“When it comes to alcoholism and drugs, it should be a different issue. They’re self-inflicted and shouldn’t be an issue. They’re not real disabilities“.
I was talking to my mother about the government debate on mental health earlier. She seemed pretty uninterested, which disappointed me; it’s a subject painfully close to my heart, and it’s the government who decide my fate, after all. My mother is always panicking over my DLA, convinced that when I get called into the inevitable assessment my benefits will be either dramatically cut, or removed entirely. Personally, I try not to think about it. I am scared, but worrying about something which might not happen doesn’t seem the best way to deal with that fear.
While I was trying to speak to her and attempting to explain how I’m dubious about any changes being made. I said, “I’ll believe it when they stop taking innocent people off benefits”, and she replied with the quote above.
Considering my own problems with addiction, I took the comment quite personally. It took me a long time to understand why my mother was so biased against those who rely on substances; now I know the extent of my father’s alcoholism and my auntie’s spiral into days spent in bed with a bottle while my cousins raised themselves, and I get it somewhat. However, I can’t entirely comprehend her prejudice. My mother doesn’t know much about my past – I’ve purposely kept it that way to protect her because I don’t think she could cope with it – and certainly doesn’t know I still take drugs. She doesn’t know I’ve ever touched them, as far as I’m aware.
My father hit her. He pushed her down the stairs and tried to throw my sister E out of the bedroom window whilst high on something. He still drinks, and shouts abuse at her when he visits. I totally understand why she’d have such a bias against alcoholics; my dad is an idiot. My aunt is a sanctimonious woman who judged my mother for leaving my father and raising myself and my three siblings on her own, yet she drank and didn’t look after her children until they were older, and she had been in a violent relationship herself. Neither of those relations were great adverts for those struggling with addiction. They don’t exactly make themselves likeable.
However, I just wish she’d understand. I wish she’d see what’s right under her own nose; her own daughter is struggling with painkiller addiction. The girl she gave birth to has used alcohol to block out feelings.
Alcoholism runs in my family. I’m unsure if there’s a genetic link, or whether we’re just copying the behaviour of relatives. My father left before I was born so I don’t know how much of his violence and drinking I got to see. Sometimes I’d stay over at his tiny, cramped bedsit in Liverpool and he’d drink constantly from a plastic water bottle. Once, I tasted it; it was disgusting, like it had gone off. With hindsight I recognise the taste of cheap wine.
I loved staying with him. The house his bedsit was in felt huge, like a massive labyrith. My father lived right at the top, in a bedsit not much bigger than my mother’s living room, with a wonky ceiling and old sash windows, a mahogany wardrobe, sofa and table in front of an old two-bar gas fire, a tiny black-and-white tv and a double bed tucked in a corner. At night, I’d lie in that bed under a floral duvet and listen to the police sirens in the night.
We’d sit and watch Casualty in monochrome and eat spring rolls with soy sauce. Sometimes, he cooked chicken legs and wrapped them in foil with garlic and we’d have a picnic in the nearby park. I’d sit with my feet in the lake, watching men throwing fishing poles into the water and groups of teenagers smoking on the benches, and I’d think how much cooler my father was than my mother.
Dad let me swear. Only words like “arse” and “bloody” but, to my pre-teen self, it felt like a delicious freedom. He let me stay up late, and often took me on midnight walks around the area he lived in. We’d amble past graffiti’d walls and late-night takeaways, alleyways filled with rubbish and an abandoned nightclub. I loved that club; the walls were smooth with fake-marble tiles which were always cold to the touch and shone under the dim light from the old concrete lamp posts. Or we’d walk through the park, avoiding the teens smoking dope, drug-dealings, couples looking for somewhere private and lone men, just standing around, and we’d go to the lake. Together, we’d sit on a bench and talk about the strangest things. Time-travel. Cannabilism. Space-travel. Ghost stories. Indian food.
Once we were talking by the lake at 2am on a Saturday night and my father told me that if we were ever stranded at sea, I could eat him to survive.
I think it was the nicest thing he’s ever said to me.
Sometimes, I want to confess everything to my mother. How I once vomited from snorting too much coke. How I kept a bottle of gin under my bed when I was fourteen, and used to take a Pepsi bottle full of vodka with me to college when I was seventeen. I want to tell her about the day I realised I was addicted to morphine, and how I only stopped taking it because J prevented me from getting any. I want to explain why I once took twenty co-codamol pills in a day; not because I wanted to die, but because I was so reliant on them that it took huge amounts to get any feeling from it.
I can’t tell her any of these things. Because she just wouldn’t understand.