My parent’s are alcoholics, but nobody would believe me (or that’s what I thought). They aren’t homeless, they both earn £40,000+ a year, they have a nice car, they volunteered at school galas and they were at every parent/teacher interview I ever had. Like a lot of addicts, they were, and still are, very good at hiding their sickness. They invest in nice fragrances and every morning put them on, to hide the smell of alcohol seeping out of their pores. To the outside world, they appear normal.
It was hard for my siblings and I, growing up in what many people remarked to be “a lovely family”. From the outside, we looked well cared for; we had nice clothes, nice school lunches and did lots of extra-curricular activities. Behind closed doors we lived “on edge”. Our environment was very inconsistent; our parent’s moods, opinion’s of us and opinion’s of each other changed rapidly on an hourly basis depending on the level of “drunk” they were. Society’s stereotype of alcoholics being jobless and homeless did not do us any favours.
I spent the most part of my childhood confused. My Mum told me she loved me when she was sober, and that she hated me when she was drunk. I was beautiful when she was sober and “needed to lose weight” when she was drunk.
I was heavily weighed down and very anxious. I wanted to tell someone about the drinking, but I thought no one would believe me. I’m now in my 20s, I studied social work at university and have gone on to work in child protection. I work with children who live in alcoholic homes, who have the same dilemma I had for the duration of my early life: should I tell someone about the drinking?
If I went back in time to my childhood, I would definitely tell someone about their drinking. At the time, all I could think about were the barriers. In hindsight, the things I thought we’re barriers then, probably weren’t as much as a big deal as I thought. Living alone with this burden, was far more painful than the fall-out of telling anyone. Unfortunately this is not something I realised until I was 23 years young and long gone from their home.
My parent’s are alcoholics but no one would believe me…. Well….actually my parent’s are alcoholics and everyone believes me. Everyone knew already. I’d spent 23 years believing they had this well hidden secret. When I broke the silence, I discovered my extended family knew, my friends knew, their friends knew.
When I found out their secret wasn’t so secretive, I found myself wishing I’d spoken sooner. The young people I work with who have told me about what they endure at home, always remark they feel much better for telling someone.
It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s emotional, but it’s worth it.
Benefits of breaking the silence:
1. It provides support.
2. You don’t have to put as much effort into “covering up”.
3. Most people you tell will understand you better.
4. You can tap into resources and support.