I grew up in a family that I thought was normal. It wasn’t.
My father was a violent alcoholic. As children we would go to bed and dread him
coming home. I’d listen to his truck coming down the road a couple of streets
away, the handbrake go on, the door slam close and then his boots as he walked
from the top of the road to the front door, the odd cough. I’d hear his keys
trying to find the keyhole, sometimes falling to the floor. The door would slam
close and I’d shut my eyes tight and hoped he’d go to bed. More often than not
he’d go into my sisters room then come into mine. Mum would come and usher him
to their bedroom asking him to be quiet because we’d have school the next day.
Sometimes mum would be lucky and he’d crash out, sometimes. I’d hear him getting
louder and louder, mum would take him downstairs and shut the door behind her.
He’d beat her, she never screamed or shouted in case she woke us up. She never realized me and my sister would be sat on the stairs watching through the vent
at the top of the door. I finally got to the point that I felt the courage to
do something and ran in and hit him. From that moment onwards I was always
scared of my father, scared of conflict, scared of courage, scared of
everything. I learned to hate myself, the way I looked, sounded, everything
about me, my life I despised. I was eight.
The first time I drank I was 11. I got smashed, I was found
in blackout covered in vomit and I’d wet myself. A couple of neighbors carried
me home. It was late, my mum answered the door, I told her it was something I
ate, I don’t know why I lied but for some reason even at the age of 11 I chose
to blame something else, not the alcohol. Senior school was bad, lots of
conflict, I was cannon fodder for the bullies. I looked different, my clothes
were different. I guess I was unkempt. I understood why I didn’t have a
uniform, mum couldn’t afford it. All money in the house, rent, milk, pocket
money was all used for alcohol. Problem was some of the other kids didn’t
understand this, for some reason they found this unacceptable, they even found
it was funny when I told them the truth about why things were the way they
were. I wouldn’t fight back, I knew where courage would take me. I found it
easier to run, to escape, to hide. My education suffered a great deal.
My mother was called to the school, they’d caught me out. I
was going in for morning registration but left before the first lesson. I
managed this for about 14 months. The head of year, me and my mother sat in a
small room. I remember my mum crying and explaining that stuff was going on at
home. The outcome for me was good. I didn’t get into trouble, I was told that I
had to attend school and that if I had any problems I should speak to a
teacher. I have to be honest, I learned that I could use what was going on at
home as an excuse for my behavior.
The second time I drank I did to oblivion. I was 16, I was
on a camping trip with two other guys, one was a friend the other was one of
the bullies from school. I was smashed, my friend went to use the toilets. The
other guy started on me, same old shit that I’d heard many times “Dirty Tramp”
I’m not sure what happened. The drink made me 10 foot tall and 6 foot wide. I
attacked him. I went way too far, he didn’t deserve what I did. Some adults heard
the commotion and pulled me of him. I can vaguely remember comments like, “He’s
like a wild animal” “He’s lost it” “He’s mad”........
I woke the next day, I was rough, my knuckles were grazed
and I was covered in bruises. The police were involved, no charges were pressed
I didn’t care, really didn’t care. I guess I just hated myself a bit more.
I ended up in bedsit land, had a job and blew all my money
on drink and drugs, week in and week out. I guess this part of my life was when
drinking was still fun. I became popular, I was funny, I could talk to members
of the opposite sex, I could dance, fight, be a rock star, a drug dealer, the
man that can, I could be anything you wanted me to be as long as it made me
feel like I had a purpose, that I fitted in. Looking back I don’t quite know
what it was I was trying to fit into. Square peg into a round hole? An orange
in a bowl of apples?
The more I drank the more in control I felt but the more out
of control I was becoming.
By the age of 21 I was homeless. Squatting in a portal-cabin.
This life for me, at the time, was perfectly acceptable. I did whatever I had
to do to get my fix. It had got to that place where I needed oblivion as quick
as possible. I don’t know when I crossed the line but I had. I was living in
that bubble looking out on the rest of the world, everyone else was better than
me or worse than me. Nobody knew how I felt, nobody knew anything about me,
nobody knew nothing. This place I was living, the one in my mind, that cold
lonely dark place, curled up in a fetus position, that prison was all I knew.
I had become a liar, a thief, I wasn’t to be trusted.
I met my partner, she drank, we drank. She wanted more from
life and in time we had a bedsit, a flat and then rented a house. I started
work. We had children, a boy and a girl. I didn’t have girlfriends I had
hostages such were my paranoia’s, insecurities and self- hatred. I wasn’t in
this relationship to love, I was in it to be loved. Work was good, I was after
all a perfectionist. Work also meant money and lots of it. My small business
was taking off, along with my drinking.
I came home from work one evening and my partner told me she
was going to an AA meeting. I laughed, I thought she was joking. She wasn’t,
somebody came and picked her up, a fella and a woman. I poured myself a drink
and enjoyed the fact I was able to drink without interruption. My drinking was
at a place where I no longer cared what others thought about me. Drinking alone
appealed to me, nobody to judge me and nobody to fight with.
My partner continued her AA meetings and I continued my
drinking. She asked me not to come to bed stinking of alcohol, asked me not to
fill the fridge with booze, asked me to calm it down a bit, asked me to not
keep inviting people round for whole weekends of partying. I took all this
personally, I felt she was trying to control me, trying to control my drinking.
I didn’t realize she was just trying to protect herself.
I was asked to be a best man at a friends wedding in France. I
accepted and announced to my partner we were going away. She asked, pleaded not
to go. I twisted it and told her that if she didn’t go I wouldn’t either and
she’d be responsible for ruining the wedding. We went, it was a 72 hour bender,
no escape for her. God only knows what I put her through.
One evening she returned from her AA meeting and announced
that if I didn’t start respecting that she was in recovery she would ask me to
leave. I hated AA, I hated her, who were these people to tell her to tell me I
would have to leave my house !
A few weeks later I came home from work to an empty house.
I made the usual phone calls, chased around, banged doors
but nothing, nobody knew anything.
I sat indoors and drank some more……
I used to tell people that I went to AA because I wanted to
get myself sorted, I lied, I went to AA to try and find her. I didn’t find her.
At the end of my first meeting an old timer asked me how I
was, “Fine” I told him, “Just a bit young for all this AA crap” “I’ll come back
when I’m 35” (I was 26). He smiled and said “If you’re still alive”. What did
Days, weeks passed and contact was made through my mother
with my partner and children.
They’d ended up in a refuge, I’d started to turn into
everything I despised in my father.
I went to a second AA meeting. I heard a lady share some
stuff, her pain, suffering and loss broke me. I stopped drinking and I stopped
AA. My partner and I got back together. This was a year after her first AA
meeting. She remained sober and I was a dry drunk for many years.
To be continued…..