One woman’s unique and loving insight into living with her alcoholic mother.
My mother was and still is a functioning alcoholic.
Throughout the years I’ve woken up in the morning to find the kitchen sink caked with chunks of dry vomit.
I’ve pretended to be asleep in bed when she’s whispered in my ear, trying not to gag when her stale, hot, red wine breath fills my nostrils.
I’ve dragged her back into the house after she’s stumbled outside, declaring she’s going to take her own life.
One time, mum was drunk by 10am. This wasn’t entirely new, but it was Christmas Day and it was just my mum, my sister and myself. The alcohol and emotional abuse went hand in hand. I left and spent the rest of Christmas Day alone. At that time I was 17 and lived out of home. I no longer had to stay and listen to it, but leaving my crying 10 year old sister behind broke my heart. I felt like a terrible person.
As a young girl I was constantly reminded I wasn’t good enough. I was an “ungrateful, undeserving wretch of a child”. A bitch. Worthless. etc etc. As a single parent my mum “gave up everything” for us “selfish little toads”. We had ruined her life.
I’ve laughed with my mum. She’s held me when I cried and we’ve had deep mother-daughter conversations. The Easter bunny came every year. I had a collection of Barbie’s, Polly Pockets and a swing set. We had a roof over our heads. I was always clothed and never went hungry.
What did I have to complain about? Nothing. So I didn’t. I just tried hard to please her, relishing in the moments when I did.
Read more: Giving up alcohol doesn’t have to be hard.
On the school holidays we would stay at my grandparents. Mum would call to check in. “Hi darling,” was all it took for me to be able to tell. I remember reluctantly handing the phone to my grandma and then hiding behind the doorframe. I watched her mime the universal drinking signal to my grandad. I fled to the bathroom sobbing. Because she knew.
Mum never asked me to keep the drinking a secret. It was like an unspoken agreement. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind to tell anyone. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. But not of her. I can’t explain it. If anyone found out they wouldn’t understand. She wasn’t a bad mum. When she was sober she was great. She was a good mum.
I’ve never spoken to anyone with similar stories. Not because mine is unique, quite the contrary. It’s just not something you want people to know.
I’m now in my 20s and the emotions are still conflicting. She’s the one person who is supposed to love me unconditionally. So what she says and has said, must be true.
Keeping feelings bottled up inside really does make us sick. It took becoming unwell and being hospitalised a year ago before I finally started to talk about it. But it’s still hard writing about it now. I feel like I am betraying her by doing so.
I think back to the cruel words she also spat at my sister (before I was able to find my sister another place to live a few years ago). It pained me to think my she would ever feel the same way I did. She was none of those horrible things. And now I realise, either am I. My mum has an illness.
We’ve all offered her help numerous times but she continues to choose the bottle over everything. Over her daughters and ultimately her life.
Right now mum and I don’t communicate (apart from when I receive drunk abusive text messages). One day I hope we will have a civil relationship, before it’s too late. There are still things I catch myself wanting to tell her. To tell my mum. Because I do love her.
Learning to talk about it was so important, it helped release the shame I felt. The guilt. That it was my fault. That I should have been a better child. A better person.
Even though it feels like it says more about you than it does about the person drinking, it doesn’t.
You aren’t the reason for it, you aren’t why it’s happening and you don’t deserve it.
Editor’s note: The author of this post is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous to protect the dignity and privacy of the family members involved.