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 mum’s 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 touring across the UK http://www.fluidmotiontheatre.com/project/rum-in-the-gravy-boat/. Mum and dad came to see it and afterwards shared the first civil conversation they have had between each other for many years.