I was told constantly over and over I was “the problem”
Growing up, I was introduced at a very early age to the word “alcoholic”. My Great Grandmother was an alcoholic and after years over abuse, she died of her addiction. Hearing countless stories about how she behaved was extremely confusing; I couldn’t understand how drinking could cause so much destruction. I was used to seeing my mum drink but at first, it always seemed “normal”, whatever that meant…
My uncle also struggled with addiction. He was a gentle, kind man and I loved him very much. I didn’t hear from him very often, but when I did, he was drunk and had normally been admitted into hospital. He’d call and say, “I’m never drinking again, I’m done drinking, I’ve had my last drink” (all of which I had heard before of course). I tried to make sense of it. Surely you could just stop drinking, right? Surely a drink couldn’t control his decisions, or his life choices.
I was always compelled to help him. I wanted to try and make sense of it, and to reassure him that he would be okay. After a number of disappointments, I knew I wasn’t getting through to him, but I always wanted to try. I was hoping for a better outcome. Our last conversation was the day before he died. He called me to tell me the same things, “I’ve had my last drink kid etc etc…”
I remember thinking he sounded different – but not in a positive way. I didn’t feel the need to give him my usual speech on how I could get help him, or give him numbers to call for help. He always said he’d written them down, but I knew he never did. He sounded tired, so I just let him talk. I told him I loved him and we said our goodbyes. “Goodbye kid, I’ll call ya next week” he said.
The next phone call I received was from my nan. I knew before I answered the phone that he’d passed away. I was 23, devastated and scared. My mum had also been excessively drinking for a number of years throughout my childhood. I was scared for her life and what was to become of her. I thought to myself, is this what it does? My uncle’s passing gave me more questions than answers, and I was more confused than ever before.
My mum’s addiction was different to my uncle’s. We have a very confusing and difficult relationship. All of her emotions, troubles she had – were always because of me. She is extremely violent and I was always the target. When I was younger, I never knew or understood why she targeted her anger towards me.
She’s always drank, more at the weekends, but started to incorporate her drinking into the week, and before I knew it, our half terms and summer holidays turned into nightmares. As she worked in a school, we would always be off at the same time. She’d turn up to family functions drunk, or at least having had a drink.
She’d hide bottles in draws, wash bins, handbags – anywhere she thought we wouldn’t find it. It felt like no one could see what I was seeing. Everyone thought she was the life and soul, the party animal.
She was loved by everyone, which made it even harder for me to say anything. I thought I was mad, and questioned if it was normal. I wondered if this was how mothers treated their daughters, or if I was the reason she was the way she was.
I was told constantly over and over I was, and that I was “the problem”. I was the reason she was leaving my dad; I was the reason she was mentally abusive towards me, the reason she smashed glasses or smashed up my bedroom and kicked me out more times the I could count. The older I got, the more difficult and volatile our relationship became.
I didn’t hate her, I resented her and I couldn’t help but confront her and fight with her. I wanted to “fix it”. I thought if I could just stop her drinking, everything would be fine. I tried so many times, but was always met with more issues.
My nan was always my hero, she’d always support me and stand by my decisions. She would constantly take me in when I had been kicked out, she would let me cry and cry, never judged me and would always take my side. Then, the biggest shock came – she died. She was admitted to hospital because her liver was failing. She was an alcoholic too? How did I not see it coming? How did this happen?
We had 5 days to say our goodbyes. Of course, this became a reason for my mum to drink even more, and blame me for her death. After this, I decided it was time for me to go. I started working an excessive number of jobs with long hours just to get away. I moved a couple of times until I moved down south.
I married the most incredible man, who constantly reassures me. Even now, my mum still has a huge impact on my life, mental health and wellbeing. I knew I needed help, so I scoured the internet looking for someone to talk to, someone I could relate too and then I came across NACOA. I didn’t know they existed; I didn’t realise there was other people like me. I came across other COAs (children of alcoholics) with similar stories to mine and felt like I belonged to this organisation. I knew I had to help, get involved somehow.
Nacoa is my tribe. They have shown me that I’m not alone, and that there is help out there. Nacoa has also shown me that I can’t fix it, but I can start fixing me. I can lead a healthy, happier life and make the right choices. I’m not alone, I never have been – I just wish I had found them sooner. Nacoa also leads COA Week, with all of their amazing volunteers. It is an incredibly important event, that increases awareness of the charity for all the children that need their help and support. COA week is inspirational – hearing stories of brave COAs like me makes me feel like I belong, validates my feelings of my own situation and makes me realise I’m not alone.