As a young child, I didn’t recognise that my parents had a drinking problem. I thought my mother’s sulking and my dad’s anger was normal behaviour from parents since I knew no different. I didn’t understand my mum and dad’s alcoholism, I’m not sure they recognised they had a drink problem either. What I did know from a young as was being scared of my parents when drunk. How they would react when they saw me? Would my mum be warm and loving or would I be screamed at and sent to my room for no reason, and with no food? I was always fairly certain that my dad would be angry as he was rarely anything else. His words hurt more than the smacks. His forgetting of my predictable. Dad’s alcoholism was only given a name when I was an older child.
When I was nine-years-old my mother left. I was relieved as the screaming, swearing and shouting stopped, but I missed her. I’ve always loved both my parents, just didn’t like them very much when their behaviour was mean. My dad’s alcoholism got worse after mother left. Sometimes he would go out on a Friday night and not return until Sunday. There were times when there was no food in the house, yet he always seemed to have money for beer and vodka. I spent a lot of time at my friends house. I guess they knew about the drinking problem, but I was too ashamed and embarrassed to talk about it.
One day when I was about eleven-years-old, my dad returned from a bender and said he wanted to stop drinking. He was soon drunk again. About this time I saw my mother again. She was sober. She mentioned Alateen, a support group for children with family members who have a drinking problem. I told her I would give it a try and told my dad I wanted to go. To my surprise he said he wanted to go to AA. We began the journey of recovery together.
I was very nervous at my first meeting. There were lots of older kids and I knew none of them. I tried to keep my distance, but one of the older kids came up to me and introduced herself and then the others. Everyone welcomed me with a hug and smile.
During that first meeting I shared and I cried. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Others shared their experience, strength and hope and for the first time I knew I wasn’t alone. I was no longer ashamed or embarrassed. I learned to trust this group and soon felt more love from them than I had felt for years. I went to Alateen for years without missing a meeting.
Without Alateen my life would have been very different. It’s likely that I would have had a drink problem or mirrored my dad’s alcoholism. My anger would have hurt me or others. My life choices without Alateen would have been hospital, prison or the cemetery. Today I am so grateful to have different, safer choices.
My mother has remained sober from her first AA meeting. My dad had a couple of relapses early in his recovery journey, but went back to AA and is now seven years sober. I’ve now got a good relationship with my mum and dad. I’m proud of the work they’ve put in to get sober and create a happy family life from a difficult start. There is hope, there really is.