I have been asked to put together a ‘damage’ letter (slightly worried about what that means!) with some background history, my emotions and how my mum and dad’s (I think dad drank far too much too, but this isn’t about him at present) drinking has or is still effecting my life. This is not going to be easy and will probably be one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do.
I hope mum will take this letter in the manner in which it is meant and that I have not or never will portion blame to either of my parents for anything that has happened in the past. I say this again later. I hope that it will help to help her on her road to become a recovering alcoholic and not a drinking one. I only want my mum to now start taking responsibility for her own destiny and begin to LIVE!
Well here goes. I feel kind of in limbo at present. A strange feeling, as I feel that mum’s life is now in two halves. Her life before she admitted she had a drink problem and her life now being given the chance to get sober and start living again. I have just started crying again. I have done this a lot in the last year.
For the last year or so, I have been very angry and feeling much resentment towards mum as her drinking has gotten much worse. I am trying to understand that it mostly isn’t a party for her either. The drinking seems to have taken mum away and she seems a shadow of her former self. She does not make contact with her friends any more and I don’t think they do very often either. She has become very reclusive. Prior to mum going into rehab I had to detach from her after an incident that happened on August 10th of last year. Not a memorable day for most, but it just happens to be my mum’s wedding anniversary. Another excuse for a drink…
Soon after the family got together and went around to her home as a desperate attempt one Monday afternoon to try and make her see what her drinking was doing to us. I couldn’t stop crying. I said to mum that from my perspective she would have to choose between the drink or me. She looked at me and said ‘I think I prefer the drink’. Shortly after that I left with everyone else. She did phone me a couple of times promising to give up drinking and said she could do it on her own. We all knew she could not. The rest of the family have seen and spoken to her less in the last year also.
I am so upset to think that the drink is taking away her memory, her looks and her personality and worse of all from me. Mum is a very intelligent and funny lady with a warm sense of humour. She played bridge well and did mental arithmetic. She used to leave me standing when I tried to add up numbers in my head. The drink is sadly putting paid to this.
I have felt very let down many times when phoning her and her slurring down the phone at me, or getting the answer phone message. I have to say that the silence of the answering phone had become more preferable, but I had to weigh up the thought that she was probably just ‘non-corpus-mentis’ and not at the bottom of the stairs hurt or worse.
I cannot speak for my brother, but I know he felt the same. I would get knots in my stomach before phoning her and feel physically sick if she picked up the phone whilst drinking.
I have also been round on several occasions in the last year and on one of these occasions I went to pick mum up to take her out for lunch and a trip to the garden centre. When I arrived I realised that she had had a drink. A hair of the dog. There was no way I could take her out like that and I said very gently ‘Mum, I can’t do this’. I got in my car and cried for the rest of the day. I remember feeling such loss.
Another occasion I rushed around one Saturday after going to the gym and mum didn’t on this occasion answer the door. This time I got angry and drove my car home very fast. I went straight to the bathroom and screamed and shouted. I did not come out for about an hour. My husband begged me to come out and talk but I was so bloody angry and felt so let down again.
I have had many dreams about mum at night and in all of them she always has a glass of whiskey in her hand. These dreams have ranged from fairly ordinary dreams to some that are not very nice. Still crying.
There is not an hour in the day or a minute in the hour I am not thinking about mum and how I miss us going into town or to lunch or a visit to the garden centre or similar. I just want the drinking to go away and leave my mum. The drink is now more a part of mum than I am.
Christmas this year was not good. I could not face mum and her drinking and so went to Guernsey with my husband for four days. Interesting. I felt some guilt about this but knew I could not have spent Christmas with my husbands side of the family and not seen my mum. This was only the third Christmas in my life that I had not spent it with her.
They say that an alcoholic’s mind/memory goes whilst they are drinking, well the same goes for the worried people around them. I feel very distracted a lot of the time which is spent worrying. I have been pulled up at work for silly little things and know that sometimes this is due to this distraction. I have mistakenly thought that it is the parent’s job to worry about their parents but I cannot remember a time when I have not worried about mum.
I hope this letter comes some way to explaining a bit about how I feel about mum’s drinking and how it has or is still affecting me.
Monday 24th January 2006
Now for some history. Mum was married to my Dad some 40 years until he passed away just over four years ago. I think they must have had good times, but dad was a possessive man and mum was very gregarious and outgoing. This caused a lot of arguments between them in as far as dad thought it was fine to go out drinking on a Friday night, but mum should stay at home with the children playing the ‘good wife’. Mum of course who enjoyed dancing and also seeing friends resented this a lot.
Christmas’s caused a lot of problems with this as dad always managed to engineer a good night out on Christmas Eve which sometimes included part of the morning. This also was cause for my mum to get upset, quite rightly as she had to drive around retrieving our presents whilst neighbours looked after us.
Most of our early Christmas’s were lovely with lots of family parties to go to, but was not long before Mum started drinking a lot over Christmas. These memories have stayed with my brother and myself. At first it was mum is doing ‘her thing’ again, but after a while it became very upsetting with us stuck in the middle.
When we were at home and mum had been drinking, she used to lock herself in the toilet, which of course was a cause for concern for my dad, brother and me. We were so afraid that she would fall and knock herself out on the sink or bath. I remember dad hammering on the door and us pleading for her to unlock it and come out, but of course she was too drunk or asleep to do so. This happened on many occasions and we were always very unhappy about it as you can imagine, we were very young maybe 8, 9 10 a bit older.
