Imagine not being put first in anything because your parent puts the bottle and himself before you. Imagine never being able to bring your friends over to visit or spend the night because of your alcoholic parent. Imagine not even mentioning when you have a concert or other activity at school because you’re terrified your drunken mother may show up and embarrass you.
Imagine going to bed hungry because your parent was too drunk to feed you. Imagine lying in bed terrified because you just know that your parents are going to fight at some point because that’s what they do when they are drunk. Imagine what it is like to be seven years old and your drunken mom puts a pot on to boil but falls asleep and you awake to flames but have to go get the neighbors because she won’t wake up.
Imagine what it is like to wake up to a different man in your mother’s bed regularly because she brings them home when she’s at the bar and gets drunk. Imagine everybody patronizing you all the time with such sadness in their eyes because they know your parent is an alcoholic and they feel so sorry for you.
Imagine spending most of your time in your bedroom because when your dad comes home he wants silence while he sucks down a fifth of whiskey before he yells at everyone in the house for something they did or didn't do. Imagine the constant whispers behind your back because you are the kid with the drunken parent. Just imagine.
Here, four people who grew up with an alcoholic parent share their stories.
These stories have been collected by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork, with the aim of raising awareness about how addiction impacts children.
“I will never get my childhood back”
“My life as a child of an alcoholic parent was frightening and lonely. My dad was a chronic alcoholic. I had a different childhood to all my friends: no birthday parties, couldn’t invite friends over to the house, and Christmas was a nightmare.
There was no one I could talk to and no one could help me, I just had to put up with it.
When I was 17 I had no choice but to leave home. I had to live my own life. My mother was heartbroken but she knew I had to go.
When I was 18, I was able to get counselling which was a great help to me. I was able to understand that alcoholism was an illness. A few months after leaving home my dad turned his life around and stopped drinking.
I will never get my childhood back but I now have a great relationship with my father and my mother now has the life she deserves. I hope this story can give other children some hope and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The following is a short poem a woman sent to us about her father’s alcoholism.
I don’t miss the sense of invisibility to you,
I don’t miss listening constantly for the front door,
I don’t miss watching your face to decipher your mood,
I don’t miss dodging your verbal assaults,
I don’t miss the sense of being so small,
I don’t miss the enormity of you and your drink,
I don’t miss the deep shame,
I don’t miss everyone covering up for you,
I don’t miss everyone knowing but me,
I don’t miss the smell of drink,
I don’t miss the fear of drink,
I don’t miss my friends knowing,
I don’t miss no-one caring about me,
I don’t miss fear,
I don’t miss loving you,
I don’t miss hating you,
I don’t miss you.
“We had food in the house but it wasn’t for us – it was for the social worker to see.”
“My alcoholic parent was my mother. She always drank. She started when she was young. When she was a child her father abused her and her brothers. They were battered by their father constantly. They locked their doors every night to keep their father out. She was beaten badly and was always expected to act like a lady. She started drinking to forget the pain she had to go through. This doesn’t make what she did to her children any bit forgivable.
When I was a child my uncle and aunts tried to take me away from my home by taking me on day trips with my sister. Back then I thought my mother would heal. My sister and I used to beg my uncle and aunts to bring us home so we could mind our mother. We didn’t want to upset her by being away for too long. One of my uncles was like a father to me. His oldest daughter and I look like brother and sister. We are just as close too. They tried to help me and give me a better life but they couldn’t.
My mom had a lot of ‘boyfriends’. They never really stayed too long. A small few used to beat me. These men were constantly in our house so we never really questioned a strange man in our house. It was normal for us.
At 15 years old I would come home from school and meet up with my mother and grandmother in the pub. My mother would buy me beer and I would sit in the pub with my drunken mother and help her get home. My home was filthy. There used to be dogs running through the house constantly and the house was never cleaned. We had food but it wasn’t for us. The food was perfect but we were not allowed eat it as it was only for when the social workers called so it would look like she was feeding us. In reality we were starving.
I started hanging out with a very rough group where I lived. They were drinking constantly and doing drugs. Eventually, I got away from them and my mother. I ran from Ireland at 16 to the States to my father. My sister was so upset with me for leaving her with my mother back in Ireland.
Now I’m living in America with a beautiful wife and three amazing children. Sometimes what happened still affects me but I try to block it out and ignore it and carry on. I’m honestly not recommending running away. I am planning on coming back to Ireland soon to sort out a few things with my mother.
“I’ve never not know Mum to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed”
Well to begin with there’s a common misconception that men are generally the alcoholics in a family but when it’s the mother, the nucleus of the family is destroyed and everything falling apart becomes an inevitable fate.I come from a small family with it just being my mum, dad and my brother and I. We’ve been battling with my mother’s alcoholism for as long as I remember, I’ve never not know her to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed. It wasn’t that I always saw it as the norm but when you don’t know any different it does tend to be a bit more difficult to imagine the situation differently. I’m actually very happy to see the back of 2014 as from December 2013 my whole family spiralled out of control and I spent more times in hospital than anywhere else.My parents split in December 2013 after 21 years married (I am 20 years old) my mum’s alcoholism was at its peak. Having been in and out of hospital for the past six years due to liver failure, she was on a path to destruction. In those months, mum had fallen whilst drunk and tried to hit my father with a golf club and broke her femur. She had several serious operations and she nearly died as her blood is extremely thin due to medication and alcoholism.Mum came out of hospital and continued to drink and began running around saying that she was fine and could walk. She fell hundreds of times and it became so bad she now can’t walk properly.I live with my grandmother, having left school at 17 as I suffered from depression and I went back to do my Leaving Cert and moved out of my home. Within months a series of events led to both my father and brother leaving and moving into an apartment and my mum was left wallowing in her drunken states ringing and abusing everybody (she still does this).I contacted the HSE in January 2014 with several emails sent to all organisations that support victims of alcoholism, I got a lot of reaction. I was furious that I spent years sitting in my mothers doctor’s surgery with my dad begging for ways out. They would always look at us helplessly and say “move out”. I felt embarrassed and as if there were no light at the end of the tunnel. My grandmother who I live with and who’s been a mother to me all my life has had a nervous breakdown and right now I spend my days working eight hour shifts as a photographer in a studio and then I go home to this mess.
My mum has been in hospital about eight times since February 2014 when a stomach ulcer burst and she was found in a pool of blood by my grandmother. I soon lost faith but I always tried to get help; my letter to the HSE got me six months with a councillor but I was so busy with my Leaving Cert and everything I just couldn’t find time to go.
Now I am still living with this situation but I try my very best to overcome it everyday and I refuse any kind of medication such as an “anti depressant” as I believe it’s just a easy way for doctors to dose people up and make money. I wish to study politics and history and possibly then business in university in the future and I hope that one day I can actually help people.
This story is shared by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork. The students have recently received funding from the YSI Den to publish a book with the stories of adults who grew up with an addict in the home. Please see www.teensaffectedbyaddiction.com or email email@example.com if you would like to share your story.
Follow Teens Affected by Addiction on Twitter: @affbyaddiction