After the death of my Father, aged 13, the isolation became immense. My elder Brother was away at school, and my Mother was in the grip of both alcohol misuse and grief.
I had friends at school and played a lot of sport, but somehow I just didn’t seem to connect. I am quite sure now that it was because that I was so used to keeping secrets, I wasn’t comfortable bringing them home, although I did get invited to their houses. The atmosphere was alien to me. At my home I was either studying or outside with my pony, there was no inter-action with my Mum, and without sounding self-pitying, I just was never close to her. I never had conversations about clothes, boys, make up or girlie things. I had been a Daddy’s girl and he was gone. I knew that she was drunk by tea time most days, so avoidance became the best tactic. She spent hours on the phone to her friends, all problem drinkers, but kept up appearances and played the victim well. The sympathy vote was resounding.
The first time I had a drink I got drunk. I had never tried or stolen any booze at home, but went on a skiing trip to Austria when I was 15. It was the first holiday without a parent, and the first time I had been further than the Isle of Wight. There were six formers on the trip, boys and girls and it all seemed terribly grown up and exciting.
This was also the first time that I became aware of my sexuality. When I look at teenagers now, I realize how incredibly naïve I was back then. There was one particular older boy, Robert, who was the school pin up and all round fabulous person, who just made me blush by looking at him, I had no idea why up until this trip. There was also a ski instructor called Higi, who seemed to want to discuss more than my skiing technique! For the first three days we just skiied and ate, but on the fourth day it was decided that we would go to a local bar. I had bought a dress with my pocket money that was totally inappropriate, and horrid actually, but I suppose at the time I thought it was trendy, mock snakeskin satiny thing very short. We arrived at the bar, I had managed to alienate all the girls with this ghastly tarty dress, coupled with the major attention of the boys, who were just being nice, I thought, buying me gluhwein.
The effect was immediate. I felt wonderful. I could for the first time ever string more than two eloquent sentences together, I could gain massive attention, all inhibitions and my inability to communicate were gone, in one fell swoop. I was the dancing queen and had the taste that would hound me for the rest of my life. Alcohol was my best friend ever.
There was of course fall out from this first experience as an instant alcoholic, I simply ignored. My training of the early years was that if something was unpalatable or awkward, one didn’t talk about it, but just brushed it aside and carried on. I couldn’t remember the end of the evening, and I didn’t sleep with anyone, but only because the one on my radar Robert, was a gentleman and guided me back to the girls quarters. So from thereon-in, I became a reject to the girls, a loose tart to the boys, and a walking disaster to the teachers on the trip, but I had found the love of my life, and was quite clear why my Mother drank so much. It was perfect, and attention gained from it was for me, exquisite.
I did feel ashamed, but that soon evaporated when I had another drink to compensate. My course was set, and although I really didn’t drink heavily until I left school, I collected another reason to be secretive and deceptive.
I left school at sixteen with my ‘O’ levels, I had wanted to be a vet, but my Mother had now decided that she really had had enough of me, and rather than hide it made it clear, that the sooner I went the better, the responsibility for this fiery teenage who was now beginning to question her behaviour was far too much to bear.
She began to line up suitable men to take me off her hands. Unfortunately, her choices were not drinkers or enablers, so the best laid plans became the pattern of my life, chaotic.
Instant Alcoholism is not uncommon, although it can lay dormant for many years. A trigger or change of lifestyle can just suddenly ignite it. I have one client Annie, who, like me had got so drunk on her 16th birthday that she had been too frightened to pick up a glass again until she was 36.
It also turned out that she suffers from depression and bi-polar. At 36 she drank again, with fairly disastrous results. None of her mental health issues had been addressed or recognized and it wasn’t until she was in early stage liver failure that each was diagnosed. Very often it is not just the desire to drink, but sadly that presents as the main cause of such chaotic behaviour. Drinking was the tipping point for her other problems to become unmanageable. She became vicious, aggressive and hazardous from being as she put it ‘Just an oddity.’ I am very pleased to report that she is well now and possibly the most brilliant purveyor of Excel spreadsheets that I have ever met!