My Dad has had a problem with drinking for as long as I can remember. Although, if you ask him – he will tell you he drinks, gets drunk, falls over – no problem.. He’s always tried hiding his drinking behind ‘something funny.’
I should admit that some of my more fun memories of my childhood stem from time at my dad’s and for that, I consider myself lucky.. Sadly, along with that – some of my worst memories also stem from time at my Dad’s. Growing up, his drinking was not as bad as it’s become in more recent years. I clearly remember one weekend – as my mother dropped me off – being thrown back in the car – no seat belt on, Dad trying to use his weight, by holding onto the open window to stop My mother from driving off at a great rate of knots. I never understood at the time as I would have been 5 or 6 years old but she did that because he was too drunk to take care of me.
I also clearly remember being with Dad and being at his friend’s place, all the adults were drinking, and a fight broke out. Who got stuck in the cross fire of fists? Me, a scared child! By the time it had ended I had managed to get back to my feet and run back to my Dad’s house. A little while later Dad followed suit and I helped clean him up. The next thing I know there’s a knock on the door- it’s the guy that started the fight coming to say sorry. That was it – seeing him standing at my father’s door resulted not in forgiveness but in my anger being ignited. I let rip verbally, words that no seven year old child should know, let alone use. An understanding of danger that no human should ever be put in the position to know. Yet here I was, a small child, my hands covered in my father’s blood, going off my tree at the massive Samoan guy standing in the door while my Dad stood beside me wide mouthed and in shock. How my Dad couldn’t see that this could have been avoided if he hadn’t been drinking all day I didn’t understand. If I am honest a small part of me still doesn’t.
Living between two homes is hard on any child, but when you add the complication of both homes having alcoholics in them then life gets interesting, real quick.
Although Dad’s drinking still continues to have a small impact on me, my birth mother and her partner’s drinking left much more resentment and was a small part of my decision to leave them to their lives and for me to continue with my life without them. They say that having alcohol in the house of a problem drinker only feeds the problem but not as much as living next to an illegal pub that was open every Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and special events. There’s a number of reasons I call this particular house the ‘house of horrors’ – but there’s many other stories that intertwine into that. In my mother’s care I found myself trying to get after-school detentions on Thursdays just to delay going home. going home to either a empty house or my (already) half drunk step father. Sadly for me, no after school detention could save me from the worst part of these nights. Once my mother and step father were drowning in alcohol, the fighting and loud music began. I became witness to every single fight, and instead of just being the one between flying fists, I also found myself between flying bottles, knifes, and anything else they could get their hands on. I spend so many Thursday nights hiding in the big grapefruit tree in the front of our property until the house had fallen silent. It’s a sad fact of life that many nights I felt safer in a tree then in my own bed! What was worse, (now that I think about it), is those who were meant to be responsible for my care, were too drunk to even realize that I was not even in the house!
One of my worst memories of being in my mother's care is actually one from when I (thankfully) wasn't even there for the "event". Although as I write this, more memories of that night slowly come back. Our neighbour and owner of the pub told me that Mum said that I could stay with her and her grandkids for the night. I don't recall checking with my mother but went and stayed in their sleep out with the other kids- it was great fun. The next morning I went back home before checking in with anyone else. Walking in, I thought that my 'mother' and her partner were still in bed, (not abnormal after a drinking bender), then I spotted it, the massive pool of blood, bigger than two average dinner plates, dark red, and mostly dried. Then I noticed the state of the house, broken plates and bottles everywhere. My instant thought- He had hurt or this time killed my mother. Panic hits as I run to their bedroom to see if they are there- no one. I ran to the bathroom, holding onto an imagined hope that mum was in the bathroom when I came home- but again- no one. The house was silent, just me, the blood, the broken glass, and a new found sense of uncertainty and fear. After a while, I kinda stopped worrying - it was as if I went into this self protect bubble, (as i call it now), and put my focus on to the situation in front of me. So I started to clean up. I have no idea what my thought process was with that, I don't even recall crying. I was just starting to work out how to clean the blood when there was a knock on the door. Our neighbor had come looking for me, she had expected me to come in with the other kids for breakfast and did not expect me to be in a hurry to go home. She of course knew about the events of the night before - and was trying to protect me from the horrors within those closed doors. For all her efforts to protect me, withholding information from me after making the discovery, did not help me in any way By the time she came looking for me, I was well and truly in fight or flight. I NEEDED the information. I needed to know what the hell had happened in my 'home.' I needed to know that I actually still had a home. I have no idea what time it was when my mother arrived home.. Other than (I believe being still drunk) she was unharmed and had gone to work that morning. She tried telling me that her partner had gotten too drunk, fallen and hit his head on the corner of the coffee table. I may have been 8 -9 years old but I wasn't stupid. I knew exactly where the corner of the table rested, i knew exactly where the blood was.. and I saw the broken bottle that had obviously been broken, and broken on his head. I knew exactly how their fights could get. I may have only been a young child but I was child with an understanding of violence and abuse that their drinking had taught me. She did later admit to me, when i was in my 'pre teen' years that she did indeed smash the bottle on his head.
