Most people know how an alcohol addiction can cause negative implications for the person concerned; what many people fail to realise though is that this illness can have a devastating impact on the lives of those closest to the addicted individual as well. In fact, family members and friends can suffer many negative consequences because of a loved one’s addiction.
Many children will become profoundly affected, and countless numbers of these will go on to suffer from lasting emotional problems. Others will develop addictions themselves, and many will find it hard to enjoy life in adulthood. The effect of an alcohol addiction is far-reaching; Bethan Wheeler has first-hand experience of what it is like to live with an alcoholic.
Bethan’s father was an alcoholic, and she has described how it felt to watch her beloved father Colin turning into someone who was completely unrecognisable to her. She said that as a child, Colin was ‘caring and funny’, also describing him as ‘bonkers’. He was an avid Cardiff City football fan and loved nothing more than watching the team play.
However, behind the scenes, Colin was struggling with an alcohol addiction, which became so severe that it took his life at the very young age of fifty-one (seven years ago). Bethan has now found the courage to talk about her father’s struggles and is hoping to highlight the issue in a bid to help others.
Bethan admits that her father’s alcohol problem was something that he was dealing with long before she was even born. She said, “Ever since I can remember, my dad had a drinking problem. In my eyes, he was never a typical alcoholic, but that was because he’d been drinking for years before I was born and alcohol was always in his system. This was a blessing and a curse because he never appeared drunk. He was never violent or slurring his words. He was simply my dad.”
She says she can remember her dad collecting her from school: “He would have a couple of pints in the pub before picking me up. We would often go back to the pub later so he could have two or three more pints.”
She commented that this was normal to her because she simply did not know anything different. Bethan knows her father was a fully functioning alcoholic for most of his life, but when his mother died in 2008, his life began to spiral out of control. According to Bethan, “He couldn’t take the heartache, and he crumbled.”
Bethan described how her father began drinking more frequently, losing his job when he was discovered drinking at work. She added, “He then began sleeping more and so I didn’t see him as often.”
Colin’s drinking soon began to have an effect on his health; as an epileptic, his increased alcohol consumption started to cause more fits, and his liver function began to fail.
On Colin’s 51st birthday, Bethan met up with him in a pub; it was just weeks after he had been discharged from hospital because of the issues with his liver. Bethan, who was just fifteen years old at the time, said, “I met him in the pub, and I didn’t recognise him. He just looked like an old man. It took him about 30 minutes to walk to the pub – and it’s only five minutes’ away from his house.”
He continued to drink despite doctors warning him to stop for his health. Bethan admits that he was not eating due to depression and was getting all his calories from alcohol. She said, “I would ask him to stop drinking too, so I found it very hurtful when he didn’t. I thought he was being really selfish, but now I recognise that he had an illness. After a while, I noticed changes in his behaviour. He wasn’t the dad that I remembered.”
Colin developed cirrhosis of the liver, which caused his skin to yellow. His daughter remembers him looking ‘bright yellow’ and said it was as if a different person was standing in front of her. That same year, he died after years of struggling with an alcohol addiction and depression.
Bethan says she was embarrassed about the fact that her father had died of alcoholism, and this had an adverse effect on her schoolwork. She said, “I had a really big art project to hand in, but because of his funeral I couldn’t think about anything else.”
It has taken her seven years to be able to talk candidly about her father’s illness and how it affected her, but she is hoping that by doing so, she can encourage others to get help. She said there are probably many other fathers hiding their problems from loved ones. She is taking part in a charity walk on 12th November to help raise funds for Alcohol Concern Cymru. We wish her the best of luck
Source: This is what it’s like to have a father with a life-long addiction to alcohol (Wales Online)
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