I was born in 1963, hence I’m now a 52 year old woman who was brought up in an Alcoholic family with no help and whereby I could tell no one and besides, who would listen? So I am delighted that NACOA exists and is available confidentially for others. I thought I was the only one this had ever happened to.
I do not recall when I was fully aware of my mother’s drinking particularly (my Father was a heavy drinker too but cared for us when he was sober). I recall her being drunk in the day, taking us (my younger brother and I) somewhere in the car when I was aged 6 ish and she was stopped by the Police at a road block and she had bubble gum to hide the smell of sherry she had been drinking.
My parents rowed continually -everything my Father did was wrong; he didn’t try, he tried too much, he was stupid he was wonderful, he was violent, he was her saviour – we never knew what to expect – only to agree. They enjoyed drinking together.
In 1975 we moved away from close family and it worsened – the house was filthy, there was often a distinct lack of food and she smelt horrible- all kind of sour and sweet at the same time. Dad worked away in Scotland (leaving us with her for days at a time on our own) to make some money to try and make her happy – this was wrong too.
She attacked him with a knife when we were about 12 and 8 respectively, and stabbed him in his back. We screamed to warn him but it was too late. He pushed her and she stumbled, hitting her head. We left her there and were told to go to bed. She woke, and staggered to the nearest phone box ringing the Police saying Dad had hit her. They duly arrived, claimed it was a ‘domestic’, didn’t come in to the house but spoke to Dad on the doorstep and told them to ‘’sort things out’’.
Nights were spent listening to them, waiting for the next time.
Coming home from school was dreadful – you’d walk home wondering what mess she was in, and what you would have to do to keep the peace and try and make things normal. You dreaded Parents evening in case other people found out what she was really like and the last thing you wanted was your friends knowing. She continued to drive and we dreaded being made to get in the car with her. Once I refused and grabbed her arms telling her she was drunk – she bruised instantly and when Dad came back he told me off as she had shown him what I had done to her. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t stick up for me.
I took charge of washing up, ironing, cleaning, cooking, hiding bottles, replacing gin with water and so on. Some days she would want to talk and try and explain it was Dad who made her drink – I was made to go to AA classes with her which I hated – she even drove to them and Dad paid for numerous repairs to other people’s cars.
I realise now she was very spoilt and was an attention seeker. If she wasn’t drunk she was ill and we spent hours at a time helping out to make her life easier or at the hospital with various illnesses. Often many were never founded but many meant she had the attention she craved and was told it was my Father that was the problem not her- and this made her actions justified in her mind.
When I was about 14 she first tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose. She failed – I climbed in through the bedroom window and called an ambulance as Dad was away I don’t recall what happened – I just didn’t want our neighbours to know. I remember going to see her in hospital (I guess it would be called rehab now) while she was dried out in a mental hospital which had scary patients in. But I had hope at last – we could be a normal family – she promised she would be normal again and we believed it and we were happy. It lasted about 2 months and I knew instantly on arriving home one day that she wasn’t keeping her promise.
2 years later she tried suicide again and nearly succeeded.
I recall taking my Brother to an orthodontist appointment and being asked where my parents were – I told the receptionist that she was drunk and Dad was away – and then instantly regretted it – I still recall the woman’s name now. She said I had to tell someone – I didn’t but I lived in fear that she would and that my Dad would hit me for telling someone – he was handy with his fists – I guess stress played a part but it was never my brother he hit.
I was taking my O levels (GCSEs nowadays) and she was rushed into hospital by ambulance – we were lucky she recovered although I confess to wanting her to die so often so that we could have a stable family – even if it did mean more responsibility for me I knew I could cope and Dad and my brother would be happy again.
Finally at school after a night at the hospital and having tried to keep everything quiet, a teacher spoke to me sharply and told me off about something trivial (being late I think). I cracked and started to cry. He realised it wasn’t like me and I was taken to his office where I told him everything. It was such a relief to have finally told someone out there who knew what I was going through and seemed to care and wanted to help.
