The only connection we had in common was our shared DNA
I only came across Nacoa and the Oasis Project last year when I heard about a writing competition they were running and thought I would submit some of my poetry. I didn’t win but entering the competition wasn’t about winning. I just thought it was worthwhile if my poetry could help another child or adult child.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year, I received an email from the Oasis Project asking permission to publish my poetry in a book. I was even more thrilled when they asked if I would be willing to read my poetry live at their online book launch. Before the launch went live, I had prepared myself, ready to read my two poems. But what was supposed to be an online book launch turned into a unique and unexpected emotional support group experience. After the session finished I felt compelled to write about it.
Let me tell you a little shortened version of my story
I always suspected that dad wasn’t like my other friend’s dads.
I always remember that the atmosphere was different when Dad was home. Although he wasn’t around much! And if he was at home, it was to only eat, sleep then get ready for a night out. Dad played darts, so was always getting ready for some competition at the pub. He must have been good at it, because the cabinet in the living room was full of trophies he’d won. The only evidence that he lived there.
Dad and mum split up when I was about 9, so we saw him even less. There were many a time when he’d agreed to come pick us up to spend some quality time together but never turned up. My teenage years were tough, I was an angry and confused kid and always involved in fights or in trouble at school. Not that dad would have ever noticed, he was too preoccupied being in the pub, doing his dodgy business deals. He wasn’t afraid to use violence to get his own way. He was serial womaniser and as a teenager watched him playing the doting father role to other women’s kids like a helpless bystander. The crazy thing is though, that despite all of this, despite always feeling like an inconvenience. My dad was still my hero.
I turned my life around
Soon after being a young mother myself, I got involved in drugs and it wasn’t long before I got into trouble. My substance abuse landed me in a psychiatric hospital caused by drug induced psychosis. This was a major turning point in my life. Motivated by the fear that I might lose my kids, I turned my life around and for the better. A big part of my recovery journey was coming to terms that mine and Dad’s relationship was different and came to accept that I would never be his number one priority. The only connection we had in common was our shared DNA.
During this time, me and dad barely spoke. I’d heard about all his failed businesses and failed relationships. But in 2003 he contacted me out of the blue asking for somewhere to stay until he could get himself settled. Initially, I thought that this might our chance of reconciliation, that I might get my ‘happy ever after’. But there was something in the way, only this time it wasn’t another woman, or his mates, it was Alcohol.
Coping with the stigma
I felt confident that I could use the knowledge and personal learning from my own addiction to help dad, but nothing prepared me for the journey that we were both about to embark on. Being on the other side of addiction presented me with a whole set of new challenges.
Dealing with dad’s denial, I being incapable of walking away and was constantly living in fear. I was coping with the stigma and lack of understanding from society. My dad developed what I now know to be End Stage Alcoholism. You would think that his drinking would drive us apart, but in fact it brought us closer together. Now, don’t get me wrong our relationship wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But it was the closest I was going to ever get to my fairy-tale which in the end turned out to be a bittersweet.
I kept a journal
During this time, I kept a journal. It was like having my own personal therapist. It helped me to process my feelings and emotions. Over the years my journals progressed into a blog: Have a Word With Yourself and I am currently two thirds into writing my own memoir about mine and dad’s fractured and complex Father/Daughter relationship. And how it was complicated by our own Addictions in later life.
My dad died in 2005, the same year as George Best. And like his son Calum, I am still working hard to untangle the past, to help me make sense of my future. I know my lived experience as a COA has been tough, but I honestly wouldn’t rewrite my story. I just want to share my lived experience in the hope that others can relate, learn and understand the pitfalls of alcohol abuse.
My hope for the future
I have worked in the addiction field now for over twenty-five years. I am passionate about addiction, the impact on families and am a staunch advocate/champion for those who don’t have a voice. My hope for the future is that the mindfulness drinking movement continues to grow, that our younger generation are armed with far more facts/studies that had been afforded us when we were younger.
I don’t write for financial gain reward or recognition; I just want to help share my lived experience with others hoping that it helps. If you fancy getting the occasional email (NO SPAM) with the most up to date blogs from myself, please feel free to subscribe at the bottom of this page.
Tracey’s blog platform, Have a Word With Yourself.
For more experience stories, find our Support & Advice pages.