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Alcohol and Forgiveness: The Barrister's Father



'Perpetrator and victim are labels used so that others can know things that they don't really know but like to feel as if they do. Likewise blame is something that makes things that are unexplainable, explained. It's a label to bring structure. It brings order in a disordered world. It's immovable and deeply ingrained in our belief system. But it never accounts for feelings and the fluid way they ebb and flow.'


“Feelings?” my mum screeched, “Feelings? What are those? We haven't got time for feelings, we're far too busy putting food on the table”. We weren't short of food though. So there you have the table set for my family life in the 1960s.


Born in a small village, country life was different. I was the 'baby' of three siblings, with a seven years older brother and nine years older sister. So, in this emotionally loveless atmosphere I ate at the table of life. Family time could be tempestuous to say the least, because 'feelings' have a way of bursting forth unexpectedly, as they do for those unfamiliar with them.


My brother was a troubled child. Nowadays, he would possibly have been diagnosed with ADHD. He couldn't sleep and my mum, who ran the business, was accustomed to doing the book work - invoices etc. as it was called - in the evenings. She was interrupted, duly marched my brother off to the doctors and he was prescribed some drug like phenobarbital or similar. He was nine years old.


Fast-forward a few years and Dad, who would frequent the pub for a pint after work, was one day there with my grandad and brother. Amidst great egging on and joviality my brother had his first pint. He was 13. This set the road for his life-long 'battle with the booze' - or maybe he lived his life exactly as he wanted?


Weaving in and out of these cultural norms were a brother and sister who were very close at times, drawn to love each other through emotional starvation. Should I feel abused? Should I feel hate? Should I feel injustice? No one can tell me what to feel.


In my world (being non-verbal at times) I remember playing with little figures at a special place my parents had taken me. Yes, I was occasionally angry; personal boundaries I didn't learn till much much later. Just because no one wanted to believe our truth, did that make it any less real? Of course not. I mean how can you explain love? As much as we like to take a side, it's never that simple. The act of apportioning blame doesn't help anyone. It has never untangled a mess. Ever.


Perpetrator and victim are labels used so that others can know things that they don't really know but like to feel as if they do. Likewise blame is something that makes things that are unexplainable, explained. It's a label to bring structure. It brings order in a disordered world. It's immovable and deeply ingrained in our belief system. But it never accounts for feelings and the fluid way they ebb and flow.


I don't advocate a world run by feelings alone. That would bring chaos. But we have to acknowledge their existence without fear or favour and accept their relevance, not seek to pin them down to fit a narrative of guilty or innocent. This kind of discourse never helps anyone to live with transgressions.


To focus on your own voice and being is a way forward that is liberating and helpful. It strengthens self belief and reinforces a sense of well being. The footsteps taken and facilitated in the aftermath of events have a bigger impact on trauma and victim status longevity than any court of law and its long drawn out quest for a factual truth, that as we know can be easily manipulated in the hands of a determined barrister.


From my own personal conversations with many people, there are those who never seek assistance from the authorities. They find ways of being and thriving in a society that is full of imperfect people. They bring about change in a quiet way amongst the people around them, their conversations and shared experiences.


The reason I say this is because there are never any winners, only losers in adversarial positions. Everyone is injured because their truth has not been acknowledged and their human growth is stunted.


~


In later years, when we were both adults my brother seriously injured me after a drinking session which went badly wrong. At that time, I chose not to pursue (so-called) justice as I believed then, as I do now, that it would serve no purpose. I only saw my brother once or twice again in the six years after that time, before he died in 1992, aged 37.


In the months preceding his death, my brother had been sectioned with alcoholic psychosis. Our mum and his soon to be ex-wife visited him in the hospital. Mum said:


“Oh R*****d we are just going into town to get some lunch, is there anything you want? We'll be back shortly”, to which my brother replied:


“Yes, I'd like a black t-shirt”.


They went to the shop and my mum suddenly said: “Oh, you can't get a black tee-shirt for someone who is depressed”.


And guess what? They returned with every coloured t-shirt they could find except black. I know what I think of that pair of twits. I'll leave you to work out the significance of that particular exchange. Suffice to say he had no chance surrounded by that level of ignorance.


I don't want to leave you thinking it was all bad and sad. I have many memories of happiness and laughter and good times that we shared during the preceding years. Too numerous to mention.


Try as I might, according to the adversarial construct, I cannot condemn him or hate him. He tried his best and even though I'm not a believer, I do think of him in the lines from the bible that say:


“Suffer the little children, come unto me” - and I know he is OK now.


He was a monster at times, a loveable little boy, a young lad, a grown man. An alcoholic with psychosis. He was a hard-working businessman. He was handsome and clever. He was funny. He liked Kate Bush. He was shy and deep-thinking. He was treated horribly by some women and he treated some women terribly. He was all these things and he was my brother and I loved him.


By Zhandra Belgasmi


Please let us know if you think that there is a mistake in this article, explaining what you think is wrong and why. We will correct any errors as soon as possible.


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