the doorstep and told them to ‘’sort things out’’.
Nights were spent listening to them waiting for the next time.

Coming home from school was dreadful – you’d walk home wondering what mess she was in, and what you would have to do to keep the peace and try and make things normal. You dreaded Parents evening in case other people found out what she was really like and the last thing you wanted was your friends knowing. She continued to drive and we dreaded being made to get in the car with her. Once I refused and grabbed her arms telling her she was drunk – she bruised instantly and when Dad came back he told me off as she had shown him what I had done to her. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t stick up for me.

I took charge of washing up, ironing, cleaning, cooking, hiding bottles, replacing gin with water and so on. Some days she would want to talk and try and explain it was Dad who made her drink – I was made to go to AA classes with her which I hated – she even drove to them and Dad paid for numerous repairs to other people’s cars.

I realise now she was very spoilt and was an attention seeker, if she wasn’t drunk – she was ill, and we spent hours at a time helping out to make her life easier or at the hospital with various illnesses often many were never founded but many meant she had the attention she craved and was told it was my Father that was the problem not her- and this made her actions justified in her mind.

When I was about 14 she first tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose. She failed – I climbed in through the bedroom window and called an ambulance as Dad was away I don’t recall what happened – I just didn’t want our neighbours to know. I remember going to see her in hospital (I guess it would be called rehab now) while she was dried out in a mental hospital which had scary patients in. But I had hope at last – we could be a normal family – she promised she would be normal again and we believed it and we were happy. It lasted about 2 months and I knew instantly on arriving home one day that she wasn’t keeping her promise.

2 years later she tried suicide again and nearly succeeded.

I recall taking my Brother to an orthodontist appointment and being asked where my parents were – I told the receptionist that she was drunk and Dad was away – and then instantly regretted it – I still recall the woman’s name now. She said I had to tell someone – I didn’t but I lived in fear that she would and that my Dad would hit me for telling someone – he was handy with his fists – I guess stress played a part but it was never my Brother he hit.

I was taking my O levels (GCSEs nowadays) and she was rushed into hospital by ambulance – we were lucky she recovered although I confess to wanting her to die so often so that we could have a stable family – even if it did mean more responsibility for me I knew I could cope and Dad and my Brother would be happy again.

Finally at school after a night at the hospital and having tried to keep everything quiet, a teacher spoke to me sharply and told me off about something trivial (being late I think) I cracked and started to cry. He realised it wasn’t like me and I was taken to his office where I told him everything. It was such a relief to have finally told someone out there who knew what I was going through and seemed to care and wanted to help.

I was asked to report in to see him daily – just so he could keep an eye on things but I swore him to secrecy as Dad had told us we would be put in care if anyone found out. My maternal grandparents asked me ’’what is wrong in your house’’ when I said Mum drank they emphatically said ‘’no no no she doesn’t’- you shouldn’t say such wicked things’’

I passed 9 O Levels somehow and later 4 A levels – I think I was trying to make them happy, I left for University in Edinburgh and never felt so lonely – I was worrying how they would cope without me – to hold it together – but they did for another few years.

I graduated after 5 years and then married moving some 250 miles away from them.

On a visit home to see them once she dramatically threw things ( 4 dozen eggs I recall) at my Dad and I, he left her then and there, came home to my house and stayed for a week saying he couldn’t cope any longer after over 27 years of marriage.

Eventually he met someone else and married her, leaving Mum on her own and again unable to cope.

She had an affair with a much younger man who was married and she gave him money. She eventually moved to live near me citing being unable to look after the house on her own.
She continued to drink. Meanwhile I married, had 2 children of my own over the next 5 years and I vowed I would never ever make them go through what I did.

I wanted them to have a care-free childhood – to be children for as long as they wanted and not to have the responsibility of looking after someone who was supposed to look after you -and by whom you were supposed to be adored by.

Aged 70 she was still never well, and the house was dirty and she was unkempt. I cleaned the house whilst she was in hospital once and found 4’’ of composted vegetables in the fridge bottom drawer complete with worms somehow and a dead rat in her shed that must have died from the dirt. I just couldn’t comprehend how someone could be so selfish and expect someone else to sort things out for her each time?

By then I was running a full time very responsible job, managing staff and bringing up 2 children whilst my Husband was starting his own business and unable to help much – it was a difficult time trying to do everything properly and I had a member of staff who wanted my job and he made it clear that he would be better placed to do it watching my every move.

I had a small breakdown one morning very suddenly.

As someone who had always always coped – it was difficult to accept the failure of not coping.

I had 3 months off – unheard of for me (I only had 6 weeks off work total when expecting and my daughter was born, 3 months with the birth of my son) I subsequently left work with acknowledged grounds for constructive dismissal (which I ignored) and set up my own business and it’s been a huge success so something good came out of it.

One piece of advice I had and which I treasured always was when I explained to my Doctor about my past and how not coping wasn’t my thing – he said ‘’ you won’t change your Mother now you know’’ and I realised he was right – I couldn’t. Again it was a relief to speak to someone.

At 76 she was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia. I took time off to take her to appointments etc. and she became stronger again. My Father died suddenly shortly afterwards and she was desolate despite having been divorced from him for over 15 years.

Whilst in hospital once she sat with her head down and refused to speak to my Brother and I for 10 minutes – eventually she said ‘’I’ve been a terrible Mother to you’’ it was the closest we came to an apology and it made me cry.

The Doctors gave her 2 years – her heart was weak – she had blood pressure, and the Leukaemia would weaken her eventually, and amazingly finally she gave up her Gin and Tonic.

She died 12 months later.

I can’t say I was really sad – it was the closing of a door and a moving on.

When I was younger it made me angry that other people had things so much easier than me and that they had no idea how much I had coped with to get anywhere and what I had achieved in my small life – why would they I hadn’t told them? I didn’t want pity.

What I did decide was that I wouldn’t let her continue to affect the rest of my life – she’d had 40 years of it and she wasn’t having the rest.

I have tried not to spoil and cosset my children too much (that would mean I was rebelling against her and she would still be winning then) so I’ve tried to be firm, fair and kind with them and I think they appreciate that as young adults now. I suppose I do get sad when I don’t think they appreciate just how much easier their lives are compared to how mine was – but then why should they suffer because I did?

I’m proud of what I achieved in adversity but I still get cross when I hear people doing bad things because of their upbringing – it’s not a valid excuse.

The one thing I can’t reconcile though is never feeling cared about or unconditionally loved. As a mother I will never know how she didn’t love me with the passion I feel for my children – it was all about her or them and for that I will never forgive her.

I wish there had been someone like NACOA for me.

Thanks for providing the forum for me to tell my story.

Julie

+- I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism (Anna)

I can’t believe I have discovered this website. When I was a teenager I dreamt of starting a website to help young children dealing with alcoholic parents. I always felt so alone and scared whilst being a part of an extremely loving family. I feel like my story might be able to help some people relating to death and alcoholism:

My mother was a closeted alcoholic ever since I can remember. She was loving and took care of us so I never thought it was a problem. My father passed away when I was 14. This left us with a mom who couldn’t really take care of us, yet no one knew. This is the hardest thing to share, but I found myself saying ‘you took the wrong parent’ even though I loved my mother so much.

Tragedy struck our family even harder when my mother got diagnosed with colon cancer four years later. No one ever told us but I knew that it was because of her drinking. My feelings no longer were feelings of resentment and hate for her drinking, I now felt terrible for any bad thought I had ever had about her. All I wanted was for her to live. To be there for us, she could do no wrong.

It has been almost 8 years since she has passed. I have been through a lot, but have learnt a lot of lessons along the way:

1) It’s ok to be mad at someone who has died!!

2) Even though alcoholism is a disease and that person might not be able to help themselves, others can help. It’s ok to be mad at others who didn’t help

3) Being angry and feeling pain is the only way to help anxiety. For the longest time I kept it all in, 8 years later anxiety hit me harder than at any point of my life. Feel the anger, the resentment, the unlove, it’s the only way to eventually let love in again.

4) Find an outlet. Yoga became my outlet and MY space. My place of true being.

I am just now finishing a Masters in Early Years Education and my dissertation was on yoga with young children. I am passionate about helping children who you might not know need help… like myself as a child. No one knew my suffering, my disconnect was described as daydreaming, and I had no place to go. If I had discovered yoga, I believe that I might have had a space to feel ok, to feel connected with myself.

Anna

Feeling frightened or anxious and hearing parents argue or fight

+- “Dread” & “The Disturbed Night” (Priyanka)

Dread
I wish I had the words to say
How scared I was to come home everyday
Would it be me? Would it be mum?
Oh, how I wish I had a gun
To end you? No, but to end me
Damn, put me out of my misery

The Disturbed Nights
She hurried and turned the lights off
In case he knew she was awake
He would storm into her room like an earthquake
Hiding under the sheets as shelter
Hoping it would protect her from the unexpected stormy weather
Scared and lonely is what she feels
Closed eyes and ears as her only shields
From the words of abuse that derived from the storm

Priyanka

+- I had to be both mum and dad in the house (Leigh)

I don’t really have any one memory of when I first realised mum was drunk. I was too young to pinpoint a specific time or place. I think I was aged about 10 or 11. My dad used to work week on, week off which meant that he wouldn’t be in the house for long periods of time. I now know that’s when mum first started to drink. When he came back everything erupted, I used to lie on the floor of my bedroom and listen to mum and dad arguing for hours and hours, almost the entire time he was back.

I thought my bedroom was the only safe place I had until mum used to invade it drunk and I would have to sit there and listen to the same words coming out of her mouth over and over again. It was like a conversation stuck on repeat. I would get blamed for everything. I would be told it wasn’t my fault, then I would be blamed again.

My parents finally divorced and I was given a choice (as I was old enough by then). Stay with mum in the family home or move with dad and my younger sisters to my nans. I chose to stay with mum. Looking back I am not sure if that was the right decision or not, I had some really awful times with her during that period but then I didn’t want to leave her. I remember her wetting herself in front of me. I remember picking her up off the bathroom floor. I remember dressing her and feeding her.

My sisters returned to live with us but mum was still drinking and so I had to be both mum and dad in the house now. I cooked the meals, took my sisters to school, cleaned and even went out and brought mums alcohol for her. I realised that pouring it down the sink just made her worse. That period was awful, we were evicted several times and even lived out of a friends van.

The thing that made me the most angry and frustrated was the fact that I felt helpless. Everyone kept telling me ‘she needs to help herself’ but she wouldn’t get the help. I would ring the doctors, the mental health team, the drug and alcohol service but everyone’s answer was always the same ‘there is nothing we can do to help until she wants to be helped’. Looking back now I know it wasn’t my responsibility but at the time I thought I had to find all of the answers.

It was after school drama club that gave me a reason to get out of the house, I could stay away from mum for at least another two hours after school finished and it was a safe place where I could finally relax. On stage I could be someone else and I really enjoyed performing.

Moving away to university was what saved me, literally. Making the tough decision to leave mum was the best thing that could have happened for the both of us. Whilst at University I found a way to express what had happened. I studied drama and was able to use that to explore my childhood story.

I am now pleased to say mum has been seeking help and is doing really well. I created an autobiographical show about my childhood which is toured the UK. Mum and dad came to see it and afterwards shared the first civil conversation they have had between each other for many years.

Leigh

+- Making sense of my Mum’s alcoholism (Kate)

I recently came across Nacoa and found that reading other people’s personal experiences really helped me to make sense of my Mum’s alcoholism and how that has shaped me as a person.

My very first memory is of finding an empty vodka bottle in my Mum’s ottoman. I must have been about three years old. I took it and showed it to my Dad, who took it from me and sent me downstairs. A blazing row between my parents ensued. I guess that was the first time I learnt that talking about alcohol in our house was ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I realised my Mum was an alcoholic. She didn’t get blind drunk to the point of falling over or being physically ill, she was more of a functioning alcoholic who drank little and often all day. It didn’t stop the mood swings though.

The afternoons were the worse, when she’d go off for a nap, then wake up a few hours later and snarl and snap at me. I was lazy if I didn’t do the washing up or ironing – if I did then I wasn’t doing it right. I’d escape to my bedroom, but then she’d follow me and ask what I was doing for seemingly no reason at all.

She worked as a cleaner in the evenings when my Dad got home from work. That’s when we’d scour the house for her stash of empty bottles. I remember we filled three bin bags once. He presented them to her on a few occasions, asked her to explain herself like it was a surprise to him to find them (denial is a big thing for my Dad, even now). All Mum did though was stand there with a stupid expression on her face, like a child that’s been caught doing something bad. She wouldn’t speak, just stand there looking so pathetic that it made me want to slap her.

When I was eighteen I met a man who I would go on to have a three year relationship with. He was older than me and a heroin addict. The mental and emotional trauma he put me through, not to mention the debt he got me into at such a young age, was appalling. No-one understood why I stuck by him for so long, not even me until recently when I learned about co-dependency and the characteristics of ACOA’s.

Ten years on, and nine years into a new relationship with the most wonderful man I’ve ever met, I had my first panic attack. I was 31 years old and it came out of nowhere. I was browsing the internet for something to wear for our upcoming wedding, but couldn’t find anything that seemed quite right. Then, out of the blue, I was engulfed by a crippling sense of panic and suddenly didn’t know where I was, who I was, what day or time it was. I thought I was going crazy. It scared me so much that I decided I should speak to a counsellor. It was the best thing I ever did.

I’ve always known that growing up with an alcoholic mother has affected me, but talking to my counsellor and working things through has enabled me to see how my behaviour in my adult life stems from my experiences as a child. As ACOA’s we have so much emotion and grief bottled up for so long that it only takes a tiny, seemingly insignificant sight, smell or sound to dislodge the lid on those emotions and they all come spilling out and overwhelm us.

