Real Voices interview: Catherine
Student with parents living with addiction
How has addiction affected you?
Both my parents were addicted to alcohol, but my mum’s been in recovery for 18 years. I’m 15 now, so I never saw her drink. My dad was also addicted to gambling and sex, and he was a bulimic.
What was it like growing up?
My parents were divorced when I was two. I saw my dad every other weekend, but he usually dropped me at the childminder’s so he could drink. He drank all the time, early in the morning and late at night, but he thought I only noticed him having one drink. There would be an unopened bottle, then it would be by the bin, empty, an hour later. There were empty bottles everywhere. I thought he was choosing not to stop. I was always worrying about him, about where he was.
What was the impact on you?
I threw myself into my school work more so as not to end up like him. It also affected my confidence in school, and I was bullied. I did whatever anyone else wanted me to do. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. When I was nine, my mum took me to an Alateen meeting [for teenage relatives and friends of alcoholics]. That was when I realised that dad had a proper problem. After that, it was harder to watch him do it.
What happened next?
When I was ten dad moved to Spain without telling me, and that spurred me on to go to more Alateen meetings. I saw him a couple more times at a restaurant near mum’s house. I felt a lot of anger and disappointment. I wanted what other children had with their dads – to have him there, now he sends birthday and Christmas cards with messages that he knows will get to me, like “your nan wants to see you”, or saying that he’ll give me presents when he sees me. But I don’t believe him anymore.
Could you have a relationship with him again?
If he went to Alcoholics Anonymous and got better, I could have a relationship with him. But I’d have to have a lot of proof. I’d have to see him working on his own programme.
Where is he now?
We don’t know.