Monday, 19 January 2009


I had a very interesting comment left on my site recently. It was anonymous and it said, I'm paraphrasing.... how come you said you were a wanted and loved little girl and the same time had alcoholic parents.

I did leave a comment back, but I want to expand on it here, as I thing it's worth mentioning, as it ties in as usual, with my therapy practise.

So yes I was a wanted and loved child. My parents were both young and very naive when they met at 21, and they married at 25, without having had any other really serious relationships. They were very much in love and I was a honeymoon baby.

Prior to my birth thay had chosen my names, I was always going to be a girl in their eyes(this is hundreds of years before scans obviously.) The name they chose for me, meant, worthy of love. 22 months late along came my sister, they had chosen the boys names for her and they were quickly changed to accommodate a girl. My sister was very ill not long after birth and had to be baptised in hospital. But she obviously pulled through. But because of this my sister has never had the same confidence and feeling of well being about her that I have, and in Freudian terms suffers from separation anxiety because of her start in life.

So we were a little unit of four, with very traditional values, the father going of to work in the office, and the mother staying at home. The little girls bathed and ready for daddy to come home at night to read a story.

It was quite idyllic in some respects. But my father, as I have said before was working in the family business, which he hated, so when he came home at night my parents would start the evening with a glass of sherry to unwind. This of course over time grew in it's amount, as his unhappiness increased.

He changed his drink to whiskey, which made him evil and mum started knocking back Pernod. Around the same time I became adolescent and the trouble started....

My parents were entering their 40s, which are very much the lost decade. Insofar that when people are in their 20s they are building their jobs, homes and families, which they go on to consolidate in their 30s. But by the time they reach their 40s, people start asking ... is this all there is? This is when broadly speaking many women go back into education, to get the degree they have always wanted. And men need a dose of magic fairy dust and start affairs to find the magic of sex again.

This need in men is because men get validated through having sex, women get validated by being given affection. By the time people have been married for 20 years or so, sex sometimes is history. And men suddenly realise that they are lonely for that validation. So that when someone comes along that shows an interest in them, they can become completely infatuated and be 'in love' or in sex as that's what they are getting to make them feel alive again.

So this lost decade in my parents coincided with my teenage years. My parents did not know how to handle my burgeoning sexuality and so I spent a great deal of time at this age being punished for one thing or another. As it was sometimes easier to be angry with me, than it was to own what was going on in their own lives.

The drinking then started taking over, but in an odd way from most drunks. My parents would have a drink before lunch then my dad would go back to work and my mum would go and sleep it off. When he returned from work they would drink more, but only before dinner. Never with, of afterwards, so by the time they/we sat down to eat they would be well oiled. It's no wonder at this time that my sister and I would take our meals into another room and watch TV. Because they drank like this, they never learned how to be civilised with drink, as in a glass of wine with a meal. They always drank on empty stomachs. They had strict rules about how much they drank.

So by the end of my fathers life he had a bottle of wine before lunch and a bottle before dinner, unless he had visitors and then it would be more.

When I was 17 my father had a nervous breakdown whilst we were away in Majorca and from then on in, we as a family had to deal with his diagnosis of manic depression. My mother also throw a few wobblies in her time, but never as badly as dad. My parents never had the choices available nowadays to help with mental health issues, they were trapped within the confines of no care.

Most of my client group are people in their 40s, and they don't understand why suddenly when they have money in the bank, time on their hands, as the kids are not as needy of them, that they are simply so lost. They have gone from being their parent's children, to their partner's spouse, to the their children's parent to what?

And this is when they arrive at my door, and have to work through finding a new meaning in life, that wasn't available to them before. I see this very much as part of our spiritual awakening, as this area of life suddenly holds promise in a way that retail therapy never did. Or put another way, this is the time that people go from giving everything to everyone around them and start learning to give to themselves. To put themselves first, as if they don't they feel used and abused by the world, because they are treating themselves as a doormat by not mattering .... and guess what treat yourself like that and what happens???

All of this goes back to one of my earlier hypothesis, that the stories may be different, but the feelings are the same. My husband's mid life crisis happened early, when he was 38 when he went off with another woman. I have always been lucky I haven't had to change my job, but I did go to prove I wasn't academically stupid by training as a psychotherapist when I was 44. I rest my case..... what do you think?


wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I think you are fantastic. I also think you've worked through your parents' shortcomings very well. If only we all could be as insightful and forgiving as you.

Coachdad said...

What a touching post ... I come from an alcoholic mother and it was a tough childhood to say the least. I am 37 now and still deal with my mom and her drinking. She no longer drinks, however, years of neglict and bitterness have left us with a relationship that is severely lacking. Whenever we talk, the conversation usually ends with her beating herself up because her past. It gets tiresome and I find it hard to always try and make her feel better about herself. Thank you for post and I am glad I found your site. Quite impressive.

Ronjazz said...

