Alcohol prioritised our needs | Alcohol Awareness Week
My mum’s alcohol dependency went so far that I spent days thinking that if I did not exist, it would make her better. Even as an 8 year old, I had somehow assumed the depression and sadness that led her to drink heavily was my fault.
Alcohol prioritised everything in the house. There were some days, weeks where I had to ration out dry foods, pasta, soup etc and hide them for the times when we couldn’t go out to drive.
And I would say we were ok for money, and still I vividly recall times where I felt I couldn’t call on nearby family as I felt like a burden, but all we had that was digestible was hot chocolate powder. The only reason I ever say that I count myself lucky in this situation is simply that I did have my grandparents on hand for when things got so bad I needed to get away from home.
But even then; no child regardless of background should be worried and stressed about food supply, whether they can get to school, and if their mum will still be alive after they have spent the weekend at the grandparents.
13 years ago when we moved to a new town, we ended up staying long term and it got to the point where the local Tesco employees saw that something was up at home. Sometimes our shop consisted of two ‘half a dozen’ wine bags worth of alcohol and ready meals.
As I got older, and certainly after I passed my licence, I was able to do the shop myself and get things that I would be able to cook meals for us both. But even then I was pressured to still get her the cigarettes and alcohol. I once would try to limit the number of bottles I bought, but it usually ended in pointless arguments.
The sad reality is that even when my mum did not drink, it was still a stressful time because she would then be incredibly unwell from the heavy binge drinking over the course of a few days and nights. I was constantly worried that if I wasn’t at home while she drank, she would have an accident and I would have no idea. It affected my social life and friendships because I was always worried. The ‘what if’ cloud.
Or I felt obligated to stay near her when she inevitably fell sick from her binge and her vulnerable, sweet sober-self would return, just briefly, and I would be reminded of why I cared so much and wanted to do whatever it took to get her better again. I absolutely have the empathy for my mum’s mental wellbeing that led to her addiction manifesting as it did.
I felt invisible
But I also feel absolutely firm within my rights to speak on how her need for alcohol felt dehumanising to little me. I would often think, ‘what if I didn’t exist?’ It genuinely felt at times that I was completely invisible to her when things got bad.
I loved my mum more than anything and that is another reason I used to say I was lucky. Because she never abused me and we were very close, as she was a single mother and I was an only child, we always had each other.
It took me a long time to have the courage to speak out loud and embrace the fact that no matter how close we are and the love I held for her, alcohol still heavily impacted my childhood and my wellbeing in ways I am yet to unpick and fully grasp.
Alcohol not only ruined any chance of me having a normal childhood with my mum, alcohol killed my mum. This is why I advocate for reducing the harms of alcohol and trying to dismantle the glorification of this substance.