Talking about my childhood, approaching memories that are painful or scary, has been difficult to say the least, but four months into counselling and so many things are making sense to me I wish I’d have done it sooner. Reading other people’s experiences on Nacoa has also been a tremendous help. You can’t underestimate the sense of relief you feel being able to relate to others after years of handling things all on your own.

I still see my Mum, mainly on weekends. She doesn’t come to my house, I have to make the effort to go and see her. She’s in her early seventies now, unsteady on her feet, permanently shaking, has problems with her memory and mood, drinks tea through a straw and eats her food with a fork clutched in both hands. We still don’t talk about it though, at least not in front of her. I think it will always be the elephant in the room but maybe one day I’ll feel strong enough to tackle it, or maybe by then it will be too late. Either way I’m starting to understand that none of it is my fault, and all I can concentrate on is getting myself better.

Feeling like you want to get away from it and being unable to live your own life, sometimes leading to difficulty with relationships

+- There have been points in my life (Katherine)

There have been points in my life I have felt that all I am is the child of an alcoholic mother.

I am the child of an alcoholic and although I’m now 42, I continue to be the child of an alcoholic today, but this is not all I am. There have been points in my life I have felt that all I am is the child of an alcoholic mother. The vivid memories of sadness, fear, shame and even guilt. I’ve overcome some of those feelings but there’s no denying the affects of my experiences.

My mum has been an alcoholic all my life; I’m 2nd youngest of 4 siblings. My mum and Dad separated when I was 9 and that’s when things deteriorated. Mum was a teacher, a single parent of 4 young children, admittedly life was hard and alcohol became her best friend. My mum struggled to maintain any consistency in our lives; she was a world class liar and a cheat. Her teaching career didn’t last long, she admits to drinking whilst teaching and she was struck off in her 50’s. Money became a problem; she started to build up her credit cards but couldn’t pay them off.

My mums drinking style changed over the years from drinking to oblivion – falling off buses, being found her in the street, to daily/maintenance drinking, to brief periods of sobriety. She would steal from friends and family to fund her habit which ended up with her serving time twice and us in care temporarily. My mum wasn’t a social drinker, she’d drink at home alone, hide it, deny it but she would also drink to cope in social situations but still hide it. I have to admit she did try to stop, we tried to make her stop, but it never lasted and we were all exhausted, frustrated and angry. There was a distinct feeing of being unsafe, due to debt, some of the alcoholic friends my mum would invite over and the not knowing what would happen next or how she would behave. There was so much tension in the house, my older sister tried to look after us but was a child herself. I left home as soon as I turned 16, my older siblings left before me – sister to University and my brother to the army, but there was still my younger brother to look out for. I dread to think what he went through when we had all gone. I won’t discuss my siblings, but my older sister passed away at 25 from a health condition and my two brothers are still around, we’re not close but they haven’t turned to alcoholism which I’m grateful for. I’m disappointed; my mum’s narcissistic temperament has affected my relationship with my eldest brother when we were so close, this upsets me a lot.

Looking back on my childhood I feel sadness for what my siblings and I endured at the hands of our Mum. Although we got through those difficult times, the price we paid will never be refunded. My mother’s alcoholism doesn’t affect me now to the same levels as it has done my entire life. I’ve managed to control my emotions, strategically place myself away from her when she drinks and am an expert in identifying her drunkenness before she even answers the phone. I still get angry though if she’s been drinking and I really can’t control that. In fact I question my own attitudes toward relationships, alcohol and drug use which on reflection is clearly linked to my experiences as a child of an alcoholic.

I remember when I was 23; I’d managed to finally convince my mum to join AA. I drove her to her first meeting, sat outside in the car for hours waiting for her with my child in the back. This was one of the best days of my life and hers too; I thought I’d cracked it. She became a different person, attending meeting after meeting, it became an addiction for her. Two years later she was a sponsor, a highly respected member of AA. After completing the 12 steps she took on the role of emergency call handler for AA, ran meetings and for the first time made some real friends. I remember feeling a little jealous of her new friends and new life, all I wanted was my sober, caring mum to myself. It got to the point where I would go to AA with her, trying to understand alcoholism myself – I was damaged too after all. I found it too upsetting; think I cried for the entire meeting. As the years passed (I think she made it to 3) I noticed she would skip the odd meeting. Rumours began to spread about my mum drinking with new members, she’d attend meetings drunk and soon enough her drinking increased until she couldn’t face returning.

And so it continued. I remember needing and wanting my mum to just be a ‘normal’ mum so bad. She now had 3 grandchildren and we desperately didn’t want them to witness her alcoholism. My brother and I struggled with this very much. When she was sober she was fun, intelligent and interesting. But she was the complete opposite when drunk. There were significant times when I needed her more – when I became a mother (3 times) my wedding day to name a few. Like others, as a family we kept her drinking a secret and we still do to some extent. As an adult I am fed up of explaining my childhood to new people. I’m not looking for sympathy but it does feel like a big part of my being and explains who I really am. Although my mum’s alcoholism doesn’t define me, there is no denying it has affected me and still does.

There is no magic potion to stop a parent from drinking, I’m sure myself and my siblings tried every trick in the book. What I have learnt is to put up a barrier to protect myself from the emotional damage caused by alcoholism – doesn’t always work but it gets easier. My mum once told me to stop asking her not to drink as this makes her drink more. This felt a little ‘blamey’, she was sober at the time but it took years for me to realise there was some truth in her words. My mum is now 75 years old, she’s just had a hip replacement and has various health conditions – none of which are linked to alcohol misuse (she says). Truthfully, we’re all surprised she’s still alive and she is in complete denial about the past or simply can’t remember. Our relationship has improved but she will often get upset when I remind her subtly about the past. Her drinking made me angry; I’ve lashed out at her in the past and regret it but signifies my feelings of desperation. There was a time I demanded an explanation, reason or maybe an apology – what good would that do! I’ve accepted alcoholism is an illness, it was out of her control and she never meant to hurt us.

It deeply hurts me to know there are children still going through similar difficulties as I did. I’d like nothing more than to be of some support, both adults and children. I’m looking into setting up a support group in my local area; I’ll start by asking my local church for some space. I would also really like to help NACOA as a volunteer, raise awareness and fund raise. Thinking about myself and what I need(ed) during some of the most difficult times, I want to be just that for someone else right now.

Katherine

+- Emotions I’ve hidden for years (Clair)

I thought I would add my own story as it might relate to others

I’m 40 and my mother is an alcoholic, I’m finding just typing this extremely difficult as there are emotions I’ve hidden for many years,

I was so shocked at how everyone’s story has similarities, like how everyone hated and some still do (as I do) hate Christmas time, and that reason is “Alcohol”, and I too HATE the sound of a metal lid on a glass bottle, it makes me angry,

I have 3 brothers and I was the only girl and also the eldest, I never felt my mother loved me, but she loved my brothers and this showed in her actions,

it first came to light about her drinking (as far as my memories go) to when I was 10 years old and my mother met one of my brothers father, she married him quickly and even though they were only together for 2 years it felt a lifetime,

I went from a normal child to a terrified child within weeks, when I read others stories I realised why she stayed with this man, she would and still called him an alcoholic!, because he came home drunk after spending shopping money on booze and he would come home with a takeaway, she would lock him out and he would break his way in,

She would wake us up and drag me and my brother who was 9 at the time (my other 2 brothers came later on) and would drag us into her bed and instead of shielding us from this she would use us to help make her feel safer,

When he would smash the back door in, me and brother took turns to run to the neighbour’s house to call the police, I always remember once I slipped in our garden and I was so petrified in case he was behind me (that memory is still so vivid) then it was in our neighbours house the minutes until the police arrived would be me going through turmoil of thoughts thinking “has he got into the house and killed my mum and brother”

After this would happen and they took him to the police cells I would start cleaning the house frantically and I remember our neighbour saying “don’t do that now silly” this woman saved me many times in the coming years,

It went from that to this man dragging us out of our beds at 3am and take us downstairs where he would beat up my mother and then when they made up he would take us to the park at 5am and we weren’t allowed home until we said we loved him 100%,

What my mother forgets to mention when she tells people her pity story is she would often be the instigator of these events, I would shout in my head “mam shut up you are making him mad” she would be drunk and screaming “go on hit me go on” she knew how to push his buttons so I cannot say it was all down to him,

Along came my 2nd brother, I remember when he was a new-born and they were fighting at the bottom of the stairs with him holding my brother and he swerved from my mother and my brother hit his head on the door latch, I remember him turning blue and he was just screaming at my mother “look at what you have done” while I was panicking how I knew to blow air into his mouth fast and that would make him breathe I do not know, but I was thankful I did know,

When they married I did not go, everyone went but I remember staying on the street, I don’t know why I didn’t want to go but I remember my mother not caring either way, maybe because I knew it was an excuse for a big party and lots of alcohol

We would stay at my grandparents’ house and my gran being my gran and was scared of no one would answer the door to him holding a poker (from a coal fire) and would threaten him to leave us alone,

Once we went home and our uncle was with us and he had taken an overdose and my uncle saying “we better call an ambulance his pulse is really low” and I remember my mother saying “F*** him he can die”, looking back why couldn’t she just have told me and my brother to go upstairs we didn’t need to hear all of that,

She still says to this day she left him because he went to hit my eldest brother, whether that was true I do not know, I just knew he was there one day and gone the next,

In the space of her meeting the dad of my youngest brother, it was the most normal I knew my life to be, even though I wouldn’t have friends over from school and most days I came home to her in bed with her saying she was tired, I do remember I had one friend over and she did try she put party food bits on the table and a note saying sorry she had to go to bed as she wasn’t well, and that’s the excuse I used to use after that,

When she met the dad of my youngest brother the first night I remember hearing him laughing downstairs and me and brother going down to see what the noise was, I just knew from the 1st moment we met him that he would keep us feeling safe,

After that my mother was still really harsh to me,

When I was 12 in my few times of being a kid decided I would say to my mother I’m not staying in being grounded and she said “well ill kick you out” and I walked out the door saying “fine”,

She left me crying looking at her and my stepdad through the window (her drinking her usual vodka) and it was pouring down with rain I was crying hysterically begging to be let in but she left me and at 3am my neighbour came and got me quietly (she was in an awkward position as she was my mother’s friend but knew she treated me mean) and I slept at her house, my mother would do awful things to me yet my eldest brother took drugs and the school would ring her up and tell her to go up straight away as they found him drugged up on a field on the schools premises, you could see he was clearly on drugs yet all that was ignored and it was “we will have to get him a councillor” !

She would wake me up aged 13 and tell me about her nights out (way too much info for a 13 year old) she would tell me how she met guys and all I could think was how awful I felt for my stepdad who did anything for her

At the age of 14 I met a 19 year old guy who was my escape and also a major help in the coming years, one day he told me he needed to talk to me and took me down the beach and began to explain how my mother had cornered him and asked him if he could take her to the station as she planned on leaving us for this guy she met 6 hours away while on a night out, I remembered her telling me about him and also telling me she was sneaking off to spend a night in a hotel with him,

I felt so hurt and humiliated, I asked him to take me home where I flew in a rage and screamed abuse at her (for the first time) “how could you leave your kids for another man”,

She just came at me throwing plant pots at me angry, so I run to my gran and she said “do you blame her ?” that confused me but later in life I realised my gran was only told things by my mother who obviously didn’t tell her the whole truth,

So I ended up going to another friend (who would help me and understood what my mother was like) she put on her slippers and was up to my house straight away, she said she managed to convince her to stay (convince her to stay and look after her kids, my 2 youngest brothers were only 4 and 2 years old),

After her friend left though my mother gave me a sob story about how she was having a nervous breakdown and needed 2 weeks away with him to refresh herself or she couldn’t guarantee she would survive (funny how all this was said AFTER her friend left), so she left me to take care of 3 brothers, that’s why I’m thankful for that relationship I had with the 19 year old because I would not have been able to cope otherwise, social services called and I had to go to ring her in a phone box down the road, I had to nag her and all she would say is “I don’t have money to come back, I am trying” it must have been a few weeks before she finally came home, no thank you for anything,

In all the years I never answered her back and always was the one who sorted out everything her finances, my brothers if they got into trouble, I feel so sorry for my youngest brother as his memories are crossed with me doing the mother things for him but thinking it was my mother and vice versa,

Even though he’s 28 and I’m 40 he still will come to me if there is anything going on in the house, I remember having a tarot card reading and this man saying “you either have 2 sons or you will have 2 sons and explained in detail each brother, and I’ve been more or less a mother to them, I have no relationship with my eldest brother, he hit me while drugged up and after years of abuse from him and me having to being his daughter (my niece up) and ungrateful I had enough and cut contact with him, while my mother ignored all the bad things he did to me, she would text me not to call to the house as he was having dinner there,

I’m wondering why alcoholic mothers give abuse to the daughters more,

This is the situation now, after years of blanking her out of my life we are back talking she had breast cancer grade 4 so I felt it was time to talk to her, but I made sure first to get rid of any hatred I had over her drinking vodka and what she had done,

When I first walked in and seen her I broke down, she was tiny and frail and looked awful but she said it was cos of the cancer, and she beat it, and then admitted to being an alcoholic and asked me to help her quit, so I felt id started talking to her at the right time as maybe just maybe I could feel what it would be like to have a mother, I have to admit I felt excited about the future, she stayed off vodka for several weeks and it was amazing those 7 weeks, she remembered things I told her for the first time since I was 21 !,

But that was short lived, she went back to the vodka, my 40th birthday not only did she forget but she also ruined the day by messaging me drunk at 11am, I stayed in bed miserable the whole day,

She then asked me to take her to the doctors to get help which I did, I couldn’t believe the doctor said “don’t stop drinking it will kill you” I felt those emotions well up again and screamed at him “are you mad u just told an alcoholic to keep drinking that’s music to her ears” I could even see and feel her happiness !!

