Katy’s story shows how alcoholism can be a family disease. Having grown up with an alcoholic father, Katy found herself drawn to men who were problem drinkers. Katy credits Al-Anon and AA for saving her relationship and changing her and her husband’s lives.
“My dad's drinking was the reason behind our chaotic home life. I remember my sister, my mum and I really struggling to cope. He would come home late and miss dinner. Mum was so angry, and the atmosphere was always tense. He drank whisky secretly, but mum marked the bottle and would show me, not that I needed evidence. When he was drunk his personality changed completely, he'd be sentimental and tearful or he would be very funny and affectionate.
Dad was a very troubled complex man. His childhood was full of pain, his own father was violent, his mum cold and distant, and his sister died of alcoholism when she was 40. I loved my dad and was always trying to cheer him up or help him out with all the jobs he did round the house. Maybe I thought this might make stop him drinking. I would try to comfort Mum too. I was overly involved with their marriage, and that made me feel lonely and frustrated.
When I left home, this loneliness followed me, and I found myself drawn to men who had drink problems - a strange pattern which I didn't like but couldn't seem to change. I often found myself trying to persuade some drunken young man that he didn't need to drink, that he was wonderful as he was, and that he ought to go to AA as that could help him.
One of those men (my boyfriend at the time) would drink so much he would regularly pass out at parties. Friends would say is that your boyfriend? Is he OK? I remember being so embarrassed and ashamed. Sometimes he would be just drunk and unruly, so we would be asked to leave parties. One time he was sick on his shoes and slipped down. I remember a horrid man sneering and saying, ‘look at him’. I could feel I was being judged by his actions. I still felt so alone and helpless. I loved this man and I didn't know why he had to drink so much and get always get us into trouble.
After five years some light came into my life when I dragged him to an AA meeting. I had never been to one and thought it would be full of sad old drunks in raincoats. My boyfriend was drunk and didn’t want to be there. I don't think he listened to a word. But I did. The men and women there were far from sad! They were buzzing with life and laughter and joy. There was a light, a love an energy in that room I had never seen before. I will never forget it. It gave me such hope, that AA was the only place that could really help us and that I couldn't help my boyfriend’s alcoholic behaviour.
That was the turn in the road we needed. My boyfriend sensed the change in me and miraculously took himself to a meeting. He slowly started to turn his life around. To be honest I felt a bit left out and alone, he was gaining support and a whole new community. My childhood sadness had never left me, and I began wondering if a support group would help me too.
When I was 15, my mum rang AA to try to get help for my dad’s drinking, they put her in touch with Al-Anon, who then sent her some literature by post. I remember seeing those leaflets as a teenager but never looked into it. Over the years, I regularly came across Al-Anon literature, but I didn’t attend a meeting until that year, 17 years later.
I felt it wasn't fair him getting all this help and me nothing. So, I went to a meeting. I found the same joy and love and though the journey has been painful at times, it has taken away my deep childhood wounds.
I instantly felt that Al-Anon was having an impact on my life. After each meeting, I gradually changed the way I thought, the way I understood alcoholism and the way I behaved. In return that changed my situation, it changed my life.
My dad drank until the day he died, and he and mum continued to row and fight, but I learned to not get so enmeshed with them and even found a way to develop a close and more loving relationship with them. My boyfriend kept going to AA, relapsing several times. The last relapse was 2 weeks before our wedding! But that was the last drink. He has now been sober for 12 years
We can't believe how we have turned our life from a living nightmare to one that is full of love laughter peace and joy. Not that we don't have problems, but drinking is not one of them.”