The cost of alcohol on me | Alcohol Awareness Week
I grew up with an alcohol-dependent dad. But I also grew up in relative privilege, a nice house, holidays, private school, sports cars.
For a long time this meant that I didn’t realise that my dad had a problem or that we all needed help. I didn’t fit the stereotype of what it was like to have a parent who drank too much.
I wasn’t dirty, we didn’t use food banks, I had nice things, my dad wasn’t passed out day and night (until of course eventually he was) or any of the myriad things that people associate with addiction. So many times I heard, ‘He can’t be that bad, he’s got a great job’.
As a teenager my dad’s drinking increased heavily and he left the family home. So that had to be sold. I lived with my mum and my brother after that, and it was happy and stable but it also meant I felt I had become the sole carer for my dad, responsible for his addiction, trying to make him stop, trying to keep him alive.
The well paid job
Then he lost his well paid job because of his drinking. And another. And another.
Then his next three relationships broke down largely because of his drinking. Each time he walked away with less and less.
At 18, I officially became his next of kin, and spent the rest of the time he was alive dealing with drinking related accidents. Hospital admissions and arrests, expecting every day would be his last, always knowing his addiction would cause his death.
He moved into my house at one point and had to borrow cash, which I am sure was spent on alcohol. He didn’t have a penny to his name. He’d always provided for me and I felt awful that he was in this situation so handed it over, feeling so conflicted as I knew where it would go.
Walking to a cash point with my alcoholic dad who was sleeping on my sofa is one of the saddest memories and with hindsight he must have felt it too.
Sinking lower and lower
I could not understand how we’d ended up where we were, sinking lower and lower with every passing year.
Eventually he took ‘early retirement’ (read: unemployable due to his addiction) and started to live off what savings he had by cashing out pensions.
But by then he didn’t need much money because he didn’t do anything – his world was so very small, revolving around alcohol.
Gone were the expensive bottles of red, and in their place supermarket vodka – cheaper and stronger, easier to get hold of. He barely ate, didn’t socialise much, didn’t take holidays or buy new clothes. Just alcohol.
The emotional cost of being a COA
My dad died on his own in a housing association flat, surrounded by chaos and filth with empty bottles everywhere.
In the starkest of terms he went from being wealthy, with a good job and lovely things to having very little. And the cause of this was his addiction. That addiction created a destructive spiral of job losses and failed relationships which in turn created the need to drink more to cope.
The financial cost of having an alcohol dependent parent was huge. But the emotional cost of being a COA is much worse.