A daughter’s story
To the outside world we had always been that ‘normal 2.4’ family and to be honest we were for a time. I remember the most perfect early childhood, we lived in a nice home, lovely foreign holidays across the world, the best Christmases and birthdays. I loved the safety and normality of life. We were a small close family; my mum, dad and older brother.
After being at high school for a few years I always remember a boy asking, ‘Why is your mum always in bed when we come round?’. It shocked me, my mum always went bed at tea time for an hour or two, it’s just what she did. Looking back now I know it was to sleep of the effects of the alcohol she had drank during the day. My dad and brother led extremely busy lives and wouldn’t be there up to three evenings a week due to boxing training, so I was home alone with my mum during this time. I would report back to dad how much she had slept or she didn’t seem herself. Mum didn’t appreciate this; I always sensed her resentment.
This was our routine for a while and it worked, mum was functioning. As time went on the drinking crept into the daily routine. I began to find empty vodka bottles in washing machines, wardrobes and in the washing basket. She would top up cans of coke with vodka.
Presenting drunk became more of a common occurrence. As a family we were stuck, on bad days she wouldn’t listen or reason with us and on good days we were too scared to say anything in case it rocked the boat and she started again. We lived for the good days. Unfortunately, the bad days began to outweigh the good days. This is when things fell apart, I think her way of coping was to push us all away.
She left the family home and her and dad split up. As awful as this sounds there was a sense of relief. There was no sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when walking home from school anymore, wondering what mum I would be greeted by that night. There was no more unpredictable behaviour. Mum went on to have spells of sobriety and would be in contact during these times and when the drinking returned, she would cut us off again. I feel this was her way of protecting her children. I had made my peace with it as I always knew she would return; this became our new norm.
I walked on egg shells
What I didn’t prepare myself for was other people outside of our home, their judgments on us as a family how could we be living this happy life without her? I believe many weren’t aware of her drinking habits and others were of the opinion we should be helping her. We had honestly tried, but it became a survival technique to block it out. I walked on egg shells during my late teenage years I often felt the problems teenagers bring triggered her drinking. I know now this wasn’t the case. Mum never admitted she was alcohol dependent. In mum’s pattern of behaviour, she would fabricate lies to anyone that would listen, that would hurt.
What the outside world didn’t see was the times where we have been sat in A & E with her because she fell down the stairs, the verbal abuse, how she went missing on the day of my GCSE exams, the sleepless nights watching over her, long days, the embarrassment of her turning up to my work place drunk, and the list goes on. Despite all this we coped our routine worked we had become numb, when mum was sober, she would be in touch and normality would resume for that small window of time.
I think my mindset shifted when I become a mum myself at the age of 24, I had someone else now to look after. I wanted my daughter to live in a safe, predictable home environment. The one I had until about 14 years old, because that was the best! Mum loved my daughter and hoped she would be a reason for mum to stop drinking.
I continued to live in hope, mum always came back and I saw the glimpse of the loving, kind mum I knew that was until the day I got the call. The drink had won and mum had passed away from a heart attack at the age of 54. It was also during a period when mum wasn’t in touch which still hurts me to this day, but deep down I know she loved us. I just wish she had the strength to get help. When I look back now that I see the relationship that was destroyed and how it has shaped me into who I am today.