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“A problem shared, is a problem halved”.
Often we can become so wrapped up with caring for the person suffering with the addiction that we actually begin to forget about looking after ourselves. We wake up each morning hoping that today would be the day that our parent stops drinking, takes that last sip and puts the bottle down for us. Due to the power of alcohol, our parent finds it tough to see that they have a problem and look for those around them to blame. We go to sleep wishing and hoping that tomorrow would instead be the day that they become free from the monster of addiction. Our life becomes a process of continuous hope.
Ever since I was a young age all I can recall is waking up to see my Mum asleep with a bottle of wine gripped in her hand. There were often good times, laughs, and cuddles – the things I hold on to- but not many. Children need to feel loved and protected. There were many of times when I didn’t feel either of these by my Mum. As time passed, I cannot remember a time when there would be a full bottle of wine left in the fridge. As a young child, seeing my Mum turn in to a monster became too much to bare. My heart sank in to my chest as the promise of stopping drinking, was broken. My hopes were shattered.
I felt that I could not talk to anyone about the alcohol addiction; it became so powerful that I felt stuck in a process of looking and caring after my Mum. There was little time to study at the beginning of secondary school, little time to socialise, and no time to think about me. My self-esteem and confidence became crushed and in turn my life became a matter of living it for Mum. A responsibility that no child or Young Person should ever have to do. But unfortunately, what many people often are familiar with.
For a long time, I believed that there was no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. After years of believing that the addiction would get better and that I would soon see my Mum without alcohol, I became tired as the situation became worse. I believed that because I did not have the addiction myself, there was no help available for me. I believed that if I shared my story, my Mum would get in to trouble so I didn’t. I believed all the lies, guilt and stories my Mum used to tell me when she was drunk. I believed that my Mum drank because of me. I believed that it was all my fault. I believed that if I was not there to care for my Mum, then nobody else was. As a child of a parent with an addiction, we often grow up to believe them and the stories they tell. The continuous cycle of not feeling important or valued.
The turning point was undoubtedly receiving help and support – it feels clear to me now that the tough experiences we go through in life only give us the strength to reach success. Now, I believe there was and is hope. Although the time never came when my Mum became sober, I believe that deep down she did love me but unfortunately had an addiction she could not control. I believe that the addiction was too strong. I believe that although the addiction was not mine, there is support available for those affected. I believe that we are all survivors. I believe that I did not do it alone, that without my personal experience, the help and support given, I would not be half the person I am today. I truly believe that Children of Addicted Parents and People are never alone. There is hope.
“I am the Child of an Alcoholic”, I tapped in to Google. 3 years ago at the age of 15 I decided it was time I began putting my own needs first and became a member of COAP (Children Of Addicted Parents and People). I felt truly drained and ran out of hope as most nights were spent with tears. Reading similar stories to my own online, speaking to a counsellor and mentors, I could not believe the warmth I felt. It was difficult to share my personal story initially as tears often ran down my face, but the more I shared the more peace I felt. The more I shared, the more I knew I would also be helping someone else.
Life had undoubtedly been an emotional rollercoaster. In April 2013, I unfortunately lost my Mum to alcoholism and the sadness I had felt became almost unbearable. Suddenly the worrying, crying, becoming angry and being anxious regarding my Mum’s drinking, all stopped. The question “who do I care for now?” often popped in to my mind. I knew that COAP would always be there for me – I have always called it “my second home”. I shared my experiences on the online message boards and I was reassured that I was too important and that putting my own needs first were essential. The person I needed to care for, was me. I felt valued. I learnt that I did not need to smile all of the time; that it was OK to cry and think about myself. Losing Mum, I felt I lost me. COAP found my self-esteem again and has contributed to the success I am experiencing now.
As a child and young person of a parent/ person with an addiction, we can often feel that we would never experience a peaceful life. My life seemed to resolve around chaos - it became one thing after another. I did not believe that I would ever reach my goal. Living with Mum I did not feel I had the time to even think about my career, let alone how I would get there. COAP and the secondary school I attended provided me great support and the ability to move forwards to achieve my GCSE’s, A-Levels and in to my degree in Sports. From the support I have personally received previously and now currently, reaching my goal of becoming a PE teacher seems possible. Currently as a Mentor of COAP, reaching my goal of helping other Young People with Parental Addiction has been achieved.
As a child of an addicted parent, I often felt my significant aim was to save my Mum from the addiction, the pride I feel now to say “my goal is for me” is almost unreal. Sharing strength and hope to Children and Young People and reassuring members that they are not alone, is a moment I never thought I would experience.
COAP saved me. I saved myself. I am a survivor.
Remember, “the best way to predict the future it to create it”.
E123 – Mentor.