When mum or dad is an alcoholic
One in five children in the UK are said to be negatively affected by their parents’ drinking, and the effects can last well into adulthood. Four women – Karen, Liz, Hilary and Lynne – spoke to Jo Morris about growing up with a parent dependent on alcohol.
“Some people talk about what books they’ve read, or films they’ve been to see, but instead we talk about how drunk our parents were,” says Karen.
Karen and her friend Liz met at work in their late 20s and quickly bonded when they realised they had a shared history.
“It’s not the same talking to somebody who doesn’t know what it’s like,” says Liz.
Gallows humour helps to deal with the horrible memories. Like the time Liz’s mum sold her toys to get money for alcohol. Or the time Karen’s alcoholic dad went to the pub instead of collecting her from after-school club.
“It’s a bit like Top Trumps – alcoholic-parent Top Trumps,” Karen laughs.
They both remember dreading the walk home from school.
“It’s so disheartening,” says Karen. “You think: ‘OK, I’ve had a nice break at school, but here we go again. I’m going to be really polite and be really nice, make sure that I don’t say anything out of turn or give you any reason to have a go at me.'”
It was only when Liz was eight or nine that she noticed her friends did not have any such concerns and lived very different lives.
“I thought: ‘Oh, you have your dinner cooked for you? I don’t even have dinner.’
“That’s when you realise it’s horrendous and you feel very alone going through it.”
Once, her mum spent all her benefit money on alcohol, and all she could afford was a sack of potatoes.
“Potato weekend!” Liz laughs. “We literally had potatoes to live on for the weekend. So we had mashed potato, potato cakes, chips wrapped up in newspaper – she was very resourceful.”