I am an alcoholic, and adult child of chronic alcoholic parents. Alcoholism was a normality and commonplace in the community I was born into. Not only were my parent’s alcoholics, but also were my grandparents, close aunts and uncles, family friends, next door neighbors, and many of the everyday people that lived around my locality.
My youngest sister was born with alcohol fetal syndrome and my second sister died recently from a lifelong bout of alcoholism. As a small child I was given alcohol for some of the same reasons they give drugs like Ritalin to children today. It was no big deal to see me drinking a bottle of beer in the evening at seven years old. I can still remember the first time I got really drunk at that age. What stands out most about the experience was that the alcohol allowed me to feel no physical pain.
My mother drank as if nothing else mattered in life. I think her drinking was part of the reason my father abandoned our family. His leaving also caused her alcohol intake to escalate. She would drink straight from the bottle, putting down as much as she could with that first drink. More than half the fifth would be gone. She would then light that cigarette and pass out before it was finished. We children became use to staying up late or being awaken in the middle of the night to find the bottle she had hidden from us kids so we wouldn’t hide it from her. Many times she woke us to put out the fires which were sometimes over-whelming and the fire dept. had to be called. One time she burnt herself so severely while passed out, it altered the kinds of clothes she could wear.
As I got older it felt as if I didn’t have parents. It had come to us children to be the parent of the parent. There was no one there to tell me what, when, where or why. I’d go to school – most days tired, hungry, and detached, but still on alert whenever I heard sirens in the distance. Many times when I got home, first thing I would do was look up at the windows. If they were black or broken I knew there had been a fire. It was not unusual to find my mother either passed out or knocked out lying on the floor with cuts, lumps, and bruises all over from just trying to make it to the bathroom. I wouldn’t bring friends home because of what I knew might be happening. There were people that knew of her condition which made her and us children easy targets. All was needed was to show up with a bottle. I’m ashamed to say that despicable, despising and inconceivable destructiveness that was forced upon us.
As time went on her condition became inconceivable. I remember her shaking constantly, and when asked why, she would respond with, “it’s just nerves” but later I found out it was the early stages of DDT’s. She would have massive seizures totally incapacitating her for weeks. She would be in a dream state, not being able to see us even though her eyes would be open, or hear and talk to us, feed herself, or use the bathroom on her own. We had no clue as to that was going on. All we knew was that mom was sick, again! After a while one of us had to stay with her at all times. We never knew when someone would show up with a bottle. Even though she was sick, she was still the mother and we had to do as she said. Once a month a welfare check would show up. The same thing would happen each time. Mom would get some food for the house and then cut herself off a chunk so she could drink for maybe a week or so.
I never noticed until I was much older that my mother had never left the house by herself no matter what. She would always take someone with her. The reason was because, when she was around 25 years old, and after her four children were born, she left a friends’ house that lived less than a hundred yards away across the street, and while walking home, as she had done from the time she was a young girl, an alcoholic transient came out of nowhere, abducting her, dragging her into an ally, beating and raping her and leaving her for dead. Her life was finished at that point. She never was able to enjoy her marriage, her children, family, and friends or see what was beyond the neighborhood she was born into. Alcoholism became all those things to her. She passed away at 38 years old one night while we four children stood around her bed and watched her take her last breath.
Even after witnessing firsthand the devastating effects alcohol can have on a person’s life, I still gave it access and permission to take mine. Today my two remaining sisters bear the scars left behind from their childhood encounters with alcoholism. They both have massive brain tumors, and one which can’t be operated on. Myself, I’ve been in therapy now for about twenty five years trying to find a way to deal with my pain, and so far alcohol has been my on the spot pain killer, but is always leaves behind a residue like the one that brought me to prison. So far being locked away from it has been the only thing that keeps me from drinking. The same thing has been happening for some ten years now. I’m really terrified! I’ll be leaving this safe haven in a few months and I know that king alcohol is waiting at the front gate to give me a ride home, but I’m going to tell him that I’ve already called HP taxi service for a ride. -Paul