‘I loved her and hated her with equal measure.’ When I read this story in the Guardian describing the experience of living with an alcoholic parent, it reminded me of recent conversations I have with students whose experience echoes that of the writer . Last week a student talked about her mother’s erratic behaviour when she is drunk, she talked about witnessing domestic violence, the way her parents behaved when they were both drunk and feeling protective towards her younger siblings. She seemed mature beyond her years, yet inside she is still a child wanting things to be different. It occurred to me that this was the real reason behind her attempt to self-harm some months ago when she was first referred for counselling. I asked her if this was the case. ‘yes’, she replied but I couldn’t tell you that at the time.
This week another student talked about the love hate relationship he had with his alcoholic mother and how for many years he felt protective towards her, he described some of the incidents he had witnessed, the lies he told to protect her. More recently he is starting to feel angry when he reflects on his childhood experiences, he is feeling angry has decided that he does not want to talk to her or see her. He needs a break to sort out his own future.
There are many children living a with alcoholic parents who perhaps feel ashamed to talk to anyone about what is going on at home, they live in fear of going home at the end of the school day. They will be the parents for their siblings, they live in fear of violence and abuse because of their parents alcoholism. All they want is to be safe, loved and to be children. My conversations with these students will continue. Thank you for writing this story.