Dear Former Self
As you take a break from the pain that is your life right now in 1995, read this letter to you which is sent from your future heart. Your three young children are safe at nursery and school, enhancing the great start you have given them in life. Many children start school unable to read and write their name, recite the alphabet, count to ten. Be proud of yourself. Your children could all count to at least twenty, sort and count colours and were able to read and write their own names, their full names no less, before they walked into the classroom for the first time. Be proud of your ongoing achievements with three little ones so close in age.
As you walk through the rooms of your beautiful, four bedroom detached house, set in half an acre of landscaped gardens, remember the good things you have, try not to dwell on the dreadful behaviour displayed by your husband, the father of your children. You are strong, you are a wonderful mother and a good friend. You may not believe it at this moment in time, but you are a good wife. He is aware of that for the most part. He is aware of you and your children. Unless he has been drinking. Then he is aware, as you so sorely know, of nothing but his own needs, his music, he is largely aware of nothing much at all.
It is time for you to admit to the world that you are the wife of a violent, nasty alcoholic. It is time for you to stop hiding it away, pretending that the reason you turn up on your mother’s doorstep is not a neurotic young mother worrying, but a wife and mother who is fearful. Scared of what he will do next. Stop hiding it, tell the world. Ask for help. Speak to his mother. She was, after all, an alcoholic in her time. Of all people, surely she will understand. I know you, though, and words, which you believe to be words of failure, will not come.
Oh, yes, you have challenged him when you have found him urinating in your four-year-old daughter’s wardrobe. You have put yourself at great risk, dragging him, drunken and staggering, from her room as he swayed over her bed in a stupor. You have no idea just how brave you have been to stay with him for so long.
Do you remember the time you came downstairs at three in the morning for a drink, having left him in the lounge listening to music and making his way through can after can of extra strong lager? Do you remember how you walked barefoot into your beautiful kitchen and slipped, banging your head on the wall as you fell? Do you remember reaching down to find the reason? Finding yourself sitting in a puddle of disgusting, strong-smelling urine? Do you remember the anger seeping up inside of you as you scrambled to your feet and marched, dripping with urine, bravely into the living room to challenge the drunken man sprawled on one of your two beautiful Marks and Spencer sofas, before you?
Oh yes, you do remember. You remember him jumping up and grabbing you by the hair and dragging you to the hall cupboard, the one where the boiler was housed. You remember him pushing you inside as you begged him to let go of your hair. You remember him shoving something in front of the door to that cupboard don’t you? Of course you remember. You slid to the floor, tears flooding into your lap, rubbing your head, sore from his manhandling. No amount of banging and pushing could dislodge that door and you were afraid of waking your children. You resolved then that you would leave him.
You still didn’t leave him. You fell for his remorse when he eventually surfaced the next morning, woken by children who were sleepily wondering where mummy was. He found you in the cupboard. He didn’t remember leaving you there and seemed confused but that was partly the usual hangover. You begged him, again and again, to get help for his drinking problem. He denied, over and over, that he had a drinking problem. Still, you kept it to yourself, fearing the judgement of others. Fearing they would think you had driven him to drink. You always forgot where you had met him – you worked behind the bar in a hotel and he frequented that bar, often to the end of the evening, drunkenly leaving just before you locked up. It wasn’t your fault. You always thought it was your fault and you tried to make it right.
You always put your children first. When they were at nursery and, later, at school, you took in other people’s ironing, needing an income of your own. You tolerated his overspending and debts and worked hard to ensure your children were not missing out. Luckily, you had two sets of generous grandparents who helped out a lot, buying gifts of clothes for, and giving you money to spend on, the children. You had to hide the money until you could take the children shopping but you didn’t do a very good job of it. He always seemed to find where it was hidden, his need for cigarettes, beer and fine shirts, Jonathan Trumble bags being your worst nightmare. It meant often you would go to your money tin to give change for a larger note when a customer came to collect their ironing and the tin would be devoid of cash, where you knew you had previously left over fifty pounds.
When each of the children were first born, you had gone to a building society in town together and opened them a savings account, into which you paid their birthday and Christmas monetary gifts. When you were able, you started to pay in a little when you could and your mum gave the children pocket money which they enjoyed going into the bank to save for themselves. The savings accounts had accumulated to over five hundred pounds each, but one day you went to pay in some money and noticed the balances were all zero. The money had been withdrawn from the account and, you discovered, been spent on a set of beautiful (apparently) new speakers, set on stands with special pins to avoid vibration. They were being set up in the living room when you arrived home.
Many tears were shed over his constant spending, and the later discovered missed mortgage payments. Even more private tears were shed each time he shoved you around, with the occasional slap and a few punches when you dared to question him about spending when you had nothing. It was clearly never going to end. You remember back to the day he punched you so hard in the torso. Not only was it in full view of your eleven month old daughter, but it was aimed at your heavily pregnant-with-twins stomach. You had stumbled to the downstairs toilet at the time to catch your breath and examine your body but had not dared to stay in the room, fearing he would start on your little girl. To your knowledge, he never hit the children. To this day, you wonder in the back of your mind if it was that heavy punch which landed on the side which cradled your first born twin, which caused him to have suffer physical issues with his brain as a teenager and into his twenties. You know, but you will never know for sure and it will break your heart, forever.
I wish I could send this to you back in the early 1990’s, so you would have hope that your life would turn out better and leaving him would have been the best answer. Instead, I know you will stay with him and endure another few years, trying to salvage something of a family unit for your beautiful children. If only I could tell you that you wouldn’t have been able to fix him, that he would eventually drink himself into an early grave and die at the age of fifty. It sounds heartless, but if you had known that, you might have escaped sooner. There was nothing you could have done to change things.
You did alright, you know? Yes, there have been ups and downs and you have made some hugely strange choices that you wouldn’t have expected of yourself back then, but you made it out and did mainly ok. Your children are mostly doing ok. You have some issues with one of them who seems to have adopted the angry and self-destructive trait of your ex- husband and you constantly strive to find a better way for him, knowing deep in your heart that you are probably not going to succeed. He just has to find his way.
Just be assured that you will do your best, it might not always be good enough, might not always be the ‘norm’, but you will do your very best to make it work for your children. You will definitely make it out alive, scarred and emotionally wounded, but you are going to be just fine. Try not to spend your whole life beating yourself up over the past.
With love from
Your Future Self