I had to deal with the alcoholic parent scenario all over again.
If I look at my life I can segment it into 4 distinct eras, each with a slight twist on what I now recognise as my unhappy and unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Sometimes, when I have opened up to friends or family about this relationship they have been dismissive saying that I am not an alcoholic and don’t have a problem. But I do. Whilst I may not be an alcoholic myself, I can look back on so many experiences, feelings and events in my life impacted by alcohol and the struggles many of my family had and have with it:
In my early years to my teens it was my mainly my father. For a living he ran working men’s and trades and labour clubs. Back then these were thriving hubs for people to deny their problems and socialise with others equally beholden to the booze. Whilst many of my school friends would spend the holidays going away, camping, at the beach etc. I would stay with my dad at the club where he lived and worked (and drank on the job all day). From early morning I’d be helping to count bottles in the cellar, stocking fridges through to the afternoon and evening running around with kids of the patrons. We’d spend all day blagging 20p every 5 minutes to put in the juke box so we could skid across the dance floor in the smoky room to the same songs over and over again or in the snooker room. I realise now what an unhealthy environment that was, barely going outside in the daylight and surrounded by intoxicated, bleary eyed locals. My dad used to have an afternoon nap between shifts, to sleep off his “exhaustion” and get ready to go again for the evening.
In my late teens to early twenties it was my turn, well almost. Like many people of that age I enjoyed an active social life and started socialising with alcohol … daily. Any event was an excuse to get blind drunk and I didn’t know when to stop. I would drink with my mum and her boyfriend in the pub all day if I wasn’t working, or be out with my friends and then hit the clubs at night. Whenever I was out drinking I would drink to excess and as a result I wasn’t’ thinking about my future or the impact of the way I was living, I’m sure I am paying for this now. In fact the only times I wasn’t really drinking were when I was at work and when I was visiting my dad, who by then had hit real health issues and was forced to quit smoking and drinking or risk an early death. I am not saying I had a problem but I know now that the slope was slippery and I could have descended into alcoholism. I am not sure what prevented me from doing so, the opportunities were plentiful. I am now just grateful I managed to grasp onto the control and scale back up the slope gradually. I now often question what I could have made of my life If I had spent as much time taking opportunities open to me as I did getting pissed.
In my mid-twenties to mid-thirties I had to deal with the alcoholic parent scenario all over again. This time with my mum. In hindsight I think she always had an issue but I was so busy looking elsewhere I probably didn’t recognise it. During this time though it escalated badly and she became heavily dependent and branched out from just drinking beer and the odd spirit to basically not eating anything and fuelling off whiskey from early morning to late at night. I’ve seen the worst of it with my mum: physical and verbal abuse, having to calm her down from hysteria and violent rages, undressing and bathing her after accidents, scooping her off the floor and putting her to bed, finding used drug paraphernalia in her bed, hospital admissions for drying out … you name it, I have the t-shirt. This period had the biggest impact on me and has impacted my physical health, mental health and my ability to form and sustain healthy relationships. In terms of my mum; our relationship has diminished to almost nothing, I’ve tried to cure her (thinking it was possible), I’ve tried being angry, tried being the victim and I’ve been through all the guilt, depression, lonely and anxiety cycles that come with it.
Eventually I have come through all of that and now find myself in the fourth era, where I have taken control over my relationship with alcohol. Over many years I have mulled on the idea of whether I have a problem with alcohol and if I should give up drinking, but why should I? I have never been dependent and I don’t have a problem? The truth is I did have, I do. All my life I have had experiences I wouldn’t wish on anyone, all associated with alcohol, and just before deciding to give up for good every beer or drink I would have would evoke me to ask myself why I was having it. I wasn’t enjoying it and I didn’t like it as it was just reminding me of many unhappy things from the past. So in March 2020 I did it – I said no more to drinking alcohol and it was like a revelation. I instantly felt happier. I quickly realised it was one of the best decisions I had ever made and am now able to bring my children up in a home where alcohol isn’t a threat to their experiences growing up. I still have many challenges relating to alcohol, my mum’s health being the primary, but I realise now I can’t control her problems and relationship with alcohol. But I can control mine.