As you’re reading this you are about to become one of the few people who knows this about me …
My dad was an alcoholic.
This is something that was never said out loud, certainly not at home, certainly not to my siblings, it was a great big secret. One of the world’s worst secrets maybe, but something that was never discussed then or now. But it’s a secret that has impacted upon my life so badly over the years I cannot begin to explain the pain it has caused me.
My reason for writing this is to give advice if you are a parent and an alcoholic, please read it …
From a very small child, about 4, thought my dad was ill and dying. He often had to lay down, he would go to bed early, people spoke in hushed voices. I used to stand outside the bedroom door listening to him breathe. He wasn’t ill, he was drunk.
My dad went on a bender one day, came home threw petrol around the lounge and threatened to set fire to it. My mum left me sitting on his lap while she went to get help. I was 6.
He used to get drunk and cry. Just sit and cry to Perry Como songs. I used to sit with him. I was 10.
I used to come from school and he’d be asleep on the sofa, my mother would be in a depressed heap upstairs. I’d tip the whisky away and start tea. Then we’d all eat it, no one would mention anything about it. I was 12.
I could never have friends round. What shit show would I be bringing them into?
I used to worry all day at school about what would be happening at home – I rang home at break, at lunch, before I left just so I was armed and ready.
He wasn’t ever violent. But he had a nasty tongue, I’m sorry but most drunks do.
When he was sober he was a kind, loving man. A man with issues without a doubt. Pillar of the community, never off sick, do anything for anyone. You see, it was a secret.
I am the youngest by a long way. My siblings were aware of what was going on but we never discussed it, they didn’t live at home. My mum? Don’t have enough words to explain how she let me down. Once, he said he was going to see ‘someone’ the place he was going to was our local mental health hospital. I remember feeling so happy that at last something was going to happen. I got home from school. He didn’t go, did t think there was any need.
I could go on but I won’t, if you’re reading this and you’re a drinker you could fill in the gaps yourselves. I remember as a young child feeling awkward and embarrassed and I didn’t know why. I was, and still am, super sensitive to any change in mood or tone of voice. I hate surprises, I grew up with constant bloody surprises! I learnt to be wary, I learnt to be constantly on my guard, I learnt that the people who are supposed to care for you unconditionally don’t. I learnt to worry all the fecking time. I learnt to be responsible for two adults from a very young age.
This is the killer. When my first child was born I had a breakdown. They put that baby into my arms and the sheer overwhelming feeling of responsibility sent me crashing. I’d been responsible for years and I didn’t think I could do it again.
I have been anxious all my life. I used to get up when I was little and say I had a feeling like worms in my tummy and chest, cute way to describe anxiety eh? I have been diagnosed with PTSD. I have battled with depression for ever.
There’s lots more but I’m over it, but my point is …
If you’re being a parent like mine your child will hate you at times but they will never stop loving you. They won’t if you or someone on your behalf talks and communicates with them. Don’t think just because your children are small they don’t know what’s going on, they do. Talk, make sure they have support, look after them.
And most importantly say you are sorry. At some point. Alcoholism is an individual journey there will a different time for everyone but tell them you’re sorry for putting them through so much. Acknowledge the pain you’ve caused them. Just say sorry.
On my wedding day I wanted to vomit being in the car with my dad. He didn’t deserve to walk me down the aisle. I just wanted some acknowledgement or an apology even as a grown woman.
He’s dead. I’m glad.
I have turned into a strong woman with an amazing family of my own, but it’s taken a lot of time, and therapy, to get to this point. My dad’s alcoholism robbed me of the joy of new motherhood and that is unforgivable.
Remember, acknowledge what you’re doing to them and say sorry.