In my life problem drinking has had a high probabilty of leading to violence around me or some sort of abuse- or at least that was the case as a child.
A child should be able to play outside until it is time to come inside without being dragged back into a reailty of horrors, (such as hearing your mother scream in pain after her partner decided to interupt her nana nap by throwing a coffee table on her back, narrowly missing her head- the details were later discovered). Why did he do it? He didn't recall the following day, It was because he was too drunk to even find his glass at the time. No child should sit outside, listening to such situations then later, once silence had fallen in the house, go inside to 'asses' their mother's injuries and help (once again) to clean them up. No child, in fact no one (regardless of age) should be put in that position. The above 'events' - all before my 10th birthday!!
At the age of 12 - the relationship between my Dad and I completely broke down - it felt as though he chose his (then) new girlfriend and booze over me. I of course acted out and did everything I could to make life as much hell as I possibly could. Soon after I moved out of my mother's care and went down the line to live with my grandmother. I started to refuse to take my Dad's calls, refused to write letters back to him and even went as far as returning presents. He hurt me and I was doing everything I could to hurt him back just as much. I put so much distance between him and I, the perfect way to hurt him. Not only did I put emotional distance between us but also physical. I moved 5 hours away to live with my grandmother.
Being out of the situation I was in with both my parents gave me alot of clarity in the sense that I could see what both their drinking habits were doing to me. I found myself in the position that I had no parent to look after. I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I had no idea how to handle the new emotions that I found myself feeling. Especially the anger! Anger that my parents (no matter how much I loved them) were so consumed by themselves and their drinking habits that they didn’t give a crap about me. The odd thing about it, it wasn’t until I was living with my grandmother that I felt- well anything. I felt scared the second ANYONE was angry around me. Even if that anger wasn’t directed at me. Even raised voices made me damn near jump out of my skin. When I felt scared, I would hide that behind anger, thus leading to what everyone believed was normal teenage misbahaviour. Truth is, I wanted to keep anyone and everyone at a distance, including my own family. My attitude was- if my own parent’s – those responsible for bringing me into this world didn’t care – why would anyone else? Why, when my own parents put things like partner’s and booze before me, would anyone else bother to put me first? So why should I bother letting anyone close?’. Although I was directly out of the impact zone of parental drinking, I was still being indirectly impacted..
I went through my teenage years with a massive chip on my shoulder, believing that alcohol would fix my own problems, it seemed that it worked for all my parents (including step parents) afterall, so why wouldn’t it work for me. It was a long and dangerous road that lead to more questions than answers and far more misery for me. I was slowly becoming the very people I didn’t want to be and slowly heading for the very life I did not want. After drinking myself to near death, it hit me and it hit me hard. I was lucky enough to learn the lesson that drinking would only lead to more problems than solutions, and looking at my parents, (especially my father), I consider myself incredibly lucky that I’m not in the same boat.
Once reconnecting with my father, (7 years later) I watched him and my step mother slowly kill themselves with alcohol. Although I craved being closer to my father, I didn’t feel I could be. Truth be known- I still don’t feel I can be. However, after realising how I felt about Dad’s drinking, I was now old enough to acknowledge such emotion’s as they came up. When I called to talk to either my father or step mother, I would only call in the mornings. It was a hit and miss situation because sometimes they had already started drinking. I was amazed at how angry it would make me, just hearing in their voices that they had been drinking. Mum had stopped drinking for a number of years, which I was soo proud of her for doing. Then one morning, I noticed that she sounded drunk, sure enough, she was..