Children of alcoholics awareness week

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Is tonight the night? It hasn’t been one of “those” nights for a few days now, is it normal daddy again?

Those are the types of questions I would ask myself at age 7 hiding under my duvet with all my toys pushed up to my bedroom door after hearing my father walk through the front door after days of not seeing his family. Unlike the movies, fairytales and happy ever afters, we were not greeted by our “daddy” we were greeted by a nasty man who looked like our daddy but did not behave like one. At this age we (myself and my younger two sisters) were completely unaware of why daddy was nice during the day and why at night time he would smash our belongings and beat our mother downstairs whilst we cried under our duvets upstairs praying it would soon be time to go to school. But unfortunately school time was hours away and we had to endeavour the pain that was to abide by our mothers instructions, to not come out of our rooms until morning, whilst listening to arguing, screaming and shouting and our mothers cry downstairs being repetitively smacked, punched, spat at by our drunk father. One night my sister did not abide by the rules. She was red lighted to a and e with a fractured skull. Some nights he would just come home and go straight to bed, some nights we would be woken up in the middle of the night to him “sleep walking” into our bedroom and using our personal belongings (toys, clothes, memories) as a toilet.

Then the bullying at school started. You’re different, you’re weird, your mum and dad don’t love you because they never pick you up. Your mum didn’t send you to school with a lunch so you’re on the school dinner table today aren’t you. They did not understand what was going on at home, why would they? I didn’t understand it myself. I was 7 years old. I didn’t know why my father came into my room last night and urinated all over my dressing table and why I was in the same uniform as yesterday. The receptionist at our school cared for us a lot, I knew that she knew what happened at home, but she never asked us if we knew and if we were OK. One day she came into my classroom and asked my teacher if I could go sit with her. When I got to her office my two little sisters were there too, they were playing with her toy box. Something was clearly wrong. She said “your mummy has called and she just remembered you have a dentist appointment to go to!” I did not understand what was going on, why would we be going to the dentist when we are at school, and why didn’t mum say anything about it this morning? This did not make sense. When our older sister arrived to pick us up, I knew we were not going to the dentist.

It was then, in the back of my sisters car, that I realised that my daddy was in fact the nasty man, morning, noon and night. My mum had been hiding that from us 3 little girls to protect us. He was drunk. In the middle of the day. My daddy.... trying to pick us 3 girls up from school in his car. It was this weekend that my mother decided to leave him. My two younger sisters were too little to remember what happened during that week, they would only know through being told at a later date. I watched him through the back of a car put a cut glass bottle to my mothers throat and watched him cut her cheeks with it. On other occasions I watched him through the back seat whilst he was in the drivers seat run my mother over whilst she was trying to stop him from driving with us, as little did we know he was intoxicated. I watched him lock me, my little sisters and my mum out of our home with nothing apart from what we stood in. I watched my mum build our new life from scratch in a new home away from him.

I can’t really describe the emotional damage you go through when being the child of an alcoholic. The bullying, the whispering, the secrets from even your family members to protect you. Comforting your younger sisters as they realise what is going on. The endless disappointments of the person you love so so much, and even in their darkest moments you continue to love them, because that’s not my daddy? Daddy’s are hero’s, little girls protectors, not women beaters? That’s just the alcohol, right? To this day my father never proved that thought process right. He continues to this day to disappoint me.

I fast forward 12 years when I was 19 years old and had just given birth to my little boy, my fathers first grand child. I of course wanted to show my offspring to his grandad, to try and make him proud of me. To see if we could reconsolidate a relationship through my new born son. That did not happen. How foolish I was to even think that. I forward onto another 3 years, the present day, I am now 22 years old, I am a single mother, a home owner, a university graduate and I have an excellent career. He continues to drink and not be a part of my life. I would not be the woman I am today without my mother. Her bravery, strength, support, encouragement and guidance has made me the person I am today, without her I would have failed at every hurdle. She did so much within our childhood to protect us from the mass destruction that comes from addiction and credit where credit is due because back then there was very little support for the families affected by addiction, she had a young brood to look after on her own and she did an amazing job. I could not be more grateful for all the things she did and continues to do for me and my family. She is an inspiration and will always be my role model.

I grew up wondering if my fathers addiction would define me, like so many blogs and books I read. If you are the child of an alcoholic you are 8 times more likely to become one, apparently. Society does not do children of addicts any favours. It took me 21 years to accept that the books are wrong, I will never understand addiction. I will never understand my father. Why he did all those terrible things to us. I will not understand why I was never enough, and why he didn’t love me. I will never understand the thought processes, and lastly, I will never understand the way I still feel towards my father and desperately wish it could’ve been different.

I am not an alcoholic, or an addict, but I was the child of one. I then went onto marry an addict thinking that was the norm because of my upbringing and under belief that I could change him. Society and the professionals did me wrong. I had no support what so ever as a child to talk about what I witnessed and what I went through. I now suffer with server post traumatic stress. My fathers actions, behaviours and choices have impacted me, my life and my own behaviour massively.

My only worry in life now is that my 3 year old sweet innocent little boy has alcoholism and addiction on both sides of his family tree, and there is still such a lack of support for children like the 7 year old me and my little boy.

At 22, I founded SAVED. Supporting Addiction Victims Everyday. This year alone I have partnered with the NHS, won awards, been recognised across different counties, the following months will see saved spreading into other councils, and teaming with other organisations to support families and children that are going through something similar to what I have described today on 4 and 6 week long programmes.

I hope this brings some faith to other people going through something similar, to the children of addicted parents, their addiction will not define you. There is help and support available and my only goal and aspiration in life is to make that more accessible and a bigger mass to help the children of all addicted parents and the others affected by it.

Thank you for reading.

Madison Dunn