My Mum is the sole inspiration behind The Flavour of Sober. She was an incredible woman, who was highly successful in her career and life, but alcohol ravaged her to the point that she was unrecognisable. This is one of my favourite photos of my Mum on her 62nd birthday with my two kids. This was when she was in a period of sobriety for a total of five years.
The moment I realised my Mum was losing control.
I have always struggled to manage a period of time without alcohol. This was one of my main motivators to reset and reframe my relationship with alcohol once and for all.
You may already know that I have personal experience with alcohol addiction, in that my Mum was an alcoholic. Over many years I watched helplessly (and naively) as she moved through the various faces of alcoholism. They all looked very different. But in hindsight, every one of those faces were sitting precariously on a really slippery slope.
When I was growing up, the face of my Mum's addiction was familiar, dependable even. Dependable in the way that every night I knew I couldn’t really talk to her about much after 8pm. Dependable in the way that I knew I would feel a certain amount of fear in my stomach in the daily moment that I realised she was getting more than a bit tipsy.
Please don’t get me wrong, my Mum did an amazing job bringing me and my brother up (well we like to think so anyway!). She left my Dad in the South of France having lost all hope in her marriage and moved back to the UK to live near her parents with a 7 year old me and my 1 year old brother in tow. My grandparents helped her to set up her house here before she brought us back to the UK, but asides from that and the obvious emotional support they gave her, she created a fun, secure upbringing for us which was full of opportunities for us to grow into resilient, grounded adults.
As a child, my Mum’s alcohol consumption seemed low key (ish). I was young, oblivious and like a lot of children, really only worried with my own day to day. So the face I knew then, was one who worked hard to provide for us, drove us around to activities in the evenings and took us to help out with the horses at the weekends. We had a great time! This is probably the reason that I wasn’t that aware of my Mum’s drinking then. I knew she drank wine in the evenings, I knew she didn’t really want to talk to us if she had put us to bed already and I also knew that she wanted to be left alone with her wine. The face of her alcohol dependency was there, it was the usual, but I assumed it was totally normal.
As I got older and moved through school, my Mum worked really hard to put my brother and me through private school. She was a teacher herself and her opinion (rightly or wrongly) was that private schools were the way forward. It cost her an arm and a leg, but the support that she had from my Grandparents financially meant that she scrimped and saved and managed it. She just always seemed to find a way to make it work. I often saw scribbled calculations about spending and earning on bits of paper in her room where I knew she was taking stock of her financial position. "She was probably under a lot of pressure, this was why she drank", I thought.
There was one key event that made me realise that I wasn’t comfortable with my Mum’s daily drinking. Even now, it feels like a key moment in the history of my childhood. I was far from comfortable with this and in fact I was angry, appaled and ashamed! It was the night of my year 11 parent’s evening, just before I did my GCSE’s. It felt like a big deal. I had been working my arse off at school trying to prepare for my exams and this was the one key parent’s evening just after my mock exams. I booked in appointments with teachers for my Mum and promised I would look after my brother while she went to my school. Mum had a glass of wine after dinner, which before I knew it had turned it many more than just one. It quickly became obvious that she wasn’t going to go to my parents evening. I was shocked and stunned. At that moment, that singular moment in my childhood when I was 15, I think I realised that alcohol had a lot of control over my Mum. My thought process was that she OBVIOUSLY cared more about the wine than me, or that she didn’t care about me at all. I remember the hurt, the feeling of rejection, the feeling that all my teacher’s would know she didn’t up – and that I would have to lie to cover up for her getting utterly and completely pissed that night, instead of finding out how I was doing at school in one of my most important school years. I felt pretty devastated to be honest. Looking back it felt like a defining moment that things were worse than I had thought they were. I didn’t speak to my Mum for three days after this. She seemed equally shocked about how upset I was. We never ever spoke out about, but it is etched in my childhood memories as a real low point.
This face of my Mum’s alcohol addiction was one of quiet dependency. It was the dependence I worry about in myself in the way that I enjoy a G&T after work. It’s the face that so many of friends have; going through the day looking forward to putting up their feet once everything is done and the kids are in bed, just so they can have a glass of wine. This face seems innocent. Looking back I can see how this face is the face that just doesn’t see this light hearted drink could so easily spiral out of control. This face is pretty innocent. But it’s only innocent until you find it really really hard to do a week or two without booze. It’s only innocent until you are getting annoyed with everyone and everything that is getting in the way of you having that one drink after work. It’s only innocent while that dependency is not at the top of your evening to do list and not one of the highlights of your day. If you need to reassess and reset your alcohol habit, you can join us on the next 14 day alcohol free challenge. Join HERE and get yourself on the right track asap.