On the way home she made me stop at the shop for her to buy vodka (I’ve never bought it and never will that’s one thing she will never ask me because she knows I will NOT)

We then had an appointment with drug and alcohol group who said she needed to cut down to half a bottle of vodka each day (she lied to them saying she drunk well over a litre because she knew she wouldn’t have to cut back lots in the beginning),

She did start off cutting down not a lot but a bit, and then she would have what she says is “I’ve had a terrible day so I drunk myself into oblivion” meaning she had a 2 day streak of nonstop drinking,

So now I’m left with her not even trying when I asked her she said “I can’t I just can’t” even though she knew the drug and alcohol people told her she could have tablets off them when she was down to a quarter bottle and that would stop the cravings, even after they gave me an injection in case my mother took cocodamols too many of them to give it to her if she went into cardiac arrest !

I moved 44 miles away to get away when we weren’t speaking and when we started speaking I wanted to move back there but now I’m glad I didn’t because I can’t handle it

She spends her days in her bedroom and between 2-3pm she starts drinking her vodka, its killing her and she knows it, she can’t eat most days and is constantly being sick, she still says the same thing like yesterday when I went there and seen how awful she looked again she said “this awful cold is back I’m being sick etc. etc.” and I’m ” NO its the vodka” she still makes excuses to the rest of the house,

My youngest brother is stuck living there and sleeps on the sofa because he can’t sleep in the bedroom upstairs because she moans if he coughs when he is downstairs sleeping, so he said he would end up being too paranoid to move,

The house is just a war zone my brothers suffers from schizophrenia and has bursts of complete anger and screams abuse and smashes up things, he lets things get so deep emotionally cos it’s all about my mum and dad he tries to be there for them and its making him ill,

I’ve tried so many times to tell them that she won’t live long if she carries on in the hope that they both get together and stop her drinking, stop giving it to her, but they live in denial and I feel like I’m the one who is delivering the negative news they don’t want to hear, point is I KNOW it’s coming I know that when it happens the both of them will be “I should have done this and I should have done that” so that’s why I try telling them but it gets swept away under the carpet,

My dad tip toes around my mother so she continues to treat him like crap and when he does stand up for himself and screams back my brother will stand up for my mother,

They all think I’m being too harsh when I don’t want to go upstairs and talk to her, when I go up she hides these marks all up her arms (they look like bruises but she hasn’t hit herself the doctor said it’s because of the drink),

Her body won’t be able to keep fighting off infection, and she is about 6 and half stone, and is at the moment all happy cos she is going away with her friend to jersey for 2 days, when reality is just a few days ago she went to the hairdressers in a taxi and fell when she walked in (she’s that frail) yet no one has said anything about how she is going to cope going away for 2 days

I just don’t know what else to do, what will make her wake up I’m so desperately unhappy and lay in bed all day myself just waiting for the call to say she is dead .

MY LIFE

I’m 40 and childless, suffered with depression all my life, I keep everyone at arm’s length and I never admit to anyone I need help, I’ll just deal with it,

I’m still confused to whether the horrific life events that’s happened and by me not getting help from a psychiatrist etc. is still a problem like my partner dying in a motorcycle accident I couldn’t understand how he could stand beside me and within an hour I was standing over him in a morgue and looking at this body (which I won’t type what sort of injuries I seen, it still haunts me) etc. I didn’t go to my house I had by my mother’s for 2 weeks I just stayed in our bedroom at his parents farm and when I did decide to go back I walked into my mother’s a complete zombie and just wanted my mother to hug me and tell me it would be okay and make me get help instead she was drunk and when I burst into tears sobbing “what’s happening help me” she replied “I’ve been through worse don’t worry about it”,

Whilst living by my parents (I had a house by hers for 16 years) I even hid the fact I had a violent partner whom I married, it’s as if I knew not to bother telling my mother, then one day I was giving a lift to my dad and we got into the car and the police were called to my house the few days previous and I asked them to take my partner out of my house and he went to stay in his mums across the road, he came running down and I started my car panicking and reversed down the road FAST while my dad was shouting “what are you doing” and all I could say was “you don’t understand what he’s like”, at the bottom of the road I managed to reverse around a corner but he caught up with us and flew over my bonnet of my car and began punching the window I managed to persuade him to let me pull up to the curb but then sped off to my mothers and run inside and called 999 while my mother was slurring “for Christ sake stop making a drama will you”, I was a shaking mess as I believed he would kill me because he would take a LOT of prescription medication so I knew he was capable of doing it, I lived in constant fear for 2 years and that still affected me and still does.

I’m now in a loving relationship and have been for 5 years, he’s brilliant, but I still keep him at arm’s length, I just don’t confide in anyone because I think I will just drag them down to feel as awful as I do, I wake up miserable every day and go to sleep feeling the same, I don’t get out of bed most days, I really do want a child now more than anything and I hope it does happen it’s doubtful but I still hope,

Why do I find it so hard to just live in a moment of happiness ? I feel guilty for feeling it and give myself a 1000 reasons not to be happy, I ALWAYS help others and have done all my life and a friend I have in America once told me, you help so many others and forget about your own life, I would love to run my own business I have ideas but I’m so depressed and can’t see a way out, I’ve tried anti-depressants but the side effects were horrible and I never felt any better, I don’t like to live past pains and to me there are more people who have suffered a lot worse so I try and blank it,

I’ll NEVER drink alcohol I know a lot of people who have had alcoholic parents tend to drink themselves but I couldn’t the very thought of vodka makes me want to vomit, I’d love to foster children, I’m natural with kids and I relate to them, I would love to help some kids not to take things they suffered in childhood with them into adulthood, but first I need to get happy myself before thinking about bringing up a child, but time is ticking

Clair

+- Having just been listening to Woman’s Hour (Gwen)

Having just been listening to Woman’s Hour, and then searched for information and found the NACOA website, I send these few paragraphs in case they might echo other people’s experience. As you can see from what I’ve written, the ‘after-effects’ of growing up with an alcoholic parent are many and affect more than just the ‘adult child’ who grew up in that environment!
“My husband’s father was an alcoholic. Although my husband is in his 60s now, I have really only become aware recently that quite a few of his problematic behaviour patterns are probably to do with his experiences as the child and teenager of an (violent) alcoholic father. And watching, or listening to, his mother being assaulted by her husband, his father, from a very early age. Not to mention serious social isolation at times and discovering that no other adult was able or willing to acknowledge the fact that Tom’s (not my husband’s real name) family was dysfunctional and to then do something about it. He learnt early that they were on their own, there was no-one to protect him or his Mum.

Although Tom is very successful in his field, is not an alcoholic (nor are any of our children), is very responsible, has been (and is still) a very good father to his children, has been (mostly) a good partner to me – there are, and have always been, problems. Mostly it’s his need for control, his workaholic ‘nature’, his, sometimes almost pathological, need to anticipate outcomes / the future, his tendency to disproportionate anger and his verbal and psychological aggression (with physical aggression strictly under control but the threat of it is very often ‘in the air’).

Tom has never had any counselling or therapy and still finds it almost impossible to talk about parts of his childhood and what he, his younger siblings and mother experienced. Since we met before his parents died, I did experience the family dysfunction myself for a few years and I found it devastating and very frightening – even though by then I was a (young) independent adult and so was Tom. So it’s not that we can’t talk about it but there are many ‘no go’ areas – and also, as I mentioned above, the on-going behavioural issues that Tom has that I’m finding increasingly hard to tolerate and which he finds very difficult to acknowledge.

So far, the only ‘help’ that anyone has had, has been me going to see a therapist! Which has indeed helped me but has not, on the whole, made much difference to Tom, though it must be said that he does not think he needs any help! Perhaps 2017 will be different.”

Gwen

+- I had a happy childhood until I first realised my dad was an alcoholic around the age of 12. (Melissa)

I had recently started secondary school at a local girl’s grammar in south east London and my dad had been made redundant. I think my dad had been made redundant before and so I believe this is what triggered his depression and excessive drinking, although now speaking to members of my family who have known dad since he was a young man, it is clear he has always been a heavy drinker.

I remember waking up to go to school and not knowing whether dad would be asleep drunk in the kitchen or okay in bed. This became a regular occurrence with dad staying up most nights drinking, playing loud music, doing ridiculous jobs like cutting up wood for the fire with a chain saw when he was drunk and basically keeping the family awake. One evening he was standing on the work surface changing a light bulb drunk and he fell off and cracked his head open and we had to call an ambulance. Somehow for a time he managed to hold down a job, but by the time I was about 17 he gave up working to take what was I guess, early retirement, at the age of about 56. This was a bad idea as it meant he was now at home every day and as he has few hobbies, other than drinking, he began to drink pretty- much 24 hours a day. I would wake up and find him drinking in the morning. I would open cupboards and find bottles of wine or cans of gin and tonic hidden in boots or behind things.

I grew up very quickly as dad’s alcoholism was a family secret. My mum didn’t share the problem with the wider family or her friends and my eldest brother who is 6 years my senior moved away to university at the age of 18 and stayed away for 5 years because why would he want to return to family life the way it was? My other older brother, 4 years my senior, was old enough to take himself away from the family home and spend most of his time with his friends because why would he too want to be at home? I was too young to be able to be this independent though and my mum leant on me a lot for support because no one else knew about dad’s drinking, although our wider family had their suspicions.

Looking back I think I spent my teenage years as quite an anxious youth. I was too embarrassed to bring my friends back to my house but I was lucky, I had a good circle of friends and one good friend in particular whose house I would go to sleepovers for etc. Looking back now I wish I had spoken to teachers at school or my friends and their parents as I know they would have been able to help, and it would have been therapeutic for me to have shared my worries with other people who I was confident talking to.

At 18 I wrote a letter to 2 of my aunties and told them about dad’s drinking which certainly helped as now the wider family were able to support us. I entered a relationship with someone 7 years my senior, looking for that father figure and someone to look after me because my father hadn’t been there to do that. Out of my family I think I have tried to help dad and be pro-active because I realise that he is ill, that he does not choose to be an alcoholic. I have been to AlAnon; counselling for family members of alcoholics. I have taken him to the doctors, found AA groups in the local area for him to go to, but as much as I try to help him and as frustrated as I get because he doesn’t get help, I have realised he is the only one who can choose to help himself.

I am now 30 and wow, so much has happened in my life – and most hugely positive! Don’t get me wrong, there have been times in my life where I have felt very low. Lonely, angry and depressed, frustrated that MY dad is an alcoholic. Like most people I have things about me which I don’t like.

Addictive traits I have inherited like OCD with tidiness or the amount I eat. Over reacting when changes happen that I have not expected or have no control over. Excessively self-critical. Things, since reading the effects of living with an alcoholic parent on the Nacoa website, I realise are a result of growing up with an alcoholic parent.

However, I am beginning to learn they are part of me and that there is a reason that I am the way I am and actually I am a pretty good, kind, successful person who has a lot to be proud of and who has achieved a great deal when perhaps my life could have turned out the opposite.

I am in a healthy relationship with the most amazing man, 2 years senior and I have never been happier. It took me until the end of my twenties to find myself I think, because for so long I had put others first. I was brave and bold and realised who I was, what I wanted in life and that for so long my father’s alcoholism had carved my life and determined my life choices.

Towards the end of my twenties I realised that I wasn’t happy with a lot in my life – my relationship and my job and that both these things had really happened because of my dad’s drinking. However, I also recognised that it wasn’t healthy or necessarily right to blame my unhappiness in my life on my dad and that in the end I am now an adult and am the only one in control of my life and the one who can make a change.

As well as a healthy and loving relationship and a great home, I now have a career which I love. I teach music in schools and have my own children’s yoga company. I have grown to be so driven and ambitious so that I don’t have a life full of unhappiness and anxiety that I had when I was a teenager. I have completed an Ironman 70.3 and recently the London marathon! I have a good circle of friends and although my dad is still an alcoholic, and this still does impact my life, I have accepted that this is the way it is and I have to make the most of the family relationships that I do have and that there are people who are far worse off than me. I feel lucky and thankful most days that I have been brave and learnt to make changes and look after myself so that I can be a happy person.

Melissa

+- If it helps just one person, that is a massive win (Ian)

My Dad was an alcoholic – probably the sole reason my parents split up (he didn’t talk about his problem) in 1993.

I can remember probably the first time I was directly affected – I found him when I was about 7/8 passed out on the family landing, passed out and fitting when it was only me and him in the house.

In 1994 (I was in year 8 at school at this point) he was drink-driving and crashed his car, severely injuring himself. He was never able to work again and never fully recovered.

He died in 2002 through jaundice; his alcoholism stopped him from ever being able to recover. To give you some insight, he was 15 stone and 5’11 before his accident and when he died he was 5’6 and 7 stone.

His mental health suffered due to his alcoholism and I can imagine depression brought on by this. He was heavily reliant on me and used to call me all the time to drive him places, take him to the shops etc.

As you can imagine it made me grow up very swiftly however luckily I have a brilliant Mum who helped me through. Unfortunately my Dad wasn’t the only alcoholic in the family, my cousin died at 44, still living with his parents with no job, in his own bed in 2007.

Due to these circumstances I am always the first to talk about things and as I am an Education Manager I share my experiences with as many as I can including students, with the Mantra that if it helps just one person, that is a massive win. I think many problems especially with regards to mental health can be helped just through talking.

