My mum was an alcoholic
For Terri, growing up with an alcoholic parent was hard enough, but it wasn’t until her mother kicked her out during her A-levels that she really felt the effects of years of neglect.
I was always late for school because mum was too hung over to get out of bed. It was just the two of us, so I’d dress myself, make my packed lunch, and tidy up the empty wine bottles. Otherwise she’d be annoyed when she woke up. I was five years old.
Looking after me made mum angry. When I was six she stopped bathing me because it interfered with her drinking time. She would start at 4pm – usually wine — but later she moved on to vodka, sometimes two litres a day. Once the neighbour noticed I had stuff in my hair. It turned out to be shampoo – I didn’t know how to wash myself properly at that time.
When I was seven she said she’d stop drinking, but I still found empty bottles in the rubbish. I often played at my friends’ house because I couldn’t play around a drunk mum. Their mum saw I was upset and spoke to her about it. Mum was so angry with me afterwards that I never mentioned alcohol again.
We never had any money; it all went on booze. I looked like a rag kid. My socks were full of holes and I stopped wearing underwear because the elastic broke. My mum would bring back different men to the house. I would stay out of her way and do the chores. She was always ill, with boils all over her body. She managed to work part-time, on and off, in a pub.
I worked hard at school, but my reading suffered. I had to fake mum’s signature in my reading book because she wouldn’t read with me. My teachers never commented, even though mum’s since admitted she went to parents’ evenings drunk. As I got older, I felt angry all the time.
Mum remarried and my step-dad had a bad effect on her. I know now the reason she drank was because she was sexually abused by her own step-father as a child. She had nightmares about it; the drink kept them away. For some reason, me having a step-dad brought the memories back and tipped her over the edge.
One day after school, she kicked me out. I was 17 and studying A-Levels. Despite everything, I was ambitious and wanted to be a doctor. But mum told me I had to leave straight away. I was so shocked I collected a few things and left in silence.
I didn’t know where to go. I was so frightened and slept rough that night.
I’d recently started seeing a boy, so I went to his parents’ house the next day. They put me in touch with a local charity, the Banbury Young Homelessness Project. At first they called mum to try and mediate, but she wasn’t interested. That’s when it really hit me. I’d supported my mum all these years and she’d kicked me out when I really needed to be settled. It was the worst rejection. I cried for months and dropped out of college.
I went to see my nan two months later, she didn’t even know I wasn’t living at home – my mum hadn’t told her. I didn’t see my mum for about a year after that.
The charity found me a room in a hostel and eventually got me back into education. Since then I’ve been to uni and I’m now a registered social worker.
Recently, I’ve helped my mum get better. She’d reached breaking point with her drinking. I told her: “One day you’ll die from this. I’m going to have to live with that and I’ve already prepared myself.” A week later she stopped. I could hate her forever, but it won’t get us anywhere.
Terri supports the work of Coap, who helped with this article: www.coap.org.uk
By Gabriella Jozwiak
Updated on 29-Sep-2015
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