Loyal to the cause, I never told anyone about my father’s drinking.


I am 30 years old and still am absolutely traumatised by my father’s alcoholism during my childhood. Reflecting on my childhood is an extremely upsetting experience for me. As is the case with many children of alcoholics, I am very loyal to both of my parents and now look back at my childhood with much disappointment and sadness, rather than anger.


My father drank extremely heavily every weekend, and sometimes during the week. He was unable to stop drinking once he had started. My mother would drink at the weekend. Although she was not an alcoholic, she frequently got drunk with him. This was undesirable, to say the least.


I was often unable to sleep as they were so loud when drinking. While never aggressive, my father talked absolute rubbish when drunk which was extremely frustrating to listen to. I spent many, many nights punching my pillow, consumed with anger and frustration, unable to sleep due to the noise and drinking going on around me. When my mother would eventually coax my father to bed, my father would then pretend to be asleep, get up again and drink alone. My brother and I used to take turns staying up at night to go up to him and beg him to go to bed. My mother would then hear the commotion and an argument would arise. This began when I was 5 and continued on into my 20s.


Central to my parents’ drinking was secrecy. My parents could ill afford to be buying so much alcohol but managed it somehow. We would work collectively to smuggle the bottles into the boot of the car to bring to the recycling centre when my neighbours weren’t at home to be sure that they couldn’t see how much my parents were drinking. This secrecy, and general mistrust of other people that my parents seemed to harbour caused me significant damage.


I never had any birthday parties, or invited friends to my house. On the rare occasion that my friends did come to my house, usually unexpectedly, I was totally unable to relax, so worried that they would smell alcohol or see bottles. The burden of the secrecy was often too much to bear, but I remained loyal to my parents.


I have no recollection of being “happy” as a child. I was so paranoid and wary of others that I struggled to make friends. I cried easily, overcome by emotion and depression. I have a memory of children in my class singing Akon’s “Lonely” and “Dry your eyes mate” at me during school as I struggled to make friendships, and often cried easily.


Loyal to the cause, I never told anyone about my father’s drinking. My mother’s mistrust of others, and fear that someone would find out about my father’s drinking, was often difficult. She often treated me and my brother as one would an adult friend.


When I was eight, my father was drunk in the car on a Sunday afternoon and she shouted that she wanted to kill herself. When I was 12, I made the mistake of mentioning that I needed a new winter coat. I soon regretted it; she shouted that she “never got anything” and often felt like killing herself. The next day, I sobbed in school, again victim to jeers from my classmates. As always, I did not tell the teachers the truth about why I was crying and said I had fallen in the yard.


As a primary school child and a teenager, and later, a young adult, my responsibilities to my alcoholic father consumed me. Despite making friends, “fun” was never truly on the agenda for me. Instead, I worried easily and ensured that I did all that had to be done as a child of an alcoholic parent- hiding his alcohol, trying to find where he hid alcohol, hiding his car keys and trying to be as nice to my mother as I could. I was so terrified about her killing herself that, at the age of 12, I was certain that any text message I received on my Nokia 3310 would be a “goodbye” from her, ready to kill herself.


Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and would find my father’s urine and faeces in the hall, where he had failed to make it to the toilet on time. On other occasions, he would bear bruises from falling. My brother and I continued to take the fall from my mother’s general unhappiness and stress from living with him. We were told of our family’s seemingly endless financial worries (mostly due to an inordinate amount of money being spent on alcohol) and my mother would regularly lament about his drinking to me and my brother. Frustratingly, she never actually had this discussion with my father; rather, we were left to bear the cross.


On three occasions, after a night of drinking from them both, my mother told us to pack our bags as she, myself and my brother were “leaving.” On each occasion, my mother would ring a taxi to take us to a local hotel, my belongings stuffed into plastic bags. After my father would beg her to stay and promise never to drink again, it would then transpire that my mother had only pretended to call a taxi. At 3am, we would all then trudge back to bed, empty our belongings back into our shelves and wake up the next day and act as if nothing had happened.


As a child, I felt unlovable, upset, angry, frustrated, stressed, unconfident and extremely unhappy. These are issues that I still have today and am trying to overcome. Since my childhood, I often worry about money and find it extremely difficult to relax. I still shiver when I hear a can opening- this is the number one sound that I associate with my childhood.


There are thousands of other incidents that I could detail. I believe that I have blocked many of them from my memory as I am so traumatised when I remember them. Many things trigger my unwanted memories; the pub that my father was carried out of… the road where we were on when I was 8 and my mother told us of her intentions to kill herself… they are endless. Absolutely endless.


My father rarely drinks now, but, on the off occasion that he does, he is unable to stop. I leave the occasion as soon as possible, having become extremely ill at ease from his first drink. It breaks my heart to know that there are other children, and adults, in my position today. I just wish that my mother had found the courage to trust in another adult to help, rather than her children. Of course, overall, I wish that my father had never drank at all….