In today’s episode, we’re talking to Simon and it’s really hard for me to express the gratitude, the huge amount of gratitude that I have for Simon stepping up and moving forward, stepping forward to talk. It’s really hard to talk, but, but by facing these uncomfortable situations, it’s through the discomfort that we heal and we grow. And also through talking, we’re going to create a greater understanding of the impact of addiction on families, and potentially one day break the stigma and the shame around the illness of addiction. So welcome Simon. Thank you so much for being here. That was great to have you. I know it’s not easy. It is, is blooming hard. So thank you. Thank you very much. So before we get into your interview, I think it’s really important to explain to everyone how we met. I’ve known Simon for a really long time.
Don’t admit how long please. That would be bad.
I think it, I think it’s 22 years.
So Simon, I used to work together a really long time ago but this is the first time that we’ve talked about this shared experience. Loving someone who had an addiction. I mean, we didn’t know, you didn’t know what’s going on in my life and I didn’t know what was going on yours. And I think that’s really important to highlight because that’s pretty common.
It is one of those hidden things that, I mean, as you say, you want to talk about stigma and shame is one of those things that generally is, is always pushed to the background. Isn’t it? You know, you don’t walk into your friend’s house and introduced your loved one as an addict. You know what I mean? It’s, it’s something that’s always looked out for over your shoulders. You’re in a situation, but never really spoken about.
So, tell us a little bit about your situation, tell us about your dad.
So my dad was an entertainer by trade and he played piano and sang. Before I came along, he was doing some seasons, did a stint over in Germany doing various shows and stuff and he was an old-school rock and roller. You might say, Fifties and sixties rock and roll. Um, so he was basically constantly in an environment where he’d be playing and singing someone say, Hey, Scott, you want a pint. So, you know, he was always around alcohol. But not really as, um