Both my own parents are alcoholic and still with us. Both are 80. Mom and Dad both dragged the brood of three children (I'm the oldest) through hell of all kinds... physically, psychologically and yes, sexually...from both. It's where my survival instinct and skills were developed. And frankly, I don't know how I turned out the way I have...which I hope is positive...except through trying to simply survive. The one thing that I have never adapted to is being lonely, a part of the residue of such an upbringing. So I do understand, Byrd, a great deal of what you share here.

nitebyrd said...

My family has so many alcoholics in it, our last name should be SingleMalt.

My father was an alcoholic and I think he had the capability to love. My mother wasn't an alcoholic and was indifferent to anything that didn't directly effect her.

So true about the '40's, that was when I really started to think about mortality and, "there must be more than this!"

Rach said...

What a lovely rationalistic post, I was 40 when my depression hit so I am sure there is something in that fact. I suddenly didn't want to go from side to side anymore I wanted to go in a straight line, happily with a lot of therapy and time to work through my demons I do now go in a straight line and if I feel myself wandering I pull myself back across.

I need the therapy though to find the power in me to do that!..xx

Lady in red said...

Even though my ex is an alcoholic he does love our boys I know that and so do they even though he has no idea how to be a father.

It has been during my forties that I found the strength to break away from his controlling ways and learn to be myself. I couldn't do that before because my children were yunger and needed a family with two parents. Even if only one of us was doing any parenting.

Thank you Byrd your thoughtful posts help to bring clarity to the thoughts that were there already just not organised into any kind of sense.

Mel said...

Well....I, too, think you're fantastic!

Howzat?! :-)

Sorta kinda explains a whole lot about how your feet got to exactly where they are, today.

I might add--HERE is an excellent place to be.....

Lori ann said...

I'd like to say the same thing Ronjazz said, the only thing i'd change was it was only my father. You are doing so much good for so many people Byrd, love you...

p.s. and yes Ronjazz, i'd say you seem like a lovely positive person.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Thank you for sharing the analysis of your childhood. My life has been quite different, but I would not say better. I have had 3 husbands (no children in any marriage). The first two had early midlife crises, if we can call it that. Both had crises in their 30s, but the second one escalated in his late 40s. I am now married to a man 9 years older than I and so far we have not experienced any crisis situation and are both very happy & thankful to have found each other. Alleluia!

Mei Del said...

will you analyse me and put me somewhere in that scenario of the norm? i feel somewhat left out - apart from husband suddenly having midlife crisis bit, but even then he was 49 when it happened.

like wake up i think you're fantastic too xx

cheekydani said...

It really does sound like you've healed yourself - and your family history through your understanding, forgiveness and kindness about it all. You're fabulous x

karen said...

Firebryd, I understand exactly, and agree that having alcoholic parent(s) and being a loved/wanted child are not necessarily mutually exclusive. It sure can complicate a life, though, and there are so many degrees of alcoholism... I do admire your forgiveness and lack of bitterness that always shines through xx

justme said...

I think you are wonderfully understanding of the life changes that people go through as they get older. And I think we may have the same name, from what you said!
How strange.

Angela said...

Really.really good. Yes, in the forties it all breaks up. With me, it was still a bit of a different (very German) story - my father having been in the Armed SS and never changing his belief that he was a hero and Hitler a great man. Treating my brothers and me as if we were in the Hitler Youth, if you can imagine that (I can do a biwak and survive in a forest!) - and my mother trying to escape from a domineering husband by fleeing into migraines and booze. Not an easy childhood, either, but at forty I finally broke up totally with my father, which has given me tremendous relief. He still lives, almost 89, he remarried after my mother died, and still thinks he never did anything wrong. I don`t let him influence me any longer, but I have (I think...) forgiven him. What other way is there?
Thank you for allowing us all to admit such things, Byrdie! You are clearly a great therapist!

anya said...

Wow. I see a lot of my former husband in that post. The years and the timing were a little different. Rather than early as yours did, mine left quite late after 40 years though he told me before he left that he had been screwing around for many years.

As for you, you were clearly loved and wanted. I don't see that your parent's drinking changed that, though it must have seemed that way as you were going through your teens. Although my parents weren't alcoholics...didn't even drink, really, my teen years were quite miserable. A similar thing as you, them trying to deal with my burgeoning sexuality and rebelliousness and our home becoming virtually a battle ground.

My very poor mother married into my father's well to do family. Her father in law gave her the gift of college which she so fervently desired but had been unable to afford when living with her parents. Unfortunately, first semester she got pregnant, and that was it for college. In those days southern women didn't go to college pregnant. She never let me forget that( as if I had anything to do with it) and always had an underlying resentment of me. My sister's stories are completely different from mine. They came later and were conceived purposefully.

I love your posts, Byrd.

Fire Byrd said...

This obviously hit a lot of nerves for people. It is wonderful how you are all prepared to as open. It leaves me speechless as to how much we have in common
I'm also incredibably touched by the wonderful compliments, thank you.
Another one for hugs all round