My mother is killing herself, and there’s nothing that anyone can do about it.
This isn’t everything, this isn’t even 10%, but I’ll set the scene for you. I know people’s opinions and views become distorted, and people twist things over time, but I’m reassured by others that this is not the case here.
In 2001 my mum started drinking. At least I think it was 2001, my memories from my childhood are hazy as I’ve blocked out so much, but I’m pretty sure that was the year. It started following a court case and an unwanted verdict. I remember her sitting with a bottle of wine and a straw on the sofa and the more she drank, the more she giggled. It didn’t take long for her to get drunk and at the time, it was amusing as I’d never seen her like that. You see, I hadn’t grown up with alcohol. My parents had a drinks cabinet but never drank and my mum instead claimed to be a born-again Christian and was exceptionally strict. Growing up without alcohol wasn’t a bad thing. I wasn’t interested in parties and booze, and I was actually proud of the fact they didn’t drink. Weird huh? Anyway, back to 2001 and a bit more preamble.
It was only a short time before I became angry. She had broken her promise and everything negative about her was heightened to me.Things fell apart quickly and my mum changed. I can’t remember if this was before or after she started drinking, but she used the September 2011 attacks as an excuse to sit on her laptop all day spouting religious vitriol in websites. She would get up in the morning at 7am, sit on the laptop, take the kids to school (usually late) and then spend all day on the internet. She didn’t like any of us to go out. We went to school miles away and weren’t allowed to go to friends’ houses, to sports events, after school clubs, anything… Thing is, when I did have the chance to go out she would make such a scene that I daren’t go.
Because I never grew up with alcohol, I didn’t even have my first drink until my 21st birthday (that’s another story), but when I was 18 my mother started to accuse me of stealing alcohol from the drinks cabinet. I was furious. I hated being called a liar. Hated it. It was the final punch in a long assault, and following an argument, I left and moved to Banbury (and in with my then partner). Freedom. I can’t explain what it felt like. I was free from constant scrutiny and was finally able to exhale. I didn’t have her screaming at me. Asking me to do the housework, go to the co-op and buy food. I didn’t have my two sisters getting into my bed in the middle of the night (aged 7 and 3) because they wanted a cuddle they never got from mum. It was a strange feeling.
I saw my mum a few months later when my parents separated (again, they had previously divorced and re-married) and she assaulted my dad. I went over and can remember sitting at the circular dining table while she smoked and laughed at how she had attacked him for having an affair. She has angina, and she recalled having an attack, dad carrying her back in the house to medicate her and then, once able, attacking him again. I couldn’t laugh. Words didn’t come and yet she leaned in and stared at me, saying: ‘you remember when he used to beat me, don’t you’.
No. No I don’t. I never, ever, saw dad lay a hand on her. Sure he would hit the kids (overzealously) and she would hit us with a riding crop, or strangle us for scratching her pots and pans when washing up, but never did he raise a hand. He was a mouse. He still is a mouse. He would work long hours and then when at home sit in front of the computer and not talk to anyone before going to bed. We were an inconvenience to him.
After that night, when I refused to lie for her, I kept my distance and she cut me out of her life. My parents reconciled and I started to get abusive phone calls. Looking back, she was clearly drinking, but at the time as an 18 year old estranged from her parents, I didn’t have a clue what was going on. She blamed me for my dad’s affair, said that I should have told her about it. It became this warped scenario in her head. The only family member I had to vent to was my beloved nan. My dad’s mum, she was patient, understanding, and guided me. But they were being punished for my dad’s affair too. My mum stopped letting them see their grandchildren. Their crime was loving their son and not getting behind her when she attacked him and he left.
