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Coping While Living With An Alcoholic

By JEFFARAH GIBSON

Tribune Features Writer

A glass of scotch on the rocks or any alcoholic beverage provides a sweet escape to many who consume alcohol. Under the influence, all inhibitions are released and a conquering spirit emerges.

"I feel I can conquer the world after I have had a couple beers. When I get off from a long hard day at work all I want is a couple of cold beers. That is fun to me," said Decoyo*, a social drinker.

The feel good experience of drinking alcohol is not top of mind for the family members of alcoholics. They see alcohol as nothing more than "hell in a bottle", where physical and emotional hurt leaves permanent scars of anger and fearfulness.

Megan*, who spoke to Tribune Health on condition of anonymity, said she lived with her alcoholic father for ten years. During that time, she has no memories of her father being sober.

"My father drank everyday or just about every night. Many mornings I woke up and met him throwing up in our bathroom. And just the sight of that bothered me. As a child it was very unhealthy to witness that and even though my mother tried to conceal my father's habit it became very evident what he was doing," she said.

Changes in her father's behaviour were red flags. She knew someone who was "normal", as she called it, would never have outbursts for simple reasons like he did.

"It became pretty evident in my father's behaviour that he was an alcoholic, apart from the liquor that was always on his breath. There were several occasions when he snapped at innocent strangers in grocery stores or while driving on the road. I remember one occasion when we went in a grocery store together he got upset with the cashier because he thought she was taking too long to count a few pens he purchased. He cursed the cashier for no reason,” she said.

Incidents like this destroyed the relationship between Megan and her father. She feared her father would embarrass her in publish, so she avoided going out with him. Overtime, she developed resentment towards him.

“Anyone would be embarrassed. I was most of the time and it made me hate being around him because you never know when he was going to snap and the attention would be on him. This really caused our relationship to suffer because I hated seeing him in that state and I did not want to be around him when he was like that. One time I asked him how he would feel if I was a drunk. He never gave me an answer,” she said.

Similarly, Keith said he has to live with the scars of having an alcoholic uncle. Keith and his uncle lived together from childhood. However, the roles reversed when Keith’s uncle began abusing alcohol.

“It was rough living with him. As a young boy, I was looking to him for guidance and direction. But he was not able to do that because he was drunk all the time. Many times I had to help him up because when he got drunk he would lay right out on the porch,” he said.

This experience for Keith was traumatizing. He said at the time, his school work suffered because what he went through at home made it difficult to focus. His social life as a child also suffered too. His friends hardly ever came over to his house because they feared his uncle would freakout.

“I had a friend come over and my uncle starting rowing my friend. He told my friend, ‘what you doing in this house, you need to go find your home’. That was the censored version of what he said. I can’t begin to describe what that did to me. I had to apologise to my friend because it was too embarrassing,” he said.

Fights were not uncommon in the house either.

“When he came home drunk he would carry on so bad. Sometimes he used physical force too. That led to several fights between the both of us. Although I went through all of that as a young boy I did not let it destroy me.”

To this day both individuals said they will never put a glass or bottle of alcohol to their mouth.

“I despise liquor,” Megan said.

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