My Mum, the recovering alcoholic. Most probably one of the hardest things for me to openly admit. Maybe, I find it easier now I can say ‘recovering’ opposed to just an alcoholic. By far, this is hardest topic for me to talk about. The topic that is closest to my heart and makes me well up thinking about it (or maybe that is James Blake playing in the background) but here goes.
I realised my Mum had a drink problem when I was as young as seven but I did not want to tell anyone. All I thought was, if I did would I be taken into care? I did not want my Mum to get into trouble. I battled with loving her and feeling so confused to why she drunk herself into a mess. She might not admit it was this early on, but this is when it begun (for me). I can remember it as if it was yesterday. I had recently moved schools and my Mum had gone out with a friend of hers. I was asleep, until she got home. She was screaming and shouting at my poor Dad. I went to school late and these occasions became more regular. At the beginning she may of been classed as a ‘binge drinker’ as her drinking sessions were not every day. However, when she did drink, she was unable to control how much she consumed and the night would end sourly. She would often, come home from ‘dinner’ denying that she had anything to drink whilst swaying from side to side with her red stained lips.
Unfortunately in Britain, approximately, 2.5 million children live with a hazardous drinker however, I believe that theses statistics are not accurate because there will be many cases that are not reported (like us). My childhood was on the whole ‘not hazardous’ but there has definitely been times that all could of turned out a lot worse. For example, when my mum left the gas on, or when she tried to put her cigarette out on flammable products, or when she left the front door open for most of the night. I would always be so angry at her at the time, but in the morning I could not help but pity her and want to help her. Even though now, I know I could never have done enough to help her. This is what I struggled to understand as a child/teenager.
My Mums drinking sessions increased and as a family we did not know how to help or how to cope. We started to try to use tactics that just did not work. At family dinners, wine would be ordered to the table and all of the adults would try to finish the bottles to decrease the amount of glasses Mum could consume. This never worked, as she would just order more. We would get rid of the booze out of the house. But she would just order take way along with three bottles of wine. I would come down to the kitchen whilst she was in the toilet and tip half of her glass away and replace it with water. I was always on edge, never relaxed. I always wondered if she was going to be drunk when she returned home or wondered if she had a bottle in her handbag. Her sessions always seemed to be inconvenient, the morning we were flying to New York she was drunk, when my Dad was due to take me and my friends out she was drunk.
I began to become less sympathetic towards my mums drinking (“Why is she doing that again?” “So sad”) and now in hindsight I really should not of. My Mum was sick, it is not something you choose. It is an addiction and it is a lot harder to quit than I could understand. However, when my Mum attempted to quit many times and I was always helpful. Dropping her to AA meetings and even attending some meetings with her. I always called her to pick her up and drop her to other places, just to decline the likelihood of having to find her in a pub. There has been numerous times I have had to phone police stations, hospitals, friends and family members to find her. Living with an alcoholic parent is just so embarrassing.
At family functions, special occasions (like xmas) and birthdays, Mum would usually drink and get merry. Some family members that did not know the extent of Mum’s drinking would find it amusing, Mum acting silly. I on the other hand did not and would try not to be in the same room. I knew that whilst she was merry at the function, that when we got home that meant that she would be up until the morning drinking and it also meant there would be Gabrielle and UB40 playing all night long! If I went downstairs, I was always unsure if I was going to be hugged or shouted at. Often, I would hear other family members saying ” I do not know why your dad puts up with this” which as an adult now, I think is terrible. I would never want Milo or Oscar to hear that as it puts the child in an awkward situation. Was I meant to tell my mum? Or was I not meant to? People saw my Mum acting up but they did not live with her. They did not know the true extent of it as quite honestly, she was a functioning alcoholic. She made sure everyone had dinner, she paid the bills, cleaned the house before she started drinking.
I would always tried to hide the fact that my Mum was an alcoholic to my friends, well to the ones that had ‘normal’ Mums. I had a few very close friends whose Mum’s suffered with the same. This gave me a little hope that there was families the same as mine. As a child, living with a parent dependent on alcohol can be very distressing and emotionally troubling. You have so many thoughts whizzing around in your head. Is it your fault? If they love you, why cant they stop? Why cant my Mum be like everyone else’s Mum?
It is not your fault, and unfortunately, I believe there is nothing you can do to stop your loved one from stopping. It sounds so obvious but they have to want to do it. I would of given up anything to stop Mum drinking, but that is just not enough.
Three years ago, Mum made the biggest change to her life. She was at the brink of breakdown, my lovely Nan had passed away and she had taken responsibility for my Grandad and decided to try to stop drinking. At first, she attended AA meetings. Initially, she liked them but then she decided that actually AA meetings were not for her. With all of her strength she has managed to stop. Not just like that, I am guessing I make it sound easier than it is but she did. Quite honestly, I do not know how and I do not understand why now? And why not ten years ago? But only my mum will truly understand. By no means am I trying to paint a perfect picture, as there are times when I wonder if my mum will relapse and I am sure there has been moments mum has questioned having a drink but at the moment I am so pleased.
Our relationship as Mother and daughter has flourished so much!! I love her so much (not that I didn’t before) and I am so much more relaxed. I rarely wonder if she is out drinking (although if her routine is out of sync I may wonder). Her life and ours is so much better and I am so grateful. We can now go out for dinner and actually enjoy the food rather than telling the waiter to not bring anymore booze out. She has so much more patience and when I speak to her she engages much more than before. She is amazing and so hands on with all of her grandchildren. Her priorities are no longer when she will next have a drink, it is her family and I am in awe of that. I love her so much and I am so proud of her!
I understand there are many people out there, with family members whom are the same. In fact, I know there are. I can spot the signs of an alcoholic very easily now! Do not listen to the myths ‘alcoholics don’t get drunk’ because these may alter your thoughts about what an alcoholic is! There are so many events I could tell you about but this blog would go on forever. I am trying to get involved in a charity at the moment to help other people just like me and I actually can not wait! If you have a family member like my Mum, I hope you find some ease with this post. I sympathise with all of you.
Lots of Love