Living with an Addict
Living With An Addict
My name is Polly and I grew up living with an addict. A woman who today is in recovery from her addiction to alcohol, my mother. It’s year 2011 and I find that the easiest thing to say. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still difficult at times, but acceptance of my past has become daily practice. Time heals. I’m only 17 years old and have my whole life ahead of me. My family and I are working towards a better future together.
How it was
My mother had been bought up in a similar situation to me. Growing up around active addiction which would soon pave the path for her own developing problems and need for escapism. Alcohol abuse had always been the norm at home, and despite my father being absent from my life I was aware that he also had various issues. As I grew older it soon became apparent that not only one but both of my parents were addicts. Not seeing my father and only being brought up by my mother made her addiction more prominent. My mother was dependent on alcohol. She drank every single day which not only affected her, but stopped her from mothering her children.
Growing older with the alcoholic
The older I got, the more responsibility I took on. The emotional support I gave my mother, by skipping school to be with her, fetching drinks from the kitchen when asked, keeping an eye on my younger brothers and cousins and most tragically being her only friend, sitting and listening to her and doing everything I could to be there for her… and I did this all as a child.
The feeling of being restful was never there towards my mum as a child, mainly because I was too young to be able to identify the emotion, but I did have several feelings towards her. I felt sorry for her, and shared her desperate sadness but most of all I felt worry, that deep anxiety where you don’t know what is going to happen from one day to the next. My mother’s erratic and irrational behaviour when drunk would soon start to affect the way I acted around others, knowing that when at school or out of the house, I was hiding a depressing home life, hiding a secret that I lived in a torn and dysfunctional family.
The relationship between my mother and I
Living with an addict ended up with us moving around a lot. So I could never make friends or feel settled for long enough. As I was growing up life started to seem unfair as I would start to reflect on my earliest years. The damage caused started to take its toll upon the relationship between me and my mother. After years of living in houses full of arguments, fights, tears, heartache, embarrassment and despair things came to a head for me personally when I was 14. We had been moved from a refuge into a flat and I found myself struggling to go into school.
The insecurities I had developed because of my childhood made it almost impossible for me to feel comfortable around people my own age, so over time I became more and more lonely and finally stopped attending school. The thought of going in made me feel sick and before I knew it, I had been diagnosed with depression. Although not through use of drugs or alcohol, I soon started to develop my own addictive behaviours, mainly by restricting my food intake severely and obsessing over appearance. This was a way for me to have control whilst living a home life that was out of my hands.
The effects on the loved one
Mum’s choice to make changes later that year had the opposite effect on me than what one would expect. I dreamt of the day she would get clean. But the longer and longer she attended meetings and the more she changed her lifestyle the further we drifted apart. I had lost the mother I grew up with. The person who needed me didn’t seem to anymore and I found myself questioning my purpose. Just like when a child gets older and no longer plays with their toys, I felt left behind.
Recovery is just not for the addict
Things stayed like this for a long time living with an addict. I realised it was important to get my education and health back on track. Recovery is not just for the addict. It is the whole family who is in recovery when an addict makes the choice to get clean. Mum slipped up a couple of times in the first year of her recovery, but she is stronger now than ever. I have got my life back on track as well, pursuing a career in the music industry, writing and performing songs about my experiences and showing confidence in the person I have become.