Alcoholic at 15 — (Southern Daily Echo)

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Southern Daily Echo

Tuesday, 24 February 2004

Jane and Graham Turner have a 15-year-old son who is an alcoholic. His behaviour over the past few years has torn all their lives apart. Today, they tell their story to Kate Thompson…

THERE have been times when Jane Turner has stayed on late at work because she just couldn’t bear to go home.   Her teenage son, Alan, is an alcoholic – and his drinking has made Jane and her husband Graham’s life a living hell.

She lingered on at her workplace rather than face the prospect of encountering her drunken 15-year-old and his older mates who, at times, quite literally take over her Hampshire home.

“He has never actually struck me but he has sworn at me and called me all sorts of awful things when he has had too much to drink,” said his weary mother.

Jane, 47, is a research scientist at a Hampshire university and she is currently studying for a PhD qualification.   Graham, 45, is an electrical design engineer for a leading local firm.

Their son will struggle to gain any GCSEs, having been expelled from school after an incident involving cannabis and booze.   He’s now attending a pupil referral unit in the morning (when his hangover allows) leaving the afternoons free to drink with his friends.

Alan is depressed and has been prescribed Prozac to help lift him from the despair he feels most of the time.   He is also on other medication designed to reduce the amount of acid his stomach produces. This condition has been caused by his heavy drinking – and doctors have warned him that if he does not cut down, he could be dead by the age of 25.

Mum Jane is also on anti-depressants – before she started taking the tablets she just used to sit and cry for hours on end.   Looking at Jane and Graham, the misery of their current situation is clearly etched on their faces.

They speak in an almost matter-of-fact way, recounting the catalogue of bad behaviour that has characterised the adolescent years for Alan.   It’s been going on since he was 11 years old and they have lost the will to be angry any more.   “We are just so tired. Living like this is exhausting. “I had to start taking the anti-depressants as I just couldn’t cope before,” said Jane.

It wasn’t always like this, of course.

Alan was a delightful child and it was only in his last year of junior school that his behaviour began to change.  “He started having problems with one of his teachers,” said Jane.   “He felt he was being picked on and, when he was sent to the referral unit for an assessment, they said he had very low self-esteem.”

Alan started drinking when he was about 11. He got in with the wrong group at senior school and they introduced him to drink.  “He was drinking anything he could get his hands on. It started with alcopops and he progressed to cans of beer and lager before he started drinking cheap bottles of vodka.

“One of the first times we were aware there was a real problem was at the beginning of year eight when he was aged about 11 or 12 years old. He had two friends who were celebrating their birthdays.

“He went out at 10am and I got a call later in the day to say he had collapsed outside a friend’s house. He was very, very drunk.   “An ambulance was called and he was brought home – we had to make sure he didn’t choke if he was sick. He was in such a bad state they nearly took him to hospital.   “He had drunk a litre of vodka, half a bottle of Martini and alcopops, too,” she said.

While both Jane and Graham love Alan, they clearly find it difficult to cope with their unruly son. When he is sober, they catch glimpses of the boy they once knew.  But when he has been drinking he completely changes.

He becomes a foul-mouthed, inconsiderate yob who smashes holes in walls and doors.

He is well known to the police and has been arrested for drunkenness and drug-related issues.

“He has stolen my bank cards and took more than £600 out of my account in one night – and I have to hide all my jewellery in the house.   “Lots of stuff has gone missing. I bought Graham an expensive watch for his birthday and a power tool kit, and they have both disappeared,” said Jane.

When Alan is under the influence of alcohol he seems to have no respect for his mum and dad and regularly disrupts family life.  Even when they persuaded their unwilling son to go on holiday to the west country with them, Jane and Graham could not escape the misery of their situation.

A group of Alan’s so-called mates broke into the family home and stole items to sell to pay for more drink.  Graham explained: “There has been a lot of damage to the house – I have become expert in patching up holes.

“We need a new three-piece suite but we won’t replace this one because we know it will get ruined.  “I have replaced the front door and the back door but everything else we make do and mend.”

Jane had Alan when she was 31. She and Graham had been together for ten years when he was born – and as soon as she could Jane went back to work leaving Alan with child minders and attending a nursery.

“I do wonder whether that had an effect upon him but I will never really know.  “I don’t think about the future – we just take each day as it comes. I hope Alan may pass some GCSEs and go on to college.   “I just don’t want to look any further ahead than that,” she said.