On Growing up with Alcoholic Parents. Part 3: Me.

I wasn’t sure if should write this one. It felt like I’d covered a fair amount of it in the other blogs and besides, it’s just a lot of whining isn’t it? But I’ve been doing a lot of whining lately, so hey, why stop there? Let’s have a whining party and get it all off my chest. Then, maybe, the whining can cease and I can move forward to a brighter day. Also, there is the shocking realisation that has recently come to me, that I may not be quite as on top of things as I thought.

My husband recently told me that I have all the hallmarks of someone who has been emotionally abused. Nah, I thought. I’m fine. I’m nothing if not resilient. I’ve got shoulders like Atlas. But, the more I think about it, the more I have started to see his point. It’s not just my parents that have lead me here, but they didn’t help and sometimes these things are better out than in.

The thing with having alcoholic parents is, that you are forced to face up to a single, important reality. Alcohol will always win. However much they may love you, they will always love alcohol more. A feeling that is made worse when people, with the best of intentions, approach you about your parents drinking, expecting you to have some kind of influence and you have to tell them that you have none. My mother is only dry now because she doesn’t leave her room, I wait on her hand and foot. If she gets booze, it will only be because I gave it to her. For a long time, I allowed people to convince me that it was okay to let her drink, to bring her a gin if she wanted one but it never sat well with me. Now it’s done, I feel better. My feelings have to count for something.

The other thing with having alcoholic parents is that they don’t function like normal people when they are drunk. There are always more arguments. They are not always rational. They are not always kind. My father would berate me for my failings while drunk and, when I reminded him in the morning, he’d deny it, accuse me of making things up and of being unbalanced. He could be lovely, he could also be awful. My mother struggled to connect. We’re still not close now even though we share a house. I don’t know what a proper mother/daughter relationship is supposed to feel like but I’m fairly sure it’s not this.

The combination of the two of these things can have a powerful effect on your self esteem. I don’t come across that way, you’d probably think I have a bubbly personality. Maybe I do. I’m quick to smile, I love a laugh and I try to be kind and supportive. But you have no idea how hard it is for me to do something as simple as pick up the phone and ring someone. I get anxious before social events too. The crazy thing is that I love social events. I love talking to people but the overriding part of my brain will tell me that I suck at this, that I don’t listen enough, that I don’t ask enough questions, that I ask the wrong questions, that I talk over people, that I’m annoying and selfish and I talk too much.

I recently got into a dialogue with an author whose books I had read. He was so nice and supportive and understanding. Suddenly I found myself feeling pretty okay about me. That’s some good **** man. After a few days of hanging around his instagram like a druggy at the dealers, it hit me like a suckerpunch. Is this what people are supposed to feel like? All the time? Not just when authors talk to you? Holy Hell! What have I been missing? Of course you can’t just wake up one day and decide to be happy but I really am going to do my best. Sometimes though, the gulf between how you want to feel and how you do feel, can be so tremendous that it feels like an impossible mountain to climb.

The other problem, inevitably, with having alcoholic parents, is the alcohol itself. The children of alcoholic parents are significantly more likely to become alcoholics themselves. For some people, that may be down to the effects of trauma. But I suspect an awful lot of it is also down to the fact that excess has been normalised. I know there have been times in my life when I have drunk too much. I know that drinking too much was normalised for me at an early age. While I will relax and drink too much wine on occasion, I have to be so aware of when to draw the line. I have to remind myself not to let it become a habit. Because it can become a habit, all too easily. I have to tell myself, sometimes, to stop at one or not to touch a drop at all. I’m motivated by the desire to be a good Mum. I don’t want to do to my children what my parents did to me. I want to be better. But alcohol and I never will never be entirely easy bed fellows, I like it too much and I hate it too.

And that’s the whining done. Hopefully forever. Today is a new day and tomorrow is too. I aim to climb that mountain, personally and professionally. Watch this space.