I was asked to report in to see him daily – just so he could keep an eye on things but I swore him to secrecy as Dad had told us we would be put in care if anyone found out. My maternal grandparents asked me ’’what is wrong in your house’’. When I said Mum drank they emphatically said ‘’no no no she doesn’t’- you shouldn’t say such wicked things’’.
I passed 9 O Levels somehow and later 4 A levels – I think I was trying to make them happy. I left for University in Edinburgh and never felt so lonely – I was worrying how they would cope without me – to hold it together – but they did for another few years.
I graduated after 5 years and then married, moving some 250 miles away from them.
On a visit home to see them once she dramatically threw things ( 4 dozen eggs I recall) at my Dad and I. He left her then and there, came home to my house and stayed for a week saying he couldn’t cope any longer after over 27 years of marriage.
Eventually he met someone else and married her, leaving Mum on her own and again unable to cope.
She had an affair with a much younger man who was married and she gave him money. She eventually moved to live near me, citing being unable to look after the house on her own.
She continued to drink. Meanwhile I married, had 2 children of my own over the next 5 years and I vowed I would never ever make them go through what I did.
I wanted them to have a care-free childhood – to be children for as long as they wanted and not to have the responsibility of looking after someone who was supposed to look after you -and by whom you were supposed to be adored by.
Aged 70 she was still never well, and the house was dirty and she was unkempt. I cleaned the house whilst she was in hospital once and found 4’’ of composted vegetables in the fridge bottom drawer, complete with worms somehow and a dead rat in her shed that must have died from the dirt. I just couldn’t comprehend how someone could be so selfish and expect someone else to sort things out for her each time?
By then I was running a full time very responsible job, managing staff and bringing up 2 children whilst my Husband was starting his own business and unable to help much – it was a difficult time trying to do everything properly and I had a member of staff who wanted my job and he made it clear that he would be better placed to do it, watching my every move.
I had a small breakdown one morning very suddenly.
As someone who had always always coped – it was difficult to accept the failure of not coping.
I had 3 months off – unheard of for me (I only had 6 weeks off work total when expecting and my daughter was born, 3 months with the birth of my son). I subsequently left work with acknowledged grounds for constructive dismissal (which I ignored) and set up my own business and it’s been a huge success, so something good came out of it.
One piece of advice I had and which I treasured always was when I explained to my Doctor about my past and how not coping wasn’t my thing – he said ‘’ you won’t change your Mother now you know’’ and I realised he was right – I couldn’t. Again it was a relief to speak to someone.
At 76 she was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukaemia. I took time off to take her to appointments etc. and she became stronger again. My Father died suddenly shortly afterwards and she was desolate despite having been divorced from him for over 15 years.
Whilst in hospital once she sat with her head down and refused to speak to my Brother and I for 10 minutes – eventually she said ‘’I’ve been a terrible Mother to you’’. It was the closest we came to an apology and it made me cry.
The Doctors gave her 2 years – her heart was weak – she had blood pressure, and the Leukaemia would weaken her eventually, and amazingly finally she gave up her Gin and Tonic.
She died 12 months later.
I can’t say I was really sad – it was the closing of a door and a moving on.
When I was younger it made me angry that other people had things so much easier than me and that they had no idea how much I had coped with to get anywhere and what I had achieved in my small life – why would they I hadn’t told them? I didn’t want pity.
What I did decide was that I wouldn’t let her continue to affect the rest of my life – she’d had 40 years of it and she wasn’t having the rest.
I have tried not to spoil and cosset my children too much (that would mean I was rebelling against her and she would still be winning then) so I’ve tried to be firm, fair and kind with them and I think they appreciate that as young adults now. I suppose I do get sad when I don’t think they appreciate just how much easier their lives are compared to how mine was – but then why should they suffer because I did?
I’m proud of what I achieved in adversity but I still get cross when I hear people doing bad things because of their upbringing – it’s not a valid excuse.
The one thing I can’t reconcile though is never feeling cared about or unconditionally loved. As a mother I will never know how she didn’t love me with the passion I feel for my children – it was all about her or them and for that I will never forgive her.
I wish there had been someone like NACOA for me.
Thanks for providing the forum for me to tell my story.