When my mum passed away last year after suffering from alcohol dependence for as long as I could remember – I turned 40 in the same week – it brought with it a complete mixture of blessings, grief, relief and many unexplored emotions.
The fact that she lay dead on the floor of her flat, undiscovered and decomposing for almost a week, was the single element that caused me the most amount of pain in the days following the arrival of the news. She’d kept family, neighbours and barely any friends at all, at such a distance for so long, never really letting anyone into her circle of misery, untruths and wrapped in pain beyond her ability to convey.
So the fact that she hadn’t returned my answer-phone messages wishing her a happy Mother’s Day, or saying thanks for her well wish for my 40th left on my answer-phone, was certainly not out of the ordinary. Mum always had trouble keeping it together to have a ‘non-drink influenced’ conversation at special times for years and usually resumed contact long after the actual event.
During the days that followed, I found myself enveloped in that dreadful week, keeping busy, organising the funeral and I had another unexpected demon to deal with too. I met up with long lost relatives who’d been drip-fed lies about the way I’d treated her, designed to ensure that mum remained ever ‘the victim’.
After the last stick of furniture had been taken away, the final meter reading noted in her echoing little flat and the line had gone silently dead on her phone, I found myself pensive yet surprisingly at peace.
I’d come to the conclusion that I was stronger than I thought I would ever be when faced with her eventual demise (even if it did only turn out to be temporary) and as the years of deception, fights, tears, defeat and pure heartbreak had flooded through my soul the previous week, I knew I had to find something positive to do with it. To have buried the experience along with her, would have been a crime.
So I searched the Internet to see what was available to help a child of an alcoholic (which I still was and always would be) and found Nacoa. A huge introductory letter to Hilary Henriques later, I found myself embraced by an incredible organisation, filled with hope, help and freely given volunteer energy.
This was my destination – a place where I could transform experiences of my own rocky voyage into something good – helping other children to realise they too were not to blame, they too were not the reason for the drinking or abuse and hopefully, help them shake free of their self-imposed shame and maybe stand a little taller and stronger, ready to face the next day.
And so began my association with Hilary, her incredible team and the wonderful Nacoa. I’m not ashamed of the path I’ve walked up to now although it’s not one I ever want to stroll down again.
Everyone we meet in our lives, every influence whether good or bad, shape and mould us and make us who we are. I know that in the darkest of rooms there’s a light – even if it’s only a tiny flicker, it is there and we can find something good in the most awful of happenings.
NACOA continues to help thousands of children find that light, many as young as 7 years old. They help them to see there can be a different future; there is hope, belief in them, acceptance, empathy and understanding at the end of a telephone and if they choose to do nothing else, that simple fact alone can help them find a brighter day.
I am incredibly proud to be a Trustee of Nacoa and blessed to know the wonderfully dedicated, truly kind and committed people I know through it – if it weren’t for my mum, we would never have met. There is always a light, even if only a tiny flicker…