Ian

+- I don’t know what’s more heart breaking, when mum’s drunk and she doesn’t try and sits in the kitchen like a zombie in front of the Food Channel, or when she’s drunk and she does try (Sara)

I don’t know what’s more heart breaking, when mum’s drunk and she doesn’t try and sits in the kitchen like a zombie in front of the Food Channel, or when she’s drunk and she does try.

Today she was trying, coming in to the living room holding out the Round Britain Quiz box, and Dad says, ‘no, we can’t play that with the kids here’. There are three grandchildren ages 4, 5 and 13 running about. ‘I’m trying to make an effort,’ she mutters, leaving the room. She never comes into the living room, I mean hardly ever. It’s like a different hemisphere or time zone to her, she maybe visits three times a year. But like she says, she’s making an effort, and she comes back.

Mum tries to sit in the armchair with me – this doesn’t work, as while she is skeletally thin, I am not, and there’s an awkward jostling bit where she’s almost sitting on my lap and I have to heave my way past her and drag the footstool out to sit on. It makes me feel sad as she’s trying to be matey but the laws of physics are the laws of physics.

The 13 year old produces a pack of happy families with a total lack of irony and deals for himself and the adults; the little ones are still charging around like demented Muppets. We play, I get competitive and then remember it’s only a game when my nephew starts getting whiny, and I give him the cards he’s looking for. Throughout, Mum can’t understand when it’s her go, though to be fair neither do I and I’m sober. Either she needs an eye test and new glasses or she’s having trouble focusing, as some of the families get slurrily renamed; Mr Spud the Florist? The game ends with my husband mystified as to why he has a lone Master Bacon left in his hand, and it turns out mum has put down at least two completed sets with only three family members in.

All in all it could have been worse, but the devil on one of my shoulders gets angry, she knew the kids were coming round after school, why couldn’t she make the effort to stay sober? She’s certainly managed before, but today she can barely speak straight at 4.30 in the afternoon. The angel on my other shoulder feels sad – dad’s been suggesting she sees her GP about depression, so she’s trying to show us all that she can do it, she can join in and be normal, nothing’s wrong. But all of it just feels like a deviation from the abnormal normality, and part of me feels annoyed at her for not doing what’s expected – for not sitting and stewing with her wine and leaving the rest of us alone to carry on without her, like we’re used to. It might not be normal, but it’s what we can cope with.

At 5.30 dad gets up to deliver two of the grandchildren back to their parents, so we get ready to go as well. I don’t want to stay and chat with mum, it’s murder having a conversation with a drunk person, what’s the point. She’ll just stumble over her words and tell me things she’s told me three times before, and I’m not sharing any confidences with her as she won’t remember them in the morning. Does that really matter I wonder? If it makes her feel good right now? But I’m not that much of a saint. Plus 5.30 is, no word of a lie, mum’s bed time. Every day, without fail except for Christmas Day. ‘Oh I’m just going up to listen to the radio and have a flick through my mags’ she says, as if it’s only just occurred to her it would be nice to relax in that way once in a while. She’s 74 and she’s been doing it every night for 20 years.

So an old lady has a few too many glasses of pop and slurs her way through a game of cards, big deal, middle class problems or what. But the alcoholism is endless and relentless, and I’ve adjusted around it over the years. I don’t phone mum to speak to her after midday because I know she’ll be drunk. I can’t pop round for a cup of tea after work because she’ll be in bed. If I ring after 4pm and dad’s not there, she won’t pick up the phone. This makes life worrying. She hasn’t had a fall for a while but a few years back she went through a phase of falling down the stairs and she has had black eyes, a fractured shoulder, a chipped elbow, and her front teeth are still all broken but she refuses to get them fixed. On a big holiday in Kenya she tripped over the hem of her skirt and had to go to hospital in an ambulance, and spent the rest of the trip with a fracture and a walking stick. More recently she’s stopped drinking spirits and sticks to wine, which seems to be safer and there haven’t been any accidents for a while. Although a bottle of gin usually creeps in at Christmas and hangs around for a bit like an evil green Cassandra.

Dad has a theory that mum has undiagnosed Asperger’s, and that’s why she drinks: fear of small talk and social situations. She might well be on the spectrum somewhere. She is distant and hard to engage, and she’s certainly got worse over the last couple of years. But maybe that’s the booze. What came first, the chicken or the egg? The alcoholism is definite whatever the reason, and she won’t admit that she has a problem. Sometimes dad hides her drink when he knows the kids are coming over, but recently he seems to have lost heart and doesn’t bother.

This year he had major surgery, and I’m angry with her for not looking after him properly when he came home from the hospital, for still being dead drunk every day, for still going to bed at 5.30 every afternoon and leaving him by himself when he was in a bad way. It’s like there’s an impenetrable sound proof bubble around her and she can’t hear or see anything outside it.

When I was pregnant with my hard fought for baby, she didn’t buy me any baby clothes, not a thing. No frilly dresses, tiny shoes, mini socks or stripy rompers. I tried to get her involved with a trip to Mothercare just before I was due and she just stood in the middle of the entrance area looking round with big eyes like ET dropped in the middle of a government research laboratory. Wouldn’t normal people pick things up and exclaim over them? Or point at the cots and say I like that one, or I think that one’s a bit girly get the yellow one? And if you truly hated being there, wouldn’t you just take a deep breath and pretend otherwise, just for half an hour?

She doesn’t go out, she doesn’t have any friends. She’s never had any friends. Years and years ago, when they moved to where they are now, an old neighbour kept in touch and used to come on the bus to visit her. Then Mum wrote her a letter asking her not to come any more and that was that. Once a week Dad will take her out for lunch – she doesn’t really eat at home, just smokes and picks at a sandwich – and every Wednesday morning he takes her to the supermarket. I’ve always clung on to this as a good sign, at least she still enjoys cooking and planning meals. Not that she ever sits down at a table and eats with Dad, or anyone else, at home. But then my husband pointed out to me that she wouldn’t get her bulk load of wine and cigarettes if she didn’t go the supermarket, and their fridge is full of ready meals.

Dad has built his own life – he has lots of friends, hobbies and interests outside the home. Maybe Mum feels left out and lonely, the angel says. But what was he supposed to do, give up and rot because she decided to? The devil sneers back. When he was recovering from his op, I had a heart to heart with him: haven’t you ever thought, fuck it, let’s get divorced? I’ve threatened moving her out and installing her in a flat if she doesn’t stop, he said, but how could I, she’d be dead within a month. And he’s right, there’d be gin, then a fall, or a cigarette end would set fire to something and that would be it.

This all leaves me with a headache, torn between anger and guilt. And neither are any good to me, or to her. So I just give up, carry on, work around it and try and figure out if it’s really my problem to fix, or my fight to fight. It’s not of course, I’ve done some googling and reading. I know I didn’t cause it, can’t control it and I can’t cure it, but doing nothing feels like I’m telling the world I don’t care. And I do, I love my mum.

What I don’t ever do though is say out loud, mum you’re drinking too much, have you thought about stopping. When she’s drunk, what’s the point – she’ll just shut down and not listen. And when she’s sober I’m so pleased to be having a normal conversation with her I decide it’s not worth poking a snake with a stick and leave it.

It’s hard work thinking this much, making this many decisions all the time about what to say, what not to say, what to ignore, what to confront. So perhaps I just need to focus on being kinder to myself, and take it from there. (First published on my blog: http://canopenwormseverywhere.wordpress.com.)

(Sara)

+- My story is simple and in no way dissimilar to others I have read on the website over the last year. The reason I am writing is because: Until a year ago I did not know of the Nacoa organisation and I have really benefited from realising that I am not alone in how I feel and that it was not my fault. (Neil)

Neil’s Story

My story is simple and in no way dissimilar to others I have read on the website over the last year.  The reason I am writing is because:

Until a year ago I did not know of the Nacoa organisation and I have really benefited from realising that I am not alone in how I feel and that it was not my fault.

From reading the website I have begun to understand myself as a person and realise some of the private effects of living with an alcoholic mother for a long period of time, basically until the age of 18 when I left home.  I say private because on the outside no one would have known and to be honest I did not know how I was papering over my emotional cracks until I reached the age of  about 43.  Essentially at this age I realised I had many aspects of co-dependency developed as coping mechanisms for living in a dysfunctional family.

Throughout my life I have managed to be successful in a number of roles but often fell apart privately, suffering from a lack of confidence and self-esteem.  Without being in a role as a father, friend or in my job, I had no idea how I should feel or what I should do.  And this would be contrary to appearances as I manage a large organisation.  No one knows this at work. Strangely I have come to realise that my experiences have helped to be very good at my job!

My Story

My mum loved me dearly.  Her alcoholism was something that did run in the family and was triggered in her when she lost a child a day after giving birth. She never coped with this fully.   At first, I was only aware of her alcoholic nature mainly on the weekends at first.  Most weekends tension around the house would rise and by lunch it would be intolerable.  Often arguments and fights would break out between my dad and mum.  I would try to calm them down sometimes trying to tell the adults what to do, but probably only as a child pleading for some calm.  These fights would be difficult and would sometimes result in my mum pleading for me to ring the police and my dad saying not too.  To this day I have difficulty using the phone for personal use.  I was always torn in these circumstances.  In my job role use of the phone is not an issue, privately it is still a battle.  Such a paradox.

During serious moments of illness I was able to stay at my aunties who ran a farm.  These were the most serene moments of my life and the most stable.  To live in functional family was heaven even if only overnight.  I would stay with my aunty rather than go on away with my parents whenever possible.

During my teenage years my mum did triumph and had some long spells of sobriety, however, I was always on edge as to how these may come to an end.  The signal would often be music playing when I came home from school, often the Carpenters.  This would put me on high alert.  In many instances a quick turnaround and outside was the best plan, but not always when it was raining.  I was also able to find a number of school friends whose house I would ride to.  They never came back to mine. It was too dangerous.

Sometimes, however, I was trapped.  On these occasions I would be told off for not cleaning or making some small error somewhere.  I just took the screaming and threats.  I was told I would have to leave home during the worst moments. My dad was a rock and he did his best.  He always seemed to know that the issues were minor.  I was a good kid and basically terrified of breathing half the time, let alone doing anything normal that a child might do to get into trouble.  Later to avoid going home I would often walk to his office and wait until he went home himself.

In school I was that child who blushed when asked anything and I would often not answer even when I knew the answer.  My mind set was one of constant fear of failure.  I did not trust any support that my mum might give for fear of the backlash I would receive, regardless of outcome.  In simple terms it was easier to fail.  Looking back this was really highlighted when I was 12 and had successfully made it to a final in a squash tournament. I felt too embarrassed to win and threw the game.  It felt safer to be out of the spot light.  I was personally devastated but deep inside I was relieved.  I was certain this was easier for me and possibly it was pay back for my unhappiness.  But I don’t absolutely know.

There were several occasions when I feared for my life and from that moment I ensured I knew how to escape from my second floor room.  This involved a process of wedging the door with some wood and climbing through the window and jumping on to the garage roof which was a jump of 4 foot.  I practised this and I could do this easily.  (On reflection very dangerous).

Only one occasion did I need to do this when I heard my mum screaming outside my door.  I will not disclose the detail except to say I believed the situation was very dangerous. I did not leave through the window but stayed there ready for action for a long time until she went away.

On many other occasions I feared for my life while she was driving.  I cannot count the times we went through red lights accidently, or drove so fast on small roads.  Remember this was a generation of no compulsory seat belts and lax drink drive laws.  My brother recounted to me an occasion of a crash he had experienced with mum at about the age of 7 and being persuaded to lie to the police about the circumstances.  We laugh about it now and think how did we survive, but in truth we are embarrassed.

Countless times due to illness and alcohol my mum would faint or fit.  At a football match or some walk with the family.  This embarrassment became a stigma.  I know other parents would talk and children in my class would know.  I felt like it was my fault.  Something I was doing was making this happen.  Knowing looks and pity were served up to me regularly.  I resented them and made few friends.

During my teenage years I would try to support my mum by cleaning the house, hoovering, gardening or dusting the skirting boards etc.  I was constantly trying to please her but my lack of confidence meant I struggled at school.  And this was her measure of my success.  As a result I was a constant failure in her eyes. She rarely said this and she genuinely loved me but I know she felt this. Left handed and dyslexic in nature it was always going to be hard anyway.

The birth of my brother at the age of nine changed the focus from me a little.  He was brilliant at school and my mum worshiped him.  He was musical, academic and talented.  I was not jealous but relieved.  Some aspects of my life became calmer but my high state of vigilance stayed with me all the time.  Until this point I immersed myself in work and sport.  This was the only way I could understand my identity.  I could drive myself to new levels but remained bitterly unhappy with myself.  When other people experienced the joy of occasions like birthdays or Christmas I struggled to understand these moments.  (I still find them hard now sometimes). These had always been moments of extreme anxiety for me.  These were dangerous times in my life where happiness could suddenly turn to anger or humiliation against me.  And when circumstances changed I knew/felt it must have been something I had done or had not done.  I simply did not know how I should have felt for me.

A new life or so I thought

My new life began when I left home at 18 to go to University.  My life changed again when my mum died in my first term of study.  I loved my mum but I resented her for many things in my life.  Towards the end of her life I cared for her, bathed her and comforted her.  To the end I tried to be a good son.  We had some good conversations but ultimately (and rather embarrassingly) I was too immature to be anything other than relieved at her death.  I thought my burden had been lifted but it is only years later I realise that I had papered over the cracks again.  At the age of about 43 the cracks were tearing me apart and hence I started my serious search for an answer.

One day I spoke to someone who suggested I may have some characteristics of co-dependency.  It was from this point I researched this thread and found the Nacoa website.

Thank you for your website. 

