My name is Harry and this is my story of living with an alcoholic and how it impacts you and shapes your life.

November 6th was my father’s 70th birthday and unfortunately he wasn’t alive to celebrate this with his family. He died 10 years ago this year due to poor health related to his alcoholism.

The trauma and chaos that my father’s addiction and inevitable death caused through my family was immeasurable. Growing up, I could never understand why he wouldn’t go and get help for his problems? It was not the done thing in our family or in our community and this always made me very angry growing up. If you had a problem you dealt with it, you didn’t talk about it and you moved on the best way you could, and in my father’s case he self medicated himself with alcohol.

After many years of begging and encouraging him my father did eventually agree to go into treatment for his addiction which was a very big thing at the time. I didn’t know of another Traveller man who had done this. We were all very proud of him. Unfortunately going into treatment didn’t work for him and he was back drinking within a few weeks of his release. It wasn’t the happy ending we were all hoping for and he remained an alcoholic until the day he died.  My father was a lovely decent man but he was his own worst enemy.

These experiences as a child and later a teenager gave me resilience to overcome and to survive. I knew that if I didn’t get up and go to school and get an education, this could be my life. My one saving grace was I had a strong mother who made sure I was up every morning (rain, hail or snow) and went to school, despite what might have happened the night before or negative opinions of people who thought my place was not to be in school. I also had 3 sisters who lived nearby who I could go to if I needed guidance or advice. Sometimes you’d crack up if you didn’t talk to someone.

I got myself involved in sports; soccer, hurling and football as another way to escape what I was dealing with at home. I went to secondary school, where I was the only Traveller and finished my leaving certificate and as a mature student I went back to college at night and studied youth and community work. I got myself a job that I love, and I am still in to this day. Helping people and trying to make a difference in my community gives me great satisfaction.