After 5 years, I received a phone call from mum (out of the blue). She’d heard about my job and wanted to meet me. I agreed to go and see her en route home from training one day. Walking into the house, I was gut-punched. My memories of a spotless house were replaced with grime and chaos. Piles of dirty clothes in the hallway, stained carpets, and a mattress on the living room floor. I didn’t know what to say or do. Everything was crumbing and with hindsight, I should have realised what was wrong, that the demon drug alcohol had its grip on my mother. I didn’t. I was still clouded by anger at her behaviour, and after 5 years it was still a festering wound. She had cut me off from my brothers and sisters. I had spent nights, weeks, months, crying and being comforted by my nan.
We both made a bit more of an effort after then though. I would drive down to see her ( but she never came up to see me) and I would sit patiently in the kitchen while she smoked and poured an orange juice and vodka at 10am. For about 2 years I kept this up, but her lies and behaviour continued to grate. Now it would be unfair of me to say that nothing good came from that time. I reconnected with my siblings (of which there are 8) and met my little brother for the first time. My mum actually helped me too. When I separated from my partner and bought him out of the house, she helped me with money and gave me £120 a month, and this happened for about 8 months. But she would lie over ridiculous little things and started having affairs. First with a businessman and then with the man she’s still with, and as everything fell down and she became bankrupt, I stupidly gave her the use of one of my bank accounts. I still wanted her approval and love. Stupid really. Little did I know that a few months later I’d be paying off a £500 overdraft that she ran up without a care in the world. I told her not to use the overdraft, and instead she laughed and called it her ‘play money’ and continued to spend money on a computer game called Second Life, and cigarettes and yet more alcohol at the co-op.
At my wedding (just prior to bankruptcy) she told numerous guests (who in turn told me) that she had paid for the entire day. She was drunk, loud, abrasive and embarrassing. Considering she had just spent £500 of my overdraft on trinkets, I was angry and upset again. No, she didn’t pay for the entire thing. I received £800 in total from my parents towards the wedding and this was during a time when my dad earned 6-8k a month. No, I realise they didn’t have to give me anything, but telling guests that they paid for everything was another lie. One there was no need to tell. What could it gain? Why? I still don’t understand.
A year later my 16 year old sister came to live with me. At her 16th birthday party my husband and I arrived to see my mother completely inebriated and unable to take care of 80 young adults. She was so drunk that we couldn’t leave the party until much later than planned, because we didn’t want to leave young adults alone with someone who was unable to care for them. She stood in the kitchen that day with her adult neighbours, telling them about how she wrote, how she sewed, how she had two degrees from Oxford University. All of it lies.
Three days later my sister moved in. At her birthday party my mum had, whilst intoxicated and after we’d left, thrown crockery at her and then strangled her in the presence of her friends. It didn’t stop there. The following day she continued to assault my sister and when my sister hit her back, my mother became the victim. Of course she told everyone: the school, family, friends, that my sister had attacked her viciously and without reason. In my mother’s mind, my sister was a violent monster, and in my mother’s words, godless.
It makes me angry to look back and see the depressed, quiet, broken teenager that came to live with us. She was too frightened to tell us when something broke as she was worried we’d hit her. She didn’t know how to hug or love and she didn’t trust us. It took nearly two years to earn her trust and love and she’s now the most beautiful girl I know. I can’t explain in one blog post what years of living with my mother’s alcohol abuse and unloving, narcissistic nature did to her, did to all of us.I saw mum twice after that. Once when I went to collect my sister’s belongings and her partner went to hit me – my husband had to shield me, and then once when was drunk and vulnerable at Christmas. She asked to be taken to the cashpoint where she withdrew money and tried to give it to me. It upset me more than I can ever explain. You can’t buy love, mum.
My mother now drinks a 750ml bottle of wine a day, and most weeks will also drink 2 bottles of spirits on top of that.
She’s 5’4 and less than 7 stone. She doesn’t eat.
She bruises easily. Her psoriasis is bad and she’s constantly cold.
She cannot go a day without drinking.
Her partner tells her that there’s nothing wrong with her, and he drives her to buy her wine.
She cries when a bottle of wine gets accidentally smashed.
She doesn’t accept she has a problem.
She will be dead soon, and there’s nothing we can do.