Stuff

What It's Like to Grow Up with an Alcoholic Mum

It's an embarrassing, never-ending story that makes me feel like a cliché.

af Marianna Luisa Bukowska
10 marts 2015, 7:00am


This article originally appeared on VICE Germany

I know a bunch of alcoholics – habitual drinkers and binge drinkers. I also know lot of people who are children of alcoholics; I am one myself.

However, most personal accounts of living with alcoholism that I've read – especially since the internet has been around – cling to a certain ridiculousness. You find yourself scrolling indefinitely – somewhere between sensationalism and click bait. You click on a meme and maybe even share the link because something about that blog should have moved or touched you, but you mostly feel embarrassed because, in reality, you are nothing but a cliché.

My mother always drank a lot. When she was young, it was normal. Her friends called her "the Queen" because she was always the centre of attention. Both her and my dad were musicians and that meant they travelled a lot. I understand it sounds like a generalisation but to me, her extroverted personality and routine-free lifestyle provided the perfect ground for her alcoholism.

Things got infinitely worse once she and my dad broke up. She loved me and wanted to take care of me, but she was overwhelmed by the separation. My first memory is of a Christmas Day I spent crying because she's hit me. I'm sitting in the hallway of our apartment thinking about how she had been beating me up every day for weeks and I was hoping things would be different on that special day.

By now, my mother has become a teacher. When I'm sick she buys me stickers and candy. I like being sick, but she forgets about it when she drinks and still hits me. I lock myself in my room and she stands in front of the door, cursing and yelling at me to come out for hours.

In the mornings everything is okay: my mum buys me my favourite chocolate and if I bring up her beating me the evening before she says: "You're lying. I would never hit you. I love you too much to do that." She still believes that's the case today.

Her sickness gets worse with age. She still goes to work – she manages to keep it together that way – so I dread the weekends and her time off. During her time off, she drinks during the day and by the end of it, she often needs me to help her walk. As her condition worsens, she gets more paranoid. One day she decides to sprays insect repellant through the crack of our landlord's door, because she's convinced that he's poisoning our water.

Another memory I have is once walking into our living room on a Sunday. It's a big, tidy and light living room and my mother is sitting on the sofa starring at the cabinet on the wall. It's made of dark wood that's shining in the sunlight. "You," she says to the cabinet, 'I can see it now, you're made of gold."

She constantly comes up with rules and then forgets them. If I come home half an hour late, she screams at me for being a prostitute. I'm 16, she's 43. We go to expensive restaurants and she drinks before and after the meal. She accuses me of over-eating, then she complains I'm eating too little. She tells me that I'm fat so I stop eating. For about a year I eat half of a roll, a salad and six apples a day. If I eat more, I punish myself.

I'm 17, and I go on vacation with a friend. When I get back, she's in the hospital. Apparently, while I was away she suffered delirium tremens – a kind of epileptic attack that alcoholics get from withdrawal. She almost died. I am told she had delusions that I had died, dressed in black and walked from cemetery to cemetery, looking for my grave.

I visit her in the hospital, in the psych ward. She's sober for the first time in years. I don't recognise her. It's as if I actually have something like a mother instead of a monster. She paints me an owl.

It's autumn. She comes home and starts drinking again. I end up pouring the bottle of alcohol free champagne she brings down the drain. We sit in a restaurant and she wants to order wine, but I ask her not to do it. "Drink if you want but not when I'm around," I beg her. She orders wine and I leave.

I realise that alcohol is more important to her than I am. I realise that I can't help her. I realise that the addiction is stronger than me and that it always will be. I'm 18 so I move out.