‘Need’, by Kristy

Read the runner-up from Adfam’s Family Voices Competition 2022. Family Voices is an annual poetry and creative writing competition open to families affected by substance use to share their experiences.

Needed. They needed it, but I always thought it was a choice. Every night, until that creeped into the day. Functioning at first, and then not. Keeping it hidden, and then not. The drink. The drinking didn’t stop. Both sink. At first it was a Wednesday night treat, a quarter once a week. A social drink or two as I lay behind a sofa at their friend’s house. The need soon took, a slow hook. The quarter turned into a litre and every night they took. Teacher’s whiskey their only teacher, they wouldn’t be schooled by me.

Needler. She wouldn’t let it go. Tugging on me. Wanted a daughter to be more, and then less. Stay at home and look after, help her feel loved. They cast me in a role and told me they blamed me, almost gave up on me. “You went away, and we couldn’t cope. Like a death it was, we’re bereaved”. In this story it didn’t matter that the drinking started years before, always the drink that had them wanting, wanting more.

Needy. What about what I need? Parents that I didn’t need to parent please. I used to laugh it off, humour my armour, describe myself to others as Saffy from Ab Fab. Laugh about the things they’d send through the post (the classic used pizza cutter). I held so much anger and this anger turned into fear – I needed to be different from you. I had to. I defined myself through my difference to them, but I still feared that the same self-fulfilling prophecy would come for me, a right stitch up. What if I’m not a good mum? What if I drink too much like them? What if I am what they told me I am? “It’s okay” I say to that little girl sewn inside. I’ve had years of practice, besides. As a daughter of alcoholics, I’m watchful, vigilant, self-aware and attuned. I can read others’ needs and that’s just part of who I am.

Needless. “Your family looked perfect from the outside. I never knew”. Behind closed doors and not yet on the street. What a waste, needless. They had everything then, lost it all. Him his life and her, eventually, me. Not a punishment but a boundary held fast. It was a release to end contact and stop answering the drunken calls, the guilt trips. Birthdays and Christmas cards yes, photos of my son, their grandson, yes, but that’s my limit now. I’m sure it fits their story of me, but I release you. I release your hold in me as it’s me who needs. It’s my time now and I need to heal.

Read the full blog post here.

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