Mum and dad had many rows and she used to get very angry with my dad and several things happened at Christmas which are still very vivid in both my brothers and my mind. On one occasion dad was tending the fire and as they were rowing she poured a whole plastic carton of salt over his head. I think that was the year the Christmas tree (which was fully decorated) got thrown through the blinds and window into the front garden. Once again we were very young and this has stayed in both of our memories not fading in the length of time.
When mum got drunk at Christmas we were asked to stay over to whoever’s party it was. She would fall asleep and we would either go to bed or sleep on the sofa depending on where we were. Dad would take mum home and she would ask where we were. We of course were happy to stay over as the atmosphere at home was not very nice! She would make dad come out and wake us up, pick us up and bring us home again. I remember feeling bad about this.
On another occasion I remember again the rowing and my brother and I both very small were sitting on the stairs and mum upstairs and dad downstairs. Mum was shouting go downstairs to your father and dad was shouting go and sit with your mother. As you can well imagine we were understandably very upset and scared.
More rows and several large objects thrown by mum at my father. We were older by this time and wiser to it. Two of these objects were rather large brass flamingo birds, they ended up in the front garden. I recall the conversation with her friend on the phone ‘saying two birds had flown through the window’, her friend saying that that was strange and that birds did not usually fly into the house through glass windows’. She admitted to her friend that they had ‘flown out of the window and not in!’.
She had another friend in the early days (I think she was quite unhappy sometimes in those days) who used to live opposite us. My brother and I remember them getting the Martini and lemonades out in the morning whilst dad was at work. This was at 11.00 o’clock! They did on some occasions take us out with her daughter in the car and whilst we played on the swings they drank in bars. This is not very vivid in my memory, but has stayed in my brothers and the friend’s daughter’s memory.
I have had large rows with both my parents, but I think the worst row was with my mother several years ago. After we had argued, I did not speak to her for 5 weeks. Again she had made me very hurt and angry. I don’t think I deserved the treatment I got.
Mum was very slim and glamorous and very beautiful, think Liz Taylor or Audrey Hepburn beautiful. She is still a very attractive lady. Dad did not like her wearing makeup or nice clothes. I think he thought that she was going to go off with someone or something like that. He was quite a placid man until riled and then he would loose his temper too.
Mum used to go to an art class, it was escape for her I suppose as dad still remained very jealous. These were not happy times for my brother and me, I was about 13 or 14 and my brother is just under 3 years younger than me. One night my mum was caught drunk in charge driving back from the class. Although she was just over the limit, she had to go to court and we remember the police bringing her home. Once again we were both very worried for her.
Mum is a very poor sleeper and she uses sleeping pills to help her sleep. In those days (1970’s), the sleeping pills were very strong. She used to take something called Mandrax (elephant killers!) She was dropped home from the art class on one occasion and she was very drunk. As per usual she took her sleeping pills. I think she must have fallen asleep and woke up again. She had forgotten that she had taken the pills and of all horrors she took more. Coupled with the drink, this soon sent her into a very deep sleep.
I remember dad coming through to my room and waking me up saying ‘Gill, wake up I think your mother’s dead’. He was beside himself. I rushed through with dad, my brother stayed asleep during this awful time. Mum was not moving and was like a rag doll. I wanted to call the doctor, but dad kept saying no. I remember putting a mirror to her mouth and there was no mist on it. She was close to death.
We shook her, we smacked her, but still she would not wake up. It was very early in the morning 2.00 am or more. We continued to pummel her and eventually she made this horrible moaning noise I suppose you could liken it to a death rattle. She came around very slowly and dad and I were soon able to sit her up. I still wanted to ring the doctor but I think dad was scared too, maybe he was embarrassed I don’t know. I know it was an hour or so later, this too is still very vivid in my memory. Even the colour of the bedroom is still there after all this time, one wall purple and the others white with lilac sprays of flowers.
We soon managed to get her down the stairs and out in to the fresh air. We walked her up and down the estate for at least an hour in the cold night air to bring her round. We did so successfully. I don’t know how much of that mum remembers as it was our nightmare and not hers. I had school that next day. I was 13.
I once again do not blame either one of my parents for anything that has happened in the past and I only hope that mum can begin to understand how we felt.
My parents both worked very hard for both of us, they often struggled with money, but we never went without. We always had lovely clothes, full school uniform and mum always cooked a proper meal for us.
There were lots of lovely gifts at Christmas and mum always ensured that both of us were treated exactly the same with the exact amount of money spent on both of us down the last penny! We always sat down together at meal times. We did have many lovely days in between these difficult times. We spent many great days down the beach.
My mum had a very good sense of humour and on one of those occasions we were down on the beach with my dad, my aunt and uncle, my brother and my cousin. It started to rain, so action stations. My dad and uncle decided to build a fort! This fort consisted of all the sun chairs, the lilos, blow up boat and towels.
We all ate our lunch under it. Mum was soon desperate to go to the loo. In those days trendy ladies wore their hair in a bee- hive and as my mum was well in the fashion stakes she had this hairdo. She did not want to get it wet and so looked around for something to cover her hair up. She spied my dads white Y-fronts and put them on her head. We fell about laughing as she made her way down to the sea. Yes I can remember very funny times too and there were more of those of course.
I hope mum, that you won’t be angry or upset with me sharing this, but I am hoping that by me being brave enough to admit things that have happened and how I am feeling, it will help you to come out with things by your own admission. I have to do this for us, as I think you know that this is the last chance. You must begin to take responsibility, but mum you are not in this on your own, your family are willing and praying that you will soon become a recovering alcoholic with a life worth living.
I love you mum and will try almost anything to help you recover. I only hope you realise this and talk to me again after this.