Finally I am coming to terms with my early life experiences which were not all bad and finally I am learning how to be happy when it is just me by myself.  For over forty years being me was not a prioirity and irrelevant.  In simple terms I was a stranger to myself and yet to everyone else I gave a different image.

Thank you.

Neil

+- I am stepping out of the family game. I will be polite and friendly and will keep in their lives but I will not get back in to the game and I will deal with this when I am healthy. (Hannah)

I have stumbled across this site as now at the age of 37 I am trying to finally get myself sorted and get out of the roles that I put myself in due to my unhealthy upbringing.

My Mother has been an alcoholic as long as I can remember. Well that’s not true, as a little girl I just knew that something was wrong. That I couldn’t understand why I was bad and what I had done wrong, but it must have been really bad to have been treated like this and told so by the person I trusted … Mum.

I worked it out when I was about 9 and this just made me firstly relieved that perhaps it wasn’t just me but something else was also to blame, and then secondly it made me angry.

My mother is the type of alcoholic that is so in denial that she hides bottles and cans anywhere. Even in her bed. She will sleep on top of them and somehow not even notice. There are empty bottles and cans all over the house, car … well anywhere. BUT she was also very successful in her job, which ironically was dealing with children and families in abusive environments. The more stressful her job got (which it did increasingly) the more she took it out at home.

Being the first born and a daughter I got all of it. I stood up for myself and perhaps she felt challenged or threatened but she took this badly. Screaming, shouting, throttling me, telling me how worthless I am and how shit I am. She was nearly successful in strangling me once but luckily my Dad came home, saw her and knocked her off me.

Everyone outside the home just saw the masks that they all wore. A nice middle class family, kids in private school, modest cars and hard working. I screamed all of the symptoms of the opposite, depression, suicide attempts, no real friends, drugs, no real care about how I was, lived or died. I got myself into bad situations including losing my virginity against my will. I finally plucked up the courage to tell Mum 2 years after the fact and got told that I deserved it for being a slut. Thanks.

I managed to get my Mum to stop drinking. I gathered every can and bottle every night and put them on the kitchen table and took a photo. Every morning she would move them away and it would continue. At the end of the month I would develop the film and put all of the pictures on the table. These would disappear. I tried to talk to her and told her that she was killing everybody. I got Dad on side and he did too. She gave up for a few years (although this can range anywhere between 7 and 10 years in her and the family’s eyes) but then made everyone else feel crap still. I believe that selfishness is a very strong trait in an alcoholic parent, and when she gave up she would not apologise at all. Only saying that she had realised and was now sorting herself out and that a line had been drawn and we should move on from now.

My life has been up and down always. I am perceived as being the strong one amongst strangers and in work situations. No one thinks I need help as the mask is always on. My world finally crashed around my ears recently and something inside me and with some kind words from a new friend I have decided to get some help. I am having some Transactional Analysis and this has been really helping me to believe that I am not a bad person.

I am also stepping out of the family game. I will be polite and friendly and will keep in their lives but I will not get back in to the game and I will deal with this when I am healthy.

Good luck to you all. Xxx
Hannah

+- We can become who we deserve to be, we have each other (Paul)

I’m 41. My mother still haunts my dreams. In them she is at the top of the stairs looking disdainfully at me, often naked as she did for real, her face a bloated mask. The same stairs she tumbled down and died when I was 23. Sometimes she knocks on the front door, and when I open it she says she is back, she has been away. But you are dead, I think. I thought you were dead and I was glad. I usually awake kicking and screaming silently.

She often did disappear when we were young. For days usually, so at aged 6 or 7 or 10 I would go looking for her. Dad was at work, always away – it was how he coped. So mother would fornicate and whore and sometime bring these vile men home. Dad would return in a rage, and his fists would damage her face, and hers would attempt to damage his or stab at him with a knife. She was the one in the bar wearing sunglasses to hide bruised eyes, or when he knocked out her front tooth in front of us.

My sister and I cooked for my brother who has mental disabilities. Dad was at work. “Mummy’s tired” he would say when I came home from school. So there she was “asleep”, passed out on the garden or on the floor somewhere, sometimes with no clothes on. I dragged her into the house – she weighed 16 stone – by her hair or hands or whatever. The sofa was always wet with urine, cigarette burned out in her fingers. The carpet next to her chair and bed cratered with endless burns.

Her drinking was four days on two days off. The four days was without sleep, as a monster as it paced and cried and wailed and shouted. We were targets of humiliation, vile words, slaps, shoves, flying crockery, pulled hair. She would reinforce our insignificance, our failings, her rape as a child by her stepfather was the fault of MEN, and I was one of them.

I had few normal friendships. I dressed like an urchin. I had no clothes apart from a pair of shirts and a vest top. My shoes were my feet or black school shoes, or broken sandals held together with pins. There was always crate after crate of beer in the garage but often no food. I spent as much time away at other children’s houses as possible, and they NEVER came to mine. I turned down attention from girls so never had a girlfriend until I was 20, then had a dysfunctional relationship with a much older woman who herself drank and was violent.

My mother became very religious when she was drunk, and claimed some privileged agency with Jesus. Her tea mornings at the church enabled her to fortify her refreshments, and carry on a masquerade with the ladies as if the supernatural had made her feel better and more wholesome. I did seek help from the divine myself as there was no apparent assistance from society or other adults. The adults colluded to turn every event or party into a juvenile drinking contest, which my father mostly sought to conclude with a drunken brawl.

My mother cut her wrists at least twice. We were called from school and found her. I was an expert at cleaning up her blood, one time as she punched a window which created a terrible wound which deposited a pool of blood at least three feet across. I used a sheet and dumped it in the bath while they stitched her again. She would often overdose or try to hang herself, once pulling down the light fitting, with a chord wrapped around her neck.

Each house as we moved with dad’s job (around 20 houses) was soon christened with familiar sounds of struggle, weeping, shouting as my dad fought to control her rage. She once grabbed the wheel of our pickup whilst my Dad was driving and tried to run us off a bridge. I sat in between them as they struggled and tried to stop the vehicle.

I find myself now with anxiety disorder, depression etc. and an inability to complete anything. I have a Master’s Degree and tried to do well in my career but I am mostly hamstrung and gripped with lack of belief. I await the next calamity or disaster, and my nerves are often on edge. I do not believe I deserve any success or happiness, and see myself as damaged goods. I cannot accept compliments. I have a loving wife and we adopted two lovely children from a neglectful background in order to save them a similar fate. I am beginning my journey now to help myself. I want to be a good dad and am looking to stabilise my thinking and outlook. They don’t need me to be drunk or unstable so I want to stop the rot here and now. I drink but have reduced this to a few a week watching sport or whatever, and stop when I eat. I never drink when I am looking after the kids on my own. I’m aware of the risks so I want to do the right thing and reduce or stop altogether.

I hope for the best and wish all of you well, we can become who we deserve to be, we have each other.

Paul

Feeling confused by parents changing when they drink or feeling alcohol takes priority over everything

+- And I’ll see you again when it’s time for me (Kerry)

I’ve been thinking about writing about my own experience for some time, but as usual life gets in the way and there’s little time to reflect. I feel now is the time to reflect, and through sore, puffy eyes I’d like to share my story.

We all want an amazing Mum, don’t we?  The type of Mum, that when you peruse Mother’s Day cards you want the one that says “Mum, You Are the Absolute Best”. You don’t want to be sifting through cards thinking, oh that’s too much, or, that’s too ironic.

I loved my Mum to the core, we just connected. Everyone said we looked alike and we definitely shared lots of traits. Quirkiness, a dry sense of humour and something which could be positive, but also negative…..we were deep thinkers. We both liked to write and read poetry.

She was attractive, kind, loving, intelligent, and definitely a natural empath. She used to tell me she was a white witch, a good witch.

But then there was the other person. Not my real Mum. The black witch. The alter ego. Consumed by alcohol & mental illness, she could be unpredictable, violent, selfish and emotionally unavailable. Very often found draining a box of wine and being angry at life.

It’s one of those classic stories, born of parents who were both alcohol dependent, she had a troubled childhood and spent time in a children’s home that housed mentally ill patients. Her mother was then murdered when she was 17 years old. I won’t go on too much about her upbringing, as that was her childhood, not mine. But, it does give an insight as to how the seeds were sewn.

I was born in 1980, and my sister came along in 1982. As a very small child Mum did very well for a bit. She had qualified as a nurse, and she and my father ran an elderly people’s home in the early 80’s. I remember she was so sweet and funny, and told us silly rhymes, and gave lovely cuddles.

But it was here it started. I remember she would often disappear for a few days, leaving us with staff, I’d be crying for her in the night and asking where she was. My Nana would often come and pick us up and take us to stay with her.

My parents were going through a separation at this point, I’d be about 5yrs old.  I remember being at primary school and she wouldn’t show up to collect us, or she’d send a random friend.

I remember jumping on her bed one Christmas Day morning, my sister and I, jumping and giggling, dressed in matching outfits. Mum “fast asleep” she literally couldn’t be roused. She used to tell us “oh, I could sleep through the fire alarm going off”. I obviously realise now she was just totally out of it, and probably massively hungover.

The disappearing acts continued, she met a few men along the way. There was one guy she met whilst visiting friends in Scotland. He came to stay for a bit whilst we still lived at the residential home. I remember there was a big fight on the lawn outside when my Dad showed up for something. It was a warm day and I was playing outside in my pants! Mum ended up getting involved and her hand got badly injured, blood spraying out all over the place. I was hysterical. She bore the scar on her hand as a reminder all her life, it was strange, it formed the shape of a 2.

And then one day cycling around the block, Mum AWOL again, I saw her car outside a cottage on the high street. I stopped, and with some trepidation I knocked on the door, to my surprise Mum answered.

She had met a new man, in the village. And then things really spiralled out of control…….

I could write a book with all the memories, and I probably will, but for this purpose I’ll point out the things popping into my head now.

Mum had my brother in 1990, followed by my youngest sister in 1994. Through the pregnancy with my brother she appeared to square herself up a little and drank much less. My youngest sister was a different story, and my sister arrived early, with a much lower birth weight than my other 2 siblings. I have always felt extremely responsible towards my young siblings, and I worried about them entering this volatile situation.

My Mum and stepfather both drank, the worse possible combination of people to of met. Initially the local pub was their favourite haunt; we would spend many a weekend sat outside with a bottle of pop and as a “treat”. I could sometimes have an Appetiser…. depending on whether they had their beer and cigarette money. We went through waves of having money, and having nothing. Mum would then send me home from the pub to sort out the younger children whilst she stayed out drinking, embarrassing herself staggering home.

As a young girl I remember the fear of coming in from school, I knew they’d be drunk, but how drunk? Okay drunk? Nasty drunk? Crying drunk? Violent drunk?

The room would be thick with smoke and the smell of Riesling wine or white cider. Sometimes Mum’s booze would be in mugs… because obviously that was tea then, and not alcohol.

I’d always feel anxious and on edge, wondering if that night we’d be lying in bed listening to Elton John or Tina Turner on full volume, or Mum smashing crockery over my stepfather’s head, and him retaliating.

Then there was the mental abuse, telling me I had a big nose, and as a teenager calling me a fat b***h. Some of her favourite quotes were “Life’s a bitch and then you die” or “Life’s a bitch and then you breed one”. We had a fight once, she had got right up in my face, inebriated, and then grabbed me by my trouser belt hooks, she ripped them and ripped my top. I pushed her and she fell over backwards. I felt awful, I’d be about 14 years old, but I was angry and scared.

I remember during one big fight between my Mum and stepfather, he grabbed her hair and swung her around, pulling a bloody chunk of hair from her scalp. I called the police and the police came, as they did a few times, and, as usual she’d sober up and drop any charges. Another time after a drunken fight her ankle got broken. I had 3 weeks off school, caring for her and my siblings…. not long after I moved to my Nana’s house.

If I’m honest, on reflection, I think they (her and my stepfather) were as bad as one another when it came to the drunken violence.

In 1997 I moved out of my Nanas, she had taken me in at 14 to help me get on track again at school. Here I felt calmer and very loved, she was an amazing grandmother. (Unfortunately she was knocked over by a van, and died in December 2000).

It got really bad in 1999, I was living with a close girl-friend. Mum had a car crash, it was not her fault. As far as we know she was sober… a lorry hit her from behind, she was doing the morning school run with my younger siblings. My brother died.

This was however the perfect excuse to complement their lifestyle, especially my stepfather. Understandably consumed by grief, the drinking and fighting got really out of control. My stepfather started on heavy spirits and died a few years later in 2002, at 48 years old. My youngest sister ended up been fostered, but we remained close to our Mum.

All I ever wanted was for her to be “normal”, a happy Mum, the Mum making you a nice teatime treat, or sat down painting with you, supporting you with homework. But this was seldom the case.

When your parent drinks you seem to spend your whole life feeling guilty, overly responsible, anxious, worried, concerned, growing up too fast…… I could go on.

Fast forward lots…….with lots more random and tragic stories in the middle, and…

Luckily over the past year or so she finally got sober, it was great to see. Almost unbelievable, but amazing! I’m so grateful for this time. The best memory I have is my birthday this year. We had a phone conversation and she said “Kerry, my whole life I’d felt so sad and alone and then you were born and I wasn’t sad or alone anymore”. She told me she was proud. It crushed me, and I cried bitter sweet tears all day. That was Mum talking, real Mum.

Unfortunately my Mums sobriety was all too little, and far too late. Years of abuse had taken their toll on her body and caused huge health issues. On Monday, 07/11/16 she passed away in A and E, I won’t go into detail (I’ll save that for the book!) but I was with her. She was 58 years old.

