Literary history is crowded with men with grandiose drinking problems. Centre stage belongs to the addict. Women figure as nothing but co-dependent wives regardless of their social class. But now the children and relatives of alcoholics are reclaiming the literary arena, to reveal an existence completely devoid of romance. We who have lived with mistrust, denial, fear, an absence of boundaries and security. Chaos, violence. Loss, grief. Shame.
We all lived in quiet despair. Some of us forgave, gave second, third, fourth chances. We watched, supported, pleaded, prayed. Some of us yo-yoed between sobriety and relapses. Many of us blamed ourselves when grievances poisoned our drinking water and molehills turned into hand grenades hysterically lobbed from one room to another. We found our moms collapsed in the hallway. Our dads jumped from the Älvsborg bridge. We witnessed our siblings’ cannabis psychoses. Most of us stopped bringing friends home. We waited for our fairy godmothers.
How many alcoholics are there in the world? How many substance abusers? The number of relatives is unbearable. And yet, without for a second belittling the suffering inherent in growing up with substance abuse, without trivializing the struggle to survive: among the uncountable deprivations, there are also advantages. If we as relatives – wives, husbands, grandparents, siblings, sons, and daughters – are given the opportunity to heal, an ocean of capacity opens up in us. How many of us are there, out there in the world?
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