Two Parents In One

I was your child, wrapped tightly in your arms
Close to your heart, you counted my toes

You cried with me, taught me words
Two parents in one, my morals and beliefs

Support, friendship and love
The reason I grow
The reason I am who I am

Describing someone who has two personalities is difficult. Describing someone who can show you unconditional love, then a few hours later spew venom and look at you with hate in their eyes, is surreal.

The most selfless person, will listen for hours, guide me, support me. The person who also once chased me around my childhood bedroom trying to hit me. The person who is fiercely protective, would die for me. But the person who forced me into a caregiver role when I was still a child. The person who would cause daily anxiety while I was travelling home from school, would they be normal or sobbing at the kitchen table?

Having a loved one, a mother in my case, who turns into the polar opposite of themselves while drinking is difficult, to say the least. Especially when they’re also your best friend and soul mate. We know the person they turn into isn’t them. It can’t be them, their eyes are unfocused, they’ve gone to ‘The Dark Side.’ They’re argumentative, hateful, belligerent, abusive, scary.

The handful of times that I’ve blacked out from alcohol have been terrifying. Not because I was worried for my safety, but because I was petrified that same hatred may have poured out of me. It happened once; my ex told me that I had upset a lot of people. This happened years ago and I still feel a crushing weight of anxiety, guilt and regret. I didn’t ask what I’d done or said to those strangers, I didn’t want to know.

Through therapy I’m only now discovering the insidious ways in which alcohol abuse has affected me. Catastrophising: always jumping to the worst and most extreme conclusion. For example, you can’t reach a family member when their plane is expected to land? Dead. Your partner goes on a night out and they don’t text back for a while? They’re dead. Can’t get hold of your best friend at the time you’d usually phone them? They’re definitely dead.


I was in two minds whether to write this. A large part of me is desperate to protect this shameful secret that we both carry. I can’t be the only one that struggles with this confliction, can I?My therapist recently explained collusion in alcoholic relationships. It is when both parties fail to publicly acknowledge the damage that the alcoholic is creating; I don’t bring it up the next day, just grateful that my real mum is back and she doesn’t apologise, most likely struggling to remember the damage that she has caused.

Is this a healthy form of expression, or betrayal? Both, my brain says. So despite feeling physically sick as I write this, I think it’s important that this subject, something that is so taboo, so hidden, is out in the open. What my mother did left emotional scars that will last a lifetime, but I’ve never hated her. If anything, it’s made me empathetic towards her struggle; how much pain must a person be in to be so cruel to someone who is their everything?

I’ve chosen to anonymise this piece of writing, not only to protect myself, but to protect my mother. We don’t discuss the alcoholism that has afflicted our lives, and to be honest, I’m too afraid to. If I were to bring it up sober, she could get angry. Or worse, sad. And as problematic as her drinking is, I would never wish for a different mother.

I meant what I said in my poem: two parents in one, the reason I am who I am.


Article by: E. L.

HERstoryE.L.family, feminismComment