I’m now grieving. Grieving for what could have been, grieving my lovely Mum, grieving the addict, grieving her bipolar illness. We never got to do the girly days out, or happy family gatherings, the lovely photo opportunities. It’s so sad and so raw.

So I want to say RIP Mum, may the demons you’ve carried around all of your life dissipate & be replaced by peace and love within your spirit.

Fly high I miss you xxx

 

I wrote a poem this week, penned from my emotions.

Mum, Dying to Be Happy
Sometimes a flower
Sometimes a thorn
Sometimes the gold
Sometimes the pawn
Sometimes the sunshine
Sometimes the rain
Sometimes the freedom
Sometimes the chain
Sometimes the light
Sometimes the dark
Sometimes a delight
Sometimes a nark
Sometimes jovial
Sometimes sad
Sometimes happy
Sometimes mad

The ying and yang of mental illness
Stripped you of clarity
Stripped you of wellness
But it didn’t define you for all of your life
There were glimmers of hope
There were glimmers of light

You put the cork in the bottle, for that we were grateful
You lost the inebriation which made you so hateful

You were Mum again, if just for a while
That quirky sense of humour and gentle smile

It was lovely to see you so much calmer
No more shouting No more drama
It was lovely to laugh and reminisce
It was lovely to hug you and give you a kiss
And then that final kiss…….
On your head
For that was it, your human form was dead

But your kind spirit is free!
It’s as free as can be!
A shooting star for eternity

So fly high Mum
Be the flower
Be the gold
Be the sunshine
Be the freedom
Be the light
Be the delight
Be the jovial
Be the happy
Be all those things you were destined to be
And I’ll see you again when it’s time for me

Kerry

+- I never knew when I came home from school whether she would be sober, drunk or dead. (Matthew)

My mother was an incredible woman, she brought up 2 boys, whilst dealing with her hardest battle of them all, to which eventually she would succumb.

One of my earliest memories was finding vodka bottles hidden around the house. At that age, I had no idea this was not ‘normal’. Throughout my childhood, my brother and I stayed with friends and family, even foster parents who were friends with my mum. My mum was in and out of rehab and hospital, up to 1 year at a time. I always thought/hoped that she would be able to beat this addiction and be able to move forward with her life. Unfortunately, I never got to know my mum when she was sober, the only memories I have are those when she was drinking.

I never knew when I came home from school whether she would be sober, drunk or dead. That was my main concern. I loved my mum so much, but I was frustrated as I couldn’t understand why, if she loved me, she wouldn’t just stop drinking. This was my thought process within my young and ignorant viewpoint.

My mum was in and out of hospital and rehab throughout my young life, however, after I turned 18 and a week prior to heading to university, my mum deteriorated. I called an ambulance and went to hospital with her. I sat by my mum’s side in the hospital, like I had done a number of times previous, but this time it was different, I knew it and my mum knew it. She looked me in the eyes and told me to tell everyone that she loved them. At that point, the doctor ushered me away and that was the last time I saw my mum alive, she died moments later.

I was heartbroken, but there was also a part of me that was relief, she was no longer in pain and struggling with her addiction and as strange as it sounds, I found comfort in that. I still went to university but I didn’t deal with my loss very well. My weight ballooned and my relationship with alcohol was heading in a similar direction to my mothers, I was using it to block out my emotion pain and heartache I was feeling.

However, I made a conscious decision to change, I discovered fitness and started go to the gym regularly. In my third year of university I found out I was going to be a father which really provided me with the focus I needed in life. There was not a chance I would let my son have a childhood like mine.

Fast forward a good few years and I’m now a father to an amazing son who’s about to be a teenager himself. I am the director of my own company and have successful career, I have a beautiful fiancé and I’ve achieved another goal which was to compete in a fitness competition.

I have a great relationship with alcohol, I love a glass of wine at the weekend, or a beer with my friends.

NACOA is such a great charity, I wish I had this option when I was younger. My childhood experiences have made me who I am. I’m more than happy to pass on my thoughts and life experiences with anyone, I’m here to talk but more importantly, I’m here to listen.

Matthew

+- They were very withdrawn and had no interest in mine or my sister’s lives. We both ended up leaving home around 16, because we could not cope with the situation anymore. (Karen)

As a child I had two alcoholic parents, every week day evening my Dad would walk to the local corner shop to ‘top up the electric meter’ and to purchase alcohol. Friday and Saturday nights my younger sister and I were shipped off so they could go to the pub. Sundays were the day they would drink the whole day into the evening.

My dad went two ways drunk he was either aggressive/unpredictable, we could hear him yelling from our bedrooms. Shouting how much he in-particular hated me and would hurl abuse. He was convinced I wasn’t his biological daughter. Or he became depressed and self-loathing, you never knew which side of his personality it would bring out.

I feel my mum drank to cope with my Dad, she was/is submissive, passive and frightened of my unpredictable Dad. But with them both being intoxicated this led to horrific nightly arguments.

They were very withdrawn and had no interest in mine or my sister’s lives. We both ended up leaving home around 16, because we could not cope with the situation anymore.

I am writing this now, because for the last 11 weeks I have had two sober parents. This is the only 11 weeks I can remember out of 34 years of my life. For a second I had a glimpse of a family where alcohol was not the priority. My Dad has been on and off alcohol for the last few years, he suffers with inflamed joints and drinking makes his tablets less effective and therefore making his condition more painful. But recently appears to be in control of the situation.

However, my Mum was very much still in denial. Last November there was an incident where she fell down the stairs. This frightened her and she decided to get help for her issues. This time, I seriously thought it was the turning point. My sister and I were so confident that we booked us all a family holiday as a Christmas present and the prospective of my 20 month old son staying overnight was a possibility.

My son makes this situation more difficult, they are brilliant with him and I don’t want to deny them access. My Dad is a much better Granddad (not that it would take much) than Dad and my son adores him.

But both of them blatantly lied to me over and over this weekend about Mum drinking, I can’t trust them with the care of my son when they can’t tell me the truth. They were caring for him every Friday whilst I was at work. But I think this a privilege I am sadly going to need to stop until they can prove they are can be trusted.

I posted a post on social media for mother’s day yesterday telling her how proud I am of her, she called me drunk to thank me for this post. Oh the sad irony!

I feel hurt, angry and saddened by the fact having a grandchild hasn’t been enough to make her stop. They are lucky they haven’t lost me already but I have my own family to think about and a successful career to juggle and I am not sure how much more I can take, I am at breaking point.

Karen

+- I have suffered my Dad’s heavy drinking from the age of 6 to 65. (Donald)

The first incidents I remember are being in the kitchen of my house in Streatham and booze being around, glasses of beer, etc. He would repeatedly hit me around the face and break my NHS spectacles. There was never a time when he did not hit me. Once he half killed me by giving me a heavy slap in the bath. They had to take me to Children’s Hospital that time.

I spent a lot of time trying to get out the house. I would go for long cycle rides and long bus rides; I would get on the tube and go 20 miles. I would never want to be at home because all it would be would be my Mum and Dad drinking.

He would come home in a state late at night completed soused and pick a fight with my Mum; this would go on every night of the week. In my teens I would have thoughts about what it would be like to harm my parents; I would soothe myself on a daily basis by day-dreaming a horrible fate for them. If I did not do that I would contemplate suicide (suicidal ideation) and this went on from the age of 6.

He was constantly surrounding himself with like-minded individuals and he still does to this day. He would tell them what a dead loss I was and how I never did a day’s work in my life. They would readily believe him and repeat the tales to me when I met up with him (on the rare occasions on which I did).

They would criticise my academic abilities and say that it was nothing that I had got a BA (Hons) (Accounting) and a Diploma of English Law. They would say that I never had a job and would say that I was a disgrace to my parents, even though I have years on my work record and a full set of NI contributions.

My Dad (and Mum) would always try to pretend that it wasn’t them that had said anything whenever I would challenge them about bad mouthing me to their friends. They would act as if they were making it up. Just recently (two months ago) my Dad was ill; he told me not to come and see him. My sister went to see him and they all got drunk together. My sister criticised me, saying that I did not drink.

My life has really been a horror story; somebody ought to tell people that being an alcoholic turns people into cheats and liars, not only that, it can render the offspring aimless and unhappy as they constantly try to please parents who are bent and twisted out of shape.

I try to avoid my father now, I cannot stand the kant and hypocrisy of the man. I hope what I have written will help the readers on your site to know that it is not their fault and that there is hope out there for them.

Donald

+- I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for (Heather)

My father was Graham Paddon, professional footballer and coach. When I was born in 1991 he was assistant manager at Portsmouth football club. I have some of my earliest memories in the crèche at Fratton Park alongside the earliest memories of my dad, watching whilst he watched his team on the sidelines. I think that was the first time I felt pride I must have been four years old.

My parents separated when I was five. My father was an alcoholic and the reason for their divorce, a fate I believe that was brought on by the pressures in his career. Following their separation my mother, sister and myself where placed in a safe house so my father could not find us. To this day I don’t know exactly how or why this happened, I only have scattered memories of fights and shouting. I was too young to really know what was happening. Dad’s career was ending, his drinking increasing and in the end he moved back to Norfolk, where he eventually ended up residing in a caravan park. The disease got the better of him.

Growing up I saw my father a handful of times, a couple of which had to be cut short because he would drink whilst I was in his care. Our relationship was reduced to a phone call every Sunday and letter writing. I developed a plan to stop the constant longing for my father to come home and wondering why I wasn’t good enough to stop drinking for. I turned it into to hope, I told myself I would ‘fix’ him (not realising he was the only person who could ‘fix’ him).

As soon as I was able to drive I was going to drive to Norfolk and help him get better, because I knew that if it wasn’t for the drinking my parents would still be together now. Unfortunately he passed away when I was sixteen and before I had learnt to drive. When I was a teenager I was confused and angry with a lot of things, I definitely felt depression and anxiety most of the time. The day I had a phone call to let me know my father had died, I lost the hope that was driving me to carry on. All I ever wanted was a relationship with him, and the chance was stolen from me by a disease that is so easily swept under the carpet. The last words I said to him were in an argument about drinking. Such is the case with so many children of alcoholics. I didn’t manage to get to know the man behind the alcoholism; my memories are based on photographs and home videos.

When I was twenty-three, and in my third year of university, I pursued a project to document my journey to find out more about my dad on film. I finally felt I could face the past and find out more about my father, rather than reading about him on the Internet or relying on my broken memories. I asked old friends, colleagues and family how they remembered him. I wanted to have the fond memories people shared with me forever, and to remember the man he was before the drinking started.

Although I was kept relatively sheltered from my father’s drinking, as he moved away and I didn’t witness the effects to him on a daily basis, I have also been the stepchild of an alcoholic. It was my stepfather’s addiction I had to learn to live with regularly.
My mum was with my stepfather for 7 years and it was during those years I witnessed the common dilemmas a child of an alcoholic faces; what am I going home to? Will he embarrass or humiliate me tonight? Is my mum ok? Every night was the same back and forth between parents, “you have been drinking” “No I haven’t” and so on. All the while my brother and I have found the bottles of whisky hidden in the garden. Do I say anything, when I know the man I look at like a father is lying? You begin to loose respect and it only gets worse and worse.

For me I wasn’t directly related to him, so I think that’s what I used to cope with it, but I watch it affect my brother to this day. He no longer hears from his father and goes through all the same pangs of guilt and confusion I go through, could I have helped? Why wasn’t I good enough? Guilt is the feeling that sticks with you (even though you know it wasn’t your fault) and it spreads through the family: Mum, she feels guilty for putting us through it. Me, I feel guilty for watching my brother going through it and my mum constantly getting her heart broken. My sister, she deals with all the same feelings I deal with yet for two siblings. All of us are wishing there was something we could have done.

Both father figures in my life were children of alcoholics. I refuse to continue the pattern. We need more awareness to help other children suffering because of an alcoholic parent, and help the parents to understand the effects of their drinking and perhaps even the cause. We need to out this disease and offer more support like Nacoa to children of alcoholics everywhere. I made a film as my coping mechanism before I found Nacoa. Perhaps if I had known about them sooner I wouldn’t have had to wait so long before I felt I could face my demons.

Heather

+- Nanny drinks her special juice out of a cup (Lorna)

I am 29, my mum is 55 and is an alcoholic. This has been a problem for I would say well over ten years. Just to make you aware myself and my sister (24) had a how you would say “normal upbringing”. We lived in a three bed semi, parents married, both worked etc.

From when I was under ten I was aware that my mum went like a weeble when she had had wine. My parents did not go out much so we used to go to my mum’s best friends or auntie and uncle’s on a weekend.

My mum’s brother was an alcoholic and died ten years ago at 38. He had Huntington’s disease, as did her sister and dad. They have also passed away now and my mum never spoke to her family for over ten years. Maybe this is the reason she is an alcoholic.
I can’t really remember my mum being really bad drunk when I was little. (The photographs and video cameras state different now like). It was more as I got older and I noticed that it was ALWAYS my Mum who was the drunkest at EVERY party, spilt red wine on her best mate’s new cream carpet, fell off the chair, fell into the door, fell into her mate’s front bush when we was getting in the taxi home.

She even got paralytic at my eighteenth birthday party and went flying and sat in my chocolate cake! She had to be driven home sitting on sheets in the back of my auntie’s car so the chocolate never got on the seats.

She kicked off at my friend’s and had to be physically restrained. I think it was after that night that both me and my sister realised we had a big problem on our hands. My mum also got drunk at my sister’s 21st and made it all about her.

So to try and cut a long story short, my mum used to work 4.45 until 10pm Monday to Friday and seven nights a week my dad used to go the supermarket and buy two bottles of white wine and her twenty fags.

