Thinking about the bottom line. Two things happened this week that called for responses and confrontation, not easy at all.
When I was out shopping in the village the other afternoon, I saw a mother who lives a few streets away walking with her young daughter. I thought the mother looked flushed and excitable, but didn’t pay much attention. We waved to one another. The same night I was about to go to bed at 11pm and looked through the living room window to see the little girl, about five years old, sitting across the road by herself in the dark. She was sitting there because mine was the only house in the road with lighted windows. I called her inside. She said her mother had forgotten to keep a door open for her and had been asleep for a long time. Her mother had put her outside for being naughty.
I feel it is important not to ask a child questions that may incriminate a parent. It isn’t fair to the child and they will usually lie to protect the parent. The truth for a child is that loyalty owed to a parent rather than the truth owed to a stranger. I saw that the child had bruises on her arm and worked out for myself that the mother had flown into a drunken rage and hit the child, locked her out of the house and had then passed out. I called an aunt in a nearby village and asked her to come and collect the little girl. By the time the aunt arrived, the child was asleep, so I could speak freely to the aunt.
The mother drinks and hits the child. The aunt was happy to take the child but does not want to say anything to the police or social welfare that might lead to her sister getting into trouble. Family loyalty again. She took the child with her and said she would make sure her sister was sober before returning the child to her.
So, the next morning I called someone I know in social welfare, talked to her about child battering and said I would be available as a witness if the police became involved. Social welfare will investigate the case. I am willing to talk with the mother, but doubt she will want to speak with me. I hope she gets sober and seeks professional help before her child is taken away from her.
As alcoholics we all know that our behaviour verges on criminal or anti-social at times. Alcoholism takes many of us to places we never imagined, way beyond any norms of decency or safety. And sometimes others do have to step in and protect the innocent from us. There is a documented history relating to cycles of violence and battering that show the violence escalates over time. It gets worse. I grew up in a household where my father battered my alcoholic mother. Both my father and mother beat us children, punching us, kicking us and beating us with sticks or whips. The escalating family violence only stopped when my mother was taken to hospital with a broken jaw and my father had a call from the police. So I have no compunction about stepping in when a child is living with violence.
The second incident was another kind of challenge . In the local newsletter, a sportsman who is well-known in this area gave an interview about how his drinking had ruined his life. He said that being a member of AA had helped him. He felt very much at home in AA and found his fellow members of AA to be great friends and very kind people. Then he said: ‘These days I drink much less and don’t have to worry about my drinking because AA has given me such good advice.’
The sportsman himself is no doubt ensconced in denial and happily so. In time, he may come to learn something both about alcoholism and his good friends in AA that will surprise him. But that little newsletter is widely read out here in the countryside and I felt some intervention was called for in terms of responsible reporting. So I rang the journalist and explained why I wanted him to publish a correction from an anonymous source in AA. I explained that the name Alcoholic Anonymous is about alcoholics staying anonymous. And that AA does not think alcoholics can drink in moderation. The journalist was happy to publish the correction.
Accountability, knowing when to speak up, when to confront and when to keep silent. Something I have learned about in AA and from listening to friends in Alanon.