Alcohol has always played a role in my life.
I was born in Glasgow in 1970 and I am the youngest of four children. My father, now deceased, was an alcoholic, gambler and wife beater. My father always had a drink in him, although when I was small I just thought he was in a playful mood, and often very tired, which would explain why he would fall asleep on the sofa. I didn’t know what ‘drunk’ was.
My mum drank a bit, although she said it was because he insisted that she did. Before the age of 10 I was well aware of alcohol being in our house. We didn’t have a lot of money but when we had a Sunday dinner we often had a bottle of cheap sparkling wine. I thought we were very posh. My older siblings and I (one of whom has mental health issues and is no longer a part of my life) were allowed a small drop of alcohol at Christmas – mostly lager shandy.
At the age of 10 we moved to the middle of a bustling town and whilst there we were branded as snobs. My father moved out a few times but it would be a few more years before he left completely on my mums instruction. By the age of 14 Mum had met my Step Father. She was only 44, almost the same age I am now. One of my siblings had married and moved out and another was in sheltered accommodation, which left my mum, my 19-year-old sister and me living together. My Fathers life was rapidly going down hill through drink and I visited him now and then; more out of obligation than anything. In comparison, my Step Father had money, a good job and liked to party…and drink. Mum fitted into the new lifestyle pretty well. She would often stay over at his house and my sister would look after me. I preferred going out with my friend than doing homework so my schoolwork slipped a bit.
When my mum and step dad got engaged we had a huge party. Everyone was drunk, including me. Around the same time, my friend and I went to my older siblings sister in laws house. Despite being a nurse, she allowed my friend and I to help ourselves to the wine and soon all three of us were drunk. I remember throwing up. The following day I vowed I’d never drink again. How wrong could I possibly be? By the age of 16 Mum remarried and I was the only child to move into the marital home. I felt out of place, I left school with no qualifications and got a part time job.
On Friday nights, despite being underage, I would go to the local pub with my new friends and drink and smoke to our hearts content. Mum knew about this but I think she was quite happy to not have me under her, and her new husbands, feet. I had a brief spell at college then in 1987 I went to Blackpool with my Mum and Step dad. I went out partying, made unsavoury friends and got drunk regularly. I found a job in an amusement arcade and told Mum I had a place to live so I wasn’t going back home. She didn’t really look into where I was working or living. She just agreed to let me stay and left me with £20 in my pocket. I didn’t actually have a place to live so I was now homeless. Without any parental control, or guidance, I started out on my path of self-destruction…I’m still on it.
But, I muddled through and met my first serious boyfriend. He was 12 years older than me – an architect from Liverpool. I moved in with him and we got engaged. It lasted two-years but there were many drunken nights and arguments and the final one resulted in me getting battered just minutes before my 19th birthday. I phoned Mum and let her know what had happened. She said she had £300 put aside for me and I used the money to go to Greece on the bus. I stayed there for five-months working anywhere I could. I don’t think I ever had a day when I didn’t have a hangover. There I met a Greek guy and he came back to Glasgow to live with me. I still believe he was the love of my life. I don’t remember anything too bad about that relationship but when I found him on Facebook a few years ago, the first comment he made was: “I see you are still drinking”. Obviously his recollections of me weren’t quite as positive as mine were of him. I was both hurt and surprised by his question.
In a desperate bid to feel some sense of belonging I married a friend who had a huge family. It didn’t last long – four-years. Within weeks of splitting up with a perfectly good man, I had met husband number two; a gambler and drinker just like my father. We drank regularly although I stopped when I became pregnant. Despite him asking me to give him a child, he left me when I did become pregnant, most likely because I wouldn’t be there to drink with him, and the pub suddenly held no interest for me anymore. Despite getting back together, getting married and having a second child we split up and I have been a single parent since my youngest child was three-months old. She’s almost nine now.
Despite all of this, I studied for a teaching degree but I didn’t do my final honours as it all got too much for me, so now I just have a piece of paper to remind me that I ‘almost’ achieved something good. I see my children’s lives sadly mirroring mine. If I drink too much I fall asleep. They leave me to it. They just know. In the past few years every relationship has ended through my drinking, or my partners drinking. In recent years I have ruined parties, Christmas and other special occasions through drinking too much. I have no friends, I am not close to my family, I have no money, no house of my own, and I’m bankrupt and lonely. My oldest child is about to turn 13. About the same age I was when I started drinking alcohol. My biggest fear is that she turns out like me.
Last year, after yet another failed turbulent drink fuelled relationship I decided enough was enough. I attended an AA meeting. Personally, I found it the most terrifying experience and although The Fellowship have ‘saved’ many, I woke up the morning after the meeting knowing I would never attend another. I started collecting articles about alcohol, newspaper cuttings of drink fuelled fights and arguments that have seen people killed and, or, jailed. I invested in self help books in order to re educate myself about alcohol and as daft as this might sound it’s the first time in my life that I realised that circumstances didn’t ruin things for me…alcohol did.
My kids saw a happier, healthier more contented side to me and my eldest understood my changes. She was over the moon. However, three glorious alcohol free months later, I made a huge mistake. I forgot why I stopped drinking. I forgot what I’d learned from my books. I fell back into the myth that I was missing out on something by not drinking alcohol. A couple of ciders for the weekend has now turned into a bottle of wine on a weekday because, well, I deserve it don’t I?
This week alone I have been drunk twice. I have made a fool of myself on Facebook, I have declared undying love for someone who isn’t interested in me and have felt really ill. Yesterday my ex boyfriend asked me out for lunch, surprising because he has seen me at my worst. He drinks a lot but as he does it with class and sophistication I don’t see his drinking as a problem. We were going to the local carvery and I had rehearsed in my head the part where he asked me what I wanted to drink. My reply was going to be Fresh Orange and Soda please. However, we decided on a change of venue. Our set menu included a glass of wine, which I drank. My friend then ordered a bottle of wine for our meal and I drank my share. A few drinks at the local pub on the way home then back to my house, collecting beer from his on the way. Fast forward a few hours, I feel like rubbish, both physically and mentally. My kitchen looked like a brewery this morning. I know I’ve fallen out with at least one of my friends, maybe both.
I will stop drinking again and it has to start now, although I did say that on Thursday too. I don’t believe alcohol has any benefits but everyone else I know drinks regularly. It gets me thinking that maybe I’m not the one in the right after all. Why is stopping drinking alcohol so difficult, especially as I actually don’t want to do it at all?
I’m so confused.
Do you have a story to tell? Please send it to me at Needyhelper@gmail.com
Photo courtesy of dmuth cc @ flickr.com