Me and my sister spoke to my dad about it and he absolutely flipped at us, this was after we went on holiday for my mum and dad’s twenty fifth wedding anniversary with my dad’s family. My mum got blathered the first night and was still drunk the next day, came by the pool started dancing to Irish music. She fell head first into the pool in front of everybody. I was mortified, my dad took her to bed and it wasn’t spoken about again.

My mum left my dad in May the next year said she wasn’t happy and left. The divorce was messy and she moved a new fella in who she worked with. She continued to drink, black eyes appeared, bruises etc.

By this time I was 21 and having my first daughter. My mum helped look after her overnight sometimes etc. and when I had, had my second daughter, my eldest who was around three said that “nanny drinks her special juice out of a cup”. The drinking has got worse and worse over the last five years and my sister addressed it, my mum only admitted she had a problem last year. She has since then threw her boyfriend out, he had his own issues. So we have managed to get more of a grip on her. Everybody has been blamed besides the kitchen sink for her being the way she is.

She has been drinking secretly in her room, now drinking in the day. She even went into work drunk and I caught her totally by accident so god knows how many times she has done that! She won’t go to the pub now because people are onto her.

When my mum would finish work last year she wouldn’t get home until two hours later and my sister had to drive around looking for her, she would always find her drunk walking. My mum had been to the shop and bought wine, drunk it while walking and then my sister would find her.

She’s not drunk in the morning, but you can smell it on her most times when you see her. She has been going to AA but that is totally to get my sister off her back my mum says she’s “not that bad, there are people so much worse than her”. She went to her mate’s two hours away and was drunk on the train.

Without a drink, my mum is one of the nicest people you could meet. She works hard (she has two jobs) and loves myself and my sister and especially my children so much and my kids adore her. It’s when she drinks she’s like a totally different person. She gets abusive and acts like the whole world is against her.
She also drinks the majority of the time on her own, it’s when she goes into total self-destruct mode people see that side of her. She doesn’t go out much.
My mum took a funny turn in the shop last week, light headed etc. and maybe that’s a sign the damage is coming because she has felt sick for weeks and it doesn’t seem to be shifting. I have got three kids now. My sister is doing well in her job so am I, we both have partners that love us etc. and are so understanding of my mum. She says she wants help but won’t stop drinking so god knows what’s around the corner.

Lorna

+- I remember when I was younger thinking that no one would understand what it was like for me – but you may find they do (Carl)

So I guess I should start by telling you about me. I’m 34 years old, but throughout my childhood and younger adult years I had a difficult relationship with my father. 18 months ago that relationship came to an end, as sadly at the age of 64 my dad passed away – as a result of alcoholism.

My early childhood memories of me and my dad are fun, happy times.  I’ve often been told by my mum that my dad was a great father when I was younger; he really helped her in raising me and my sister. I guess I never really noticed alcohol and a problem with my dad until I grew up a bit more, probably around the age of 9 or 10. Just things like noticing dad’s speech going a bit more slurry, or him appearing really tired in the afternoon, or his eyes being more red / yellow.

I remember I used to find empty drink bottles, hidden in the garage, and thinking at the time that it wasn’t normal. I remember the friction it caused in the relationship between my mum and dad. It was obvious that dad was causing problems, and also had money issues, and I was noticing more and more arguments between my mum and dad – especially after I had gone to bed.

My parents divorced when I was about 14. I completely understood my mum’s decision, and agreed it was for the best. So then it became me, my sister and my mum in the family home. My mum did, and still does, a brilliant job on bringing me up and teaching me everything I know – I couldn’t have had a better parent. So I had great stability in my life from that perspective, one which I am very grateful for.

After my dad moved out he lived in and around our home town for a couple of years. I’d see him a few times a month, usually over at his flat, or we might go camping or something. When I was with dad, he generally did not drink too much – I recall – but there was no doubt he drank when I went to bed, or once Id left. I still found drinks hidden away – almost as if he didn’t want me to know he was drinking.

A few years later my dad was in a new relationship, and re-married, but then unfortunately divorced within the year. A sign at the time that he was very difficult to have a relationship with. By this point I was at university, and whenever I did see dad I still noticed he was clearly drinking.

Dad did get into a new relationship around this time and was relatively stable with this partner for a few years. But ultimately the same pattern of events occurred, drinking, money problems, and then hiding his heavy drinking. So that sadly did not end well.

He then had a period of years where his drinking was out of control, he could not hold down a job (or accommodation) and went through a period of time in a hostel and a dry house. Whilst this was a very sad time for my dad, I did hope it may be the ‘rock bottom’ that he needed. He certainly had the warnings from the doctors too.

This was the first real time he openly admitted to me that he had a drink problem, and that he was getting help, and would not drink again.  Dad did manage to find some stability in his life again, managed to move into his own shared accommodation, and the occasional bits of work.

A few years later he got together with a new partner and really did seem happy with her – and they moved in together. Dad’s life did become the most stable it had been for some time. I would see dad once or twice during each year, and whilst he was happy, and settled, it was clear he was still drinking though.

I remember my last long weekend that I spent with dad, at his home, the summer the year before he died. It was a lovely 3 days, but also stressful as it was evident he was drinking heavily again – the tell-tale signs of slurred speech, tiredness, red/yellow eyes. The really worrying thing for me though, was that I only saw him have one can of lager that weekend. So wherever he was drinking, he was doing it in hiding.

I saw my dad one last time in the Easter of 2014. He didn’t look great, very tired, drawn and edgy in himself.  I’ll never forget the summer of 2014. I’ll never forget the moment my mum came to find me, I could tell by her face that something was wrong, and I knew it was my dad. He was taken ill, suddenly, overnight and within days was in a high dependency ward. Sadly just over 3 weeks later he had passed away, his body had given up on him, and ultimately died from organ failure as a result of alcohol abuse.

Losing my dad was the hardest thing I have ever gone through, and I imagine there won’t be many more things harder than that in the rest of my life. I think I always knew that sadly it was going to end for dad in some way like it did. But there is also that bit of hope in you, where you think they may be able to stop their drinking.

It is difficult understanding the impact of alcohol on my dad. It’s something I have been trying to deal with most of my life, and now he has gone I reflect on it all. Could things have been different? Could I have helped more? Could he have changed? Why did he drink so much? Why did he hide his drinking? Will I become an alcoholic? So many questions and little answers. But I do know that dad had a caring son and daughter, and loving partners, and many friends – he had all the support he could have asked for. I do still have the feelings of guilt over what I could have done, but I find these thoughts more manageable now – when I take a few moments, and think through everything I did do, I know I could not have done more.

Things did not end well for my father, but I do know if he could have been more open, more honest, there was support out there for him. Should you be reading this and looking for help for your parent it is out there. Should you find yourself going through hard times, speak to someone.

Nacoa have a fantastic range of support options to you on the phone and email. Speak to friends, and where possible other family members. I remember when I was younger thinking that no one would understand what it was like for me – but you may find they do. It has only been in recent years, as I have learnt to be more open with my friends, that I have learnt about their struggles with a parent and alcohol – or a friend they had who was in a similar situation.

Carl

+- Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart (Jayne)

I love you and I always will. You’ve always put others needs ahead of your own. For once, put yourself first and get some help. You’ve cared for us, raised us well and worked hard your entire life. You deserve a life that is full of happiness, love and support from your family and friends. I will support you and Dad by attending family counselling.

I know that you hate the alcohol and how it has pushed us apart. The only thing that will bring us closer and make us strong again is if we tackle our family’s problems including the alcohol head on. I can’t bury my head in the sand. Listening to you drunk on the phone today broke my heart. Being around you when you’re drunk brings up so many unhealthy emotions – frustration, anger and helplessness. It saddens me more than you realise. The alcoholism is driving me away and I want to be close to you. I can’t accept the alcohol mum.

You’ve always believed in me and supported every decision I’ve ever made. Now it’s my turn to support and believe in you. I have included some names of family and addiction counsellors at the bottom of this letter. We’ve never tried this so please give it a go but you need to be willing.

I love you Mum. I want there to be so many good times in the future but I just can’t see that happening like it is right now. I want us to be a close and strong family. Please try – I’ve never wanted anything more than this.

I love you. Jayne

+- I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic (Stacey)

I’m Stacey, I’m 18 and my mum is an alcoholic.

Recent events have left me feeling angry and full of hate towards her and what she is doing to herself, me and my dad. She has been addicted to alcohol for as long as I can remember – I thought it started when I was around 8, but have recently discovered it started around 20 years ago, which would also explain why I was born premature, weighing 3 pounds and asthmatic – her first of many parenting disasters.

I remember when I was younger, she used to scare me so much. I didn’t know what was wrong with her, I just knew that she wasn’t normal and that I didn’t like it. She used to make me do weird things like phone family members and tell them that she wasn’t breathing when really she was sat there forcing me to say these things – I still don’t understand what she got out of doing it but she was my mum and I was her little girl, so I did what she told me.

She’d pick fights with my dad and wound him up to the point where he would hit her, there’s been moments where he probably would have killed her if it wasn’t for me. She has pinned me against the wall with my neck, dragged me down some steps with my hair and grabbed me so hard by the stomach to stop me from running away I couldn’t breathe. My dad couldn’t help me because he was always at work, he has 2 jobs to provide for me while my mum uses my child tax credits to get drunk. I don’t think I ever told him about that.

There’s been 2 occasions where she has tried to kill herself… I found her just hours away from dying after taking too many painkillers.

Usually I cope pretty well – better than expected. But mine and my dad’s money has started going missing, we knew it was her but we didn’t have any proof – until I caught her stealing some this week. This caused an explosion of arguments and feelings. I leave college in a few months which means her money stops, and she knows me and my dad won’t fuel her habit. It makes me so angry that me and my dad work hard for our money and she thinks it’s okay to take it and have the cheek to deny it! She doesn’t even think she is in the wrong.

Like most kids in this situation, it has affected my personality and relationships. I sometimes find myself being selfish – talking about myself and my problems and not taking enough time to listen to others about theirs. I think this is because I can’t talk about myself or my problems at home.

I lack confidence. I’m not close to many people in my family – maybe because I’m scared they’ll hurt me like she has? I don’t know. I can’t bring people back to my house, I feel like they will judge me. I sometimes snap at people when they’ve done nothing wrong because I’m stressed because of things at home. I have come to terms with the fact that I cannot make her stop, she is the only person who can help herself and clearly she doesn’t want to.

I’ve learnt not to blame myself or my dad. Some people say it’s an illness, I say it’s a choice. It was her choice to pick up the bottle and now she has a choice to put it down and she won’t. To anyone who’s going through this – hang in there, you will learn to cope with it in your own way. To anyone who happens to be reading this that isn’t affected by alcohol/substance abuse, you will most likely have other problems in life, but maybe you’ll appreciate that this isn’t one of them – do I sound selfish again? Stay strong guys

(Stacey)

+- Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? (Jessica)

Still now, at the age of 21 after 15 years of my mother’s drinking does it pain me to say my own, darling mother is dependent on alcohol.

It kills me because she is the most wonderful, amazing person when sober. How is that possible? All I’ve ever wanted is a mum, and I think that’s all I’ll ever crave.

My mother’s drinking has spiralled out of control now, to the point where she is, drinking before work, and early hours the morning.

She’s not the person I thought she was and it breaks my heart, I try and tell myself every day that she is poorly and so sad and can’t help this disease taking over her body. I wake up and have constant reminders that one day my mum is going to die because of this awful disgusting disease that’s controlling her.

I get scared most days when I see a car that’s the same as my brother’s, or dad’s or another family member because I think they’re here to tell me she’s died, or killed herself. Suicide is the main thing I think of every day, not for myself but that she will eventually take her own life, can you imagine, how would I live with that? The heartache, the pain?

As hard and painful as it is sharing this, I want people who are going through similar things to feel okay, they are not alone, like myself as I haven’t seen many things about mothers and daughters on here.

All I want is a mum, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Jessica, age 21.

Feeling embarrassed, guilty or ashamed or less important than other people

+- Trying to usher my friends out as quickly as possible as they giggled at my drunken parents (Rebecca)

At the age of about 4 I idolised my dad, every day he’d return from work and we would take a little walk to the shop. As we walked he would hold my small hand within his and we’d chat away, mostly I recall it would be me counting down the days to my next birthday. The sky was dark and the weather cold but all I remember was a sense of warmth, being with my big tall dad and just chatting happily.

Every evening we’d reach the shop and he would buy me a bottle of pop and himself a bottle of gin. To me at the unassuming age of four, this was normal. I didn’t think anything strange at buying a bottle of gin every day. As I got older my dad’s drink of choice changed to vodka. It was between the ages of 7 and 10 that I remember the first feelings of embarrassment at seeing my dad and often my mum too, drunk during the afternoon on a weekend. I can still feel that sense of dread at coming in from playing outside with a friend to see both my parents slouched on the sofa merrily slurring their words not able to string a coherent sentence together, trying to usher my friend out as quickly as possible as they giggled at my drunken parents.

My parents continued to drink, but my dad had that hunger for his next drop, even at the age of 11 we would still walk to the shop together where he would buy a bottle of vodka nicely wrapped up in paper placed in a bag with 4 cans of beer. His problem with alcohol became most apparent to me after my parents separated. I guess I was older and was starting to gain a wider understanding of the world so could understand the issues more clearly. I really did love my dad and would look forward to my weekend visits to London to see him. On one visit I could tell he was at a loss at how to entertain a 13 year old girl so he brought City Limits to see what was on in the area. We ended up going to see The Rocky Horror Show. Neither of us knew what to expect. I could sense his discomfort as he sat beside me as Frank’n’Furter strutted across stage wiggling his hips singing ‘in just seven days, I’m gonna make you a man’. The show was amazing and we both had a giggle about it. That is a really happy memory for me, sharing the excitement of a live stage show with my dad.

On one of my next visits to London to see my dad he didn’t show up at our meeting place and I can remember my mum’s anger, she repeatedly tried calling him but there was no answer. I was so disappointed, but also worried. Where was he, what had happened? We stayed the night with my mum’s friend and the following morning my mum took me to my dad’s flat. She didn’t give up on ringing his doorbell until he answered. How long we were there I can’t remember. Eventually he came to the door and let us in. The smell as the door opened was rancid. I’d never seen mess like it before, rubbish everywhere, knee high. I remember going into the kitchen to find a sink full of filthy mouldy dishes piled as high as you could imagine. This to me was his lowest point. He looked broken, washed out, ashen, and incoherent. My mum insisted that he wash and meet us in an hours’ time at the pub down the road. In retrospect not the best meeting place for an alcoholic but maybe my mum thought that might motivate him to meet us. I was so devastated to see my dad at such a low point. I can’t remember much more other than him meeting us and having a pint. My mum didn’t leave me with him, she took me home and called his parents and sisters and told them how low a point he was at. His family came to clear his flat and move him up to North Wales to live with his parents so they could care for him.

On my first visit to see him once he’d moved, I remember the feelings of excitement at seeing my dad again, but also worry at not knowing what to expect. He was drunk! I remember sitting in the garden with him and my Namps (Grandad), it was a beautiful clear summers day, the weather warm with a gentle breeze, we sat in the garden and my dad looked up to the sky and started laughing, ‘there’s a pig in the sky Becca look up there, it’s flying’, my lovely Namps just gently said, ‘pull yourself together Tony’.

On another visit I remember my dad being so drunk, my aunt who was also visiting pulling him aside and saying you need to sort this out, Becca doesn’t visit often this is your time with her, you have 24 hours to sort yourself out. The next day they took me to the mountain zoo and we had a lovely day, while my dad tried to sober up. My dad tried so hard not to drink while I was there and I know he found it hard and I’m sure he secretly gave in to his demons. He couldn’t sleep at night so would be found in the kitchen pottering around making himself beans on toast. The kitchen was always a mess in the morning from his nightly feasts.

Sadly my grandparents passed away and my dad moved into a flat on his own. I spoke to my dad often on the phone and he would sometimes visit me. As I got older I found it harder and harder to deal with his problems and for some time I turned my back on him. This makes me feel so selfish and sad, if I’d been there for him could he have battled his demons head on? When I was 21 I got in contact with my dad and made plans to see him again. I was so excited at rebuilding our relationship and hoped that perhaps we could fight his addiction together. Heartbreakingly he died before I saw him . He was found dead by the police after his aunt had tried contacting him with no answer. He had an abyss on his liver.

The pain at hearing my dad had died was immeasurable, my world stopped but the world continued to turn. It will be twenty years since he died next year and I still miss and think of him regularly now.

RIP Dad xxxx

Rebecca

+- I first became aware of my father’s drinking when I was 11 (Jay)

I had sung in a small school choir in a theatre production. After the performance at a theatre in a not so nice part of an inner city, on a Saturday night, my father who was supposed to pick me up, never turned up. Home was 30 minutes away. I had never used public transport alone. All the other boys had been picked up, but the mum of one of these other boys noticed I was waiting and waited with me and her son. We waited and waited. She checked the pub across the road- no sign. Eventually she called my mother who came and collected me.

My father was picked up by the police whilst drunk at the wheel, later that night. It was the first of several drink driving offences. I never spoke about what had happened with the other boy when I saw him at school the following week. But 25 years later I thanked his mother for her kindness that night. He then revealed that his father had also had problems with alcohol and this had been one of the reasons for his parents’ marriage falling apart. He said it had caused him unhappiness at school. Perhaps if I could have opened up more at that time, we could have helped each other more.

My father’s drinking continued and still continues though to a lesser extent. He drank in binges and was never physically dependent. I try not to think about it now, but the worry, uncertainty, embarrassment and shame you have when a parent drinks is hard to describe. Being picked up after school, hoping that he would not be drunk. Being left waiting in the dark, alone at night after all the other boys have been picked up. The fear of being driven in a car by someone who is drunk. The shame when your father turns up drunk to your school prize giving where you are getting a prize. The sniggers and snide remarks the next day from other pupils and staff even.

And the irony is that I had what by most accounts would be a privileged childhood. My father was a doctor, I went to public school and then university to also become a doctor. I spent part of my career working with other doctors helping them with alcohol problems. Like many of them, my father faced the GMC because of his drinking. I kept my own experiences tightly bound yet always accessible to me.

The effects of my father’s drinking, as well as the above, were feelings of low self-esteem. It created great insecurity in me. As a child I always wondered why my father would drink as he had a wife and 2 children who loved him. My escape was university, new friends with whom I could speak about what has happened (I only told my best friend from school about my father’s drinking 7 years after we left) and putting distance between me and home. It still rears its head- a few years ago when my father came to visit me in the city where I had moved to, he got drunk on 2 nights in a row. Both times he was picked up by the police. That feeling of worry, shame, anxiety, concern for your parent and utter rage and anger against them all at the same time, is hard to describe.

I have put my father in a distant place for some years, held there by my anger and resentment (he never once ever apologised). But I can see that that is self defeating. He succumbed to some great pressures he was under at the time. He had choices and made bad ones repeatedly. He lacked insight into his drinking for many years. He was an addict. But my hatred just made me feel worse.

As an adult with a loving supportive wife who has helped me to start speaking more about my experiences and also as a father of 2 small boys, I know that acceptance and forgiveness can be the only real solutions. I am conscious of the generational legacy of addiction and the high risk of passing it on. I watch myself. For a long time I never wanted to be anything like my father. But that cannot be. We are alike but different. I can see that now the positives that he gave me in my makeup and in life. But I am my own man. And I am determined to never let my boys face anything similar in their lives.

(Jay)

Uncategorized

+- My name is Mandeep. I am 38-years-old and my father was an alcoholic (Mandeep)

My earliest memories were of my father drinking. I remember one of the dreams I had when I was five. I had three daddies. ‘Nice daddy’, ‘funny daddy’ who was just slightly drunk, and then of course ‘nasty daddy’. That is what it was like. You never had any stability, any security, any normality.

Dad was an intelligent man but also an incredibly intimidating and violent man. He and my mother had an arranged marriage in 1975 and divorce was never an option, even when she was battered and bruised, even when she had black eyes and wore sunglasses during the day, even when she was hospitalised after he threw a plate of steaming hot food over her stomach as he didn’t like the way she had cooked it, even when he smashed her head open with a wine bottle and the blood was smeared over every single wall in the house, even when he kicked her in the stomach when she was 8 months pregnant.

No, divorce was not an option because she did not want to bring shame to her family.

If ever we dared to get in the way we became the targets. God knows how many times neighbours called the police. God only knows what the social services thought of us.

I never had any friends. I never went to a birthday party. Nobody invited us anywhere. I couldn’t ride a bike. I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do any of the normal things that kids do. I thought that I was a freak. My father became more controlling, almost psychopathic, as we got older, not allowing us any contact with the outside world apart from school. We were not allowed any freedom at all. I don’t know if that was the alcohol talking or whether that was just his personality.

I don’t know how but he managed to get a car, despite being unemployed. He would drive it with us in the back. He was completely off his face. We had no seatbelts and were terrified. He never got caught.

However, because my father was an intelligent man my school never found out. He would always wear a suit and tie and be ever so charming to our teachers. He would chew cardamom pods too, a trick that many Asians use to cover up the smell of alcohol on their breath.

Luckily his children were intelligent too. I excelled at my school work and became a straight A student. However, my father made me give up my education when I was 16 so that I could get a job. He took my wages and spent them on drink. However, I didn’t give up. I did my A-levels through distance learning. I secretly went back to my school, having confided in my form tutor, who would give me AA leaflets and also let me borrow A-level text books. I would sneak them under my coat and then secretly read them at home so that I could pass my exams.

I hated him. Every night I would pray to god that he would die.

A year before my father’s death when I was 17 he visited the doctor who told him he had to stop drinking otherwise he would die. My father denied that he drank, as he always did. He came home and just said ‘So what? Everyone has to die one day.’ A year later I sat by his bedside in the intensive care unit as he succumbed to alcoholic liver disease.

I felt that a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Unfortunately it took my family a while to adapt to life without him, to change their ways. My mother had lived under his shadow for so long. He had left us penniless and she was scared.

I asked her if I could go to university the following year and she said no. However, I made the toughest decision of my life because I knew it was the right thing to do. I continued working and saved up a load of cash. I passed my A-levels, got my university place, packed two suitcases, called a friend and left home. My mother was devastated but after three days we were talking again and we are best friends now.

I thought that life was ok but it was only last year that I realised it wasn’t really. I have always felt different, always felt left out, always felt lonely and depressed. I couldn’t understand why. I have a wonderful job, two beautiful children, the world is mine for the taking, but I still feel sad a lot of the time. It was only when I did research that I realised what I feel is normal. The legacy of a parent’s drinking does affect you for the rest of your life. However, just because you have a parent who drinks it doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. It really doesn’t matter where you’re from. You are as special as everyone else on this planet and it is where you are heading to that counts. Life will get better, I promise.

Mandeep

Feeling like you want to get away from it and being unable to live your own life

+- Someone dies of cancer, it’s a tragedy, someone dies of alcoholism it’s an embarrassment (Kate)

I am now in my 40s but have felt like a mature adult for most of my life.  Sometimes as children we sat at the top of the stairs in silence until our parents’ arguments had stopped and we could go to sleep. As a teenager I used to count the number of bottles of wine, gin and beer they got through in a week at home – and lecture them.  As an adult I tried to learn from my sister and distance myself emotionally.

Of both my parents, he was a melancholy alcoholic, not physically abusive, so emotional blackmail was the worst we really ever suffered from him. She was emotionally erratic, unpredictable, and would swing into black moods or verbally violent outbursts quickly. We learnt to keep our heads down. As their relationship openly failed in my teenage years, I was called on as confidante to each of them, and tried to be supportive, taking on emotional responsibility I didn’t have the experience to deal with. For a few years I developed eating disorders and self-harmed.

My father, a high-achieving, intelligent, company executive, with a multitude of talents died of total organ failure brought on by alcohol abuse 10 years ago. My mother, also with a successful career behind her, divorced him a year before he died, leaving my sister and me to care for him at home in the final throes of his illness. We both lived and worked about an hour away, so it was a difficult time, which we shared in shifts. The worst thing was the isolation; the phone never rang. Someone dies of cancer, it’s a tragedy, someone dies of alcoholism it’s an embarrassment.

My mother put herself into an expensive private rehab clinic 3 years after my dad died and contacted us on arrival.  We had both minimized contact with her because of the verbal and emotional abuse we suffered from her following my father’s death. She was in a humiliated physical state then, yet four weeks later we saw her as herself for the first time in our whole lives – she was a kind and thoughtful person. But her sobriety only lasted 6 weeks. Gradually it slipped back into the bottle of wine plus a day, the casual drink driving, the angry abusive phone calls: “I love/hate you”,  “I’m proud of you” / “ What the hell are you doing with your life? Just get on with it!”, “You owe me”, ‘I gave up ten years of my life for you”.

I wanted to save at least one of my parents, and asked a cognitive therapist I knew to help my mother. He warned me he had cured heroin addicts, but never alcoholics; he couldn’t get her to accept responsibility for her actions.  She has also been to AA, but got bored of listening to everyone else’s stories. She has had one-to-one counseling, but decided the psychiatrist was ‘mad’. She hides her drinking: vodka watered down in water bottles, white wine in tea cups. In public, to normalize her behavior, she will carefully match you drink for drink. This is harder to deal with than my father who openly acknowledged his weakness, and asked us to accept it.

I no longer bother questioning my mother about her drinking, nor do the doctors. Last year she came to visit me, but made herself so sick she was vomiting up blood and soiling herself in the street. I drove her the 2 hours back home, called the doctors and she admitted she needed to stop drinking. Three days later, everything was denied. The cause of her ailments are always due to something else.

This year she has collapsed in the street, fallen down the stairs, and perforated an ulcer.  The hospital patched her up, detoxed her with Librium. Two days after she was released, I visited her again, and the tremors were back, as was the smell on her breath.  I cleaned out the fridge, made sure she had something to eat and left.

This year there will be more ‘unusual health problems’, and every year after. And I will eventually bury her, just like I buried my father. I will call her every week to monitor her state, and make sure she isn’t making herself destitute with opportunistic drinking partners. I will listen to the rambling monologue, tell her any news briefly, which she will forget again, ask about again, and react disproportionately to and audibly pour another drink. I will tell her I love her, hang up, and spend the next few hours trying to get control of my thoughts again.

We spent ten years watching my father die, after 20 years of watching them fight. While we went through the motions of getting on with our lives, we still spent most of our time together talking about them and looking over our shoulders for the next crisis. Now I am waiting for my mother to die, and I no longer feel guilty about hoping it will be sooner rather than later. It would be kinder to us all.

My sister had the opportunity to work overseas.  I actively encouraged her to leave – so she could finally have a chance at her own life, find a partner, and have a family. Thankfully she has.

I don’t think either of us ever really knew what a normal loving relationship looked like, had the trust in others or, quite reasonably, had the confidence we could trust our instincts in identifying someone we could depend on. Our emotional expectations of others are often wildly out; I am certainly an optimistic cynic, hoping for the best and expecting the worst in everyone.  What I know now is, however we’ve turned out, it’s not our fault. I just wish it had been different.

Kate

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