Part Two: Family is nothing and yet family is everything?
Within only a few weeks of me quitting the booze my Mum was hospitalised. That period marked the beginning of the end of what had been a long, slow and tragic decline in her health and which would ultimately lead to her passing in March this year.
I wasn’t drinking, but my father was and he was drinking a lot. As Mum’s live-in Carer, this really wasn’t on and the safeguarding implications plagued me daily. A few weeks later, in a very difficult move that most likely led to my later conscious decision to cut down my relationship with him, I called in Adult Social Services. Despite seeing a green bin half full of empty lager cans, they did not pursue my concerns and I was left to suck up the fall out.
I have no regrets that I took this stand, but in addition to trying to deal with a painful estrangement from my brother, it was an emotionally challenging and stressful time. I have much to thank my brother for and I’m unsure where life may have led me had he not been instrumental in getting me through the doors of alcohol support services in February 2016. Sadly though, it wasn’t long before the wheels started to fall off our sibling connection and we have had little, to no contact for almost two years.
Over time, I have been given to understand that it is not unusual for estrangements to result when people embark on making huge life changes.
‘You don’t know this new me; I put back my pieces differently’.
Nevertheless, it was a period when I felt very alone battling red tape in an attempt to protect my Mum.
There followed more dark days in the year leading up to and following her death; days when I could barely tolerate being in the company of my father or my brother. At times my resilience was desperately compromised and coping mechanisms questionable. I would brave the unavoidable contact necessary whilst my mother’s health continued to fail and whilst a nursing home needed to be arranged. I then carved out my own routine for visiting her and in order to avoid them, generally leaving them to do what they felt they needed to do to maintain their desired control of the situation.
I’d like to say I was a tower of strength, but sadly the months did not pass without my own private, ugly and painful meltdowns; times when all I wished for was some available method of climbing inside my own body and scraping out the pain.
There were similarly days when every fibre of my being screamed for the one thing that had been my only comfort; that ‘one drink’ to blur out the edges of the troubled times and eventually black out reality. But for every day the voice screamed at me to take that one drink, I screamed back louder how I wanted sobriety far more.
Very few people in my life at that time were aware of, or understood any of these struggles. Families can indeed be fraught with complicated dynamics, but there were certain things I still struggle to come to terms with; not least that I was not with Mum when she passed away, when I could have been.
It so often felt to me that I meant nothing to my family; the very people I desperately needed to care about me either didn’t, or didn’t have the capacity to show it. I would repeatedly navigate the same circles hoping for a different outcome, but invariably be the one left alone and hurting. In reality of course, I did recognise that I was blessed with family who meant everything, family who gave without condition and who loved without judgement.
In the background my Mum’s sister was a constant. She let me scream, shout and cry down the phone whilst remaining a source of support, never judging and simply allowing a safe place for irrational, emotionally charged ramblings before calm would be restored when she would offer measured, genuine advice. It was my closest cousin who came immediately and without question, sitting with me whilst I sobbed broken hearted by my mother’s graveside after finding her headstone had been ordered, designed and erected without my having any knowledge of it.
And from my three children I have learnt more about the capacity for forgiveness than I would have ever thought possible. Whilst I know there are really not enough ‘sorry’s’ to change the past, I also know that it is every ‘next’ day I spend sober and offer them back the Mum I was always meant to be, that fuels their continued love, forgiveness and support.
It is these three incredible individuals who are my #why.
Every. Single. Day.
Continue Reading: Hitting 50 and still partying like it’s 1999.
About our author:
In her own words, Kathryn is:
An over qualified @drunk, sobering up with effect 11th February 2016. #Fitmummy to Elinor, Alys and Isaac; aspiring athlete with race goals to smash and shit heavy weights to lift; running freak and triathlete in training; passionate bore for all things health, wellbeing and nutrition related.
Eating clean in my narcissist-free zone; surviving domestic abuse and happily giving romance a whole fresh chance.
Nothing changes if nothing changes.
These are the days of my life.