Christine describes the devastating impact alcoholism has had on her and her family. From growing up with an alcoholic mother, to being drawn to alcoholic partners who were abusive, she describes how Al-Anon has given her the strength and support to change and have a positive impact on her children.
“I grew up in, what looked from the outside, as a typical family in the 1970’s. Husband and wife with two kids. The reality was quite different. My parents both had addict fathers and my sister had anger issues. My mother was an alcoholic who drank daily, and my father always took her side and protected her from any harm.
My earliest memory of childhood was when I was three years old - playing a game with mum; topping the alcohol bottles back up with water so that dad wouldn’t notice she had drunk all of the drink.
I knew even at that young age that what we were doing was wrong, especially when mum told me to keep it a secret. I learnt early on from both my parents to keep secrets and to never speak the truth about mum’s drinking to anyone. Even when mum was drunk for all to see - stumbling, slurring her words and talking nonsense - we all pretended everything was fine. I felt embarrassed, ashamed and responsible. I doubted myself and wondered if I was exaggerating about mum’s drinking. I resented dad for not stopping her. I didn’t feel good enough and unloved by my mum - because if she loved me she would stop drinking. My mum was a nasty drunk who would scream at me and throw me out on a regular basis. I would wait until early evening when I knew she would be unconscious on the sofa to return. This carried on for years until one day I didn’t go back. I was 17 years old and felt rejected and alone.
I rushed into a relationship with the first person who showed me some attention so that I could start a family of my own and make everything “right”. We married and had two children; again it looked from the outside like a normal family. The truth was that I felt trapped with my husband who was physically, emotionally and sexually abusive. I tried to hide what was happening from our children though the abuse progressed and eventually it got to the point where my seven year old daughter stood in the door way pleading with me to leave because “daddy nearly killed mummy”.
I knew she was right so we waited for my husband to leave for work the next day before escaping.
Although we escaped I couldn’t escape from myself. I felt like a failure; I believed all the hurtful words my husband had told me. I was suffering from depression and an eating disorder whilst trying to make a home for myself and my children. Six months later I found myself in psychiatric unit after attempting suicide.
It was while I was in hospital that I first admitted the truth about my childhood and abusive marriage. I also met the next alcoholic in my life; he was in hospital because of his alcoholism. He was very loving which was what I had always craved, although he was also very demanding. My doctor suggested that I go to Al-Anon for support and although I knew I was desperate to feel better it took another year and more suicide attempts before I finally went to a meeting.
The alcoholic and I were together three years before we parted - a short time but he had a huge impact on my children and I. Alcoholism is a devastating illness which affects everyone in contact with it. My children were brought up by an alcoholic/addict father and an adult child of an alcoholic hence they have been more than a little affected but with the help of Al-Anon I have been able to change and have a positive impact on my children.
My dad sadly passed away in 2009 and left an alcoholic wife alone. I was grateful that I spent my dad’s last week in hospital with him.
The week my dad died was the last time I experienced my mum drunk. The only side effect of more than 40 years of daily drinking was that she developed the shakes, or so I suspected. After a year, I discovered that she was actually having symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease and dementia. I became a full-time carer for my mum.
I was able to help and comfort my mum in a way I couldn’t when she was still drinking, and I’m so grateful for that.”