I grew up in homes with alcoholism. I was born during a time that the ripple effect of my grandfather's passing was impacting my family. My grandfather died in the early 1970's in an accident and my grandmother became an alcoholic. I was born in 1983, so my Mum and her siblings had endured at least 10 years of my grandmother's alcoholism. I really want to express early in this story that despite all the hurt and suffering I endured, I love my family dearly and they have all since changed their lives.
Growing up, I never felt like my life was of any different to anyone else's. I thought all the kids in my area had families who drank a lot. I felt it was a normal way to live. I saw no problem in coming home from school to a party, or having the skill to pour a perfect jug of beer from a keg at the age of 5. I would gladly entertain our guests with songs while my grandmother sang alongside me – I remember reflecting on these memories fondly when I was a kid. Despite the drinking, I always felt loved.
It wasn't until we moved out of my family home (the drinking brought family violence with it) and moved to a rural area with my Mum's new husband that I started to realise the way I was living was not normal. On one rare occasion that I was allowed to go to a friend's house to celebrate her birthday, I was stunned that her mother doted over us, sat with us as we played, and engaged with me - all while sober!! I didn't know this way of life existed.
Drinking continued at home. Most mornings I would get my 2 younger siblings ready for school with their lunch and on the bus while my Mum slept with a hangover. Or I would return home from school locked out of our home until 7-8pm at night, often I’d fall asleep on the steps of our house because Mum was at a party somewhere. It was just how life was, and I never really grumbled about it. I felt powerless. If I spoke up or out of turn I would get hidings. I was 7. The alcoholism brought physical abuse into our home too.
I remember going to school covered in bruises and getting called into the sick bay where my principal and a nurse were. I was so scared that I was going to get my Mum into trouble and that she would give me the biggest hiding of my life. I lied and lied about my injuries, in fear that the school would ring my Mum. I was about 10 at this stage.
Looking back now, in general I was a happy kid. I thrived at school and saw school as an escape. I was sociable and adaptable, but I was also very aware from a really young age about body language and the tone of people's voices. I was always on edge and ready to fight or flee. Obviously these were some minor survival skills I had learnt quite young in life. Even now as an adult I struggle to trust people.
It wasn't until my mid to late teens that I started displaying the effects of my upbringing. I started using drugs, started feeling victimised and fell into depression really early in life. I had no one to talk to, and my problems really felt insignificant compared to others I knew. I had no tools to deal with whatever emotions I had, so I turned to writing. I continued to suffer from depression right through early adulthood.
As an adult, it hurts re-reading the pain I carried when I was so young. As a parent, it hurts to know that my Mum exposed me to this kind of life when I was so young and vulnerable.
I carried on with drugs and then alcohol well into my late teens and early 20's. I was in a bad relationship, again I felt I had no options and so I turned to alcohol and drugs to escape my reality. I was also in a relationship with an alcoholic. I saw myself living my Mum's life and after 3-4 years of this behaviour, I had had enough. I'm in a better place now with a loving husband and two beautiful children. We do not allow drinking around our children at all.
From our family, all my mother's siblings had addictions and they are now 42+ and have all (but 1) given up their addictions. With my siblings, 3 out of 4 of us had violent relationships with one of my brothers murdered at the hands of his alcohol induced girlfriend. We have all since curbed our addictions and live fairly humdrum lives. We have successfully stopped the cycle. Not because we were given tools or guidance to get there, but because we wanted so much more for our kids than what we had.
I have since had counselling and mended bridges with my Mum. It's still one day at a time and anything can trigger a painful memory leaving me crying for hours remembering the absolute hurt I suffered at the hands of my Mum and her husband. But they have made active, positive changes to their lives, so it makes it so much easier for me to forgive them.