I am not sure whether or not I was born to be alcoholic, the jury is still out from my point of view on the genetic connection. There is very strong arguments for this to be the case and indeed both my parents were alcoholic. There is a common thread through the family tree of vague causes of death too, which could quite easily have been connected to booze. My Father died of cirrhosis at 57, my Mother of early onset dementia, and heart failure at 62, attributed to heavy drinking. But I ask is it genetic or is it learnt behaviour?
I am a twin. I first experience of tragedy caused indirectly by drinking, was the death of my twin brother Andrew, aged 22 months. My Mother and Father had been invited to a cocktail party, and for some reason decided to take us along. The venue was near an old Mill, with pond, Andrew fell in and drowned. I shall never know why we were anywhere near the water, but the event and the subsequent grief throughout my Mother’s and my life were searingly painful. To lose a child is possibly the worst experience any parent can have, but the circumstances of that death must be truly haunting. For me, I felt constantly that the wrong twin drowned, that it should have been me. I have an elder brother, but there was something that nagged me all my childhood about the fairness I suppose of me still being alive. On Andrew’s gravestone, it reads, ‘A borrowed treasure.’
No one could get over this, but my Mother really did become a different person, distant. My Father just drank and worked harder. Neither decided that it might be a good idea to cut down on the sauce. As I did in my drinking days, they drank on anything, good news, bad news, upset or celebration. There was another ‘accident’ this time with me. My Uncle’s dog bit my face badly, at a Sunday lunchtime drinks party. I had to have plastic surgery to correct the damage.
It was not the greatest of starts in life but I never questioned either of them about it. My Father died when I was 13, so perhaps an in depth conversation with him would have been inappropriate when I was so young, but my Mother was never approachable on the subject, ever. Not the death of my brother, nor my Father. Excuse the pun, our family just bottled everything up, hid feelings, kept secrets. I remember little of my toddler hood, only that I rarely spent any time with my Mother, just a Nanny, who I think was brought in because Mum just couldn’t cope.
The lack of communication and secrets and lies were to shape my teenage years, and the beginning of my drinking career, and later when I heard the words in an alcoholic haze from my husband to my son ‘Shhhhh, Mama is sleeping’ those long lost memories of my Mother prostrate came flooding back.
The scene was set for my teenage years, my inner loss and loneliness was to shape my personality on an epic scale.