The following Q&A session was between our Connecting Families Development Officer Richard Watson and the Friends and Families Lead of Turning Point John Taylor. John is here to chat about his new book ‘Alcohol Stole My Mum’, he shares his experiences, journey, and the process behind writing his book.
Alcohol Stole My Mum: Order a Copy – https://alcoholstolemymum.co.uk
Please note that there are some scenarios spoken about and language used in this Q&A that may cause upset to some people. We believe in letting speakers tell their truthful stories and using the language that is comfortable for them.
Q: What was it like to be a witness to domestic violence?
Out of everything that happened to me as that little boy, watching my mum being beaten by my dad is the one thing that has caused me more harm than anything else in my life. The day I came home from school and saw my mum lying in bed beaten to a pulp is the day my life changed. I shut down as that little boy and the world I was living in became a very unsafe place. I would even go as far as to say that there is still a part of me that is still shut down today because of that.
“I am so sorry I have let you down. So sorry. But I can’t stop drinking. I try my hardest but I can’t stop. It is the only thing that takes away the terrible thoughts in my head, the nightmare flashbacks that won’t leave me alone.
I feel so bad. I have never in a million years thought it would happen but I have ended up like my mum. I thought that because I had a job, I had a house, but most of all that I had a loving family that I would be okay. But I was wrong. The fact is girls, I have lost my mind.” – From Chapter 21, ‘Alcohol Stole My Mum’
Q: What is your relationship like with your daughters?
I would not be here if it was not for them. I would have not stopped drinking without them. I was a good dad who loved my girls but I had so much self-hatred that I couldn’t accept that people who love me and that I was a good person. My greatest ever achievement is being a dad.
Q: On reflection now, did alcohol stop you from being able to talk through your trauma?
I always had dark thoughts ever since I was young, thoughts my mum was going to die from one of her beatings. Thoughts that my dad was going to die when we lived with him then we would have no one. Using alcohol and drugs probably helped with the thoughts initially but as my addiction progressed, my thinking became uglier and the thoughts became darker as the panic attacks came. It seemed like a simple choice of ‘suicide or homicide.’ Drugs and alcohol sent me mad, like so many in my family.
My rock bottom was having thoughts that I could cause harm to the most precious thing in my life, my daughters. I was lucky that I was in rehab at the time and made myself vulnerable and told the psychiatrist what was going on in my head. This was the start of my recovery.
Q: You also recognise that you’ve ended up like your mum. I wonder did you think you wouldn’t? Did you hope you wouldn’t?
When I went into treatment, I so didn’t want to be a shameful alcoholic like my mum but I knew that I had gone mad with my thought process but could not tell anyone. In 2003, men did not talk about their mental health and I just got drunk and stoned to take the thoughts away. However, as the drinks and drugs stopped working, the emotional pain increased.
Q: Tell me about your relationship with your mum
The book starts off as a love story between a little boy and his mum. I absolutely adored my mum and hated myself that I could not stop her drinking and also stop her from getting hit time and time again. I was so happy that I got sober before she died in 2007. I never hated my mum for what she did to me and realised when I got into recovery that she was unwell because I ended up like her. I used my mum as an inspiration because I did not want to end up like her and did not want my children feeling shameful of their dad like I felt shameful of my mum. You have a choice in life, I chose recovery and my mum chose alcohol.
Q: Has writing the book shifted or helped your further process with all that happened to you?
It’s funny when I started to write it, I felt that maybe what happened to me wasn’t that bad. It’s only when I wrote it all down that I realised that it wasn’t great and I think having kids yourself – would you want them to grow up in a warzone like that? Another thing is that a few people have read the book now and they are telling me about bits of the book and it is surreal because they are talking about me. I suppose I am in a place now where it’s written and out there now so feel a bit exposed but that is to be expected.
I am hoping that this will be another tool to help in my recovery from my childhood trauma and what happened to me.
Q: Was it a difficult process and did you get upset during the writing?
There were regular times during the writing process when I would feel quite down or depressed. Another phase I went through was when I was writing about my dad and this fear would come over me and my lip would tremble. It was like I have gone back to that little boy again. I was terrified of my dad as a child and would never step out of place. I made peace with my dad and we had a good relationship after I got into recovery and worked through what happened to me as a child.
Q: How important is it that family members seek out professional help?
Families and friends are the forgotten people of addiction because it’s always about the alcoholic or addict. In my 15 years of working with families affected by other’s substance use, it still amazes me that there is still ignorance about the effects addiction has on people around the person drinking and/or using. The term hidden harm is used for children in homes where there is dysfunction and addiction. This hidden harm often carries into adulthood for people who are being affected by others’ addictions and can go on for years and years. Imagine being a family member and you are watching someone you love often destroying themselves in their addiction and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Addiction can cause grave consequences such as physical and mental health issues and even death to the person using. However, it is important to remember that addiction causes great physical and mental health issues and even death to the person to the family member around the user. We offer support to people even if the addict has passed on because the harms of addiction do not stop even when the person has died.
I always suggest to my clients to get into a support group with other families. This can be Al-Anon, SMART families recovery, a local peer-led support group or a family’s group attached to a drugs service. One good thing to come out of the pandemic is that you can jump on a support group anytime online.
I always say to my clients, you can come and have one to one’s with me but you will get much more being with other family members being in the support groups we run.
Support groups are the best form of treatment because the main characteristics of addiction for families are shame and isolation. If you are in a support group with others with who you can identify with you can take away the isolation and you may be able to reduce the shame.
If you are worried about someone else’s alcohol or drug use, we are here to listen and to help. You can contact our team on 08080 10 10 11, firstname.lastname@example.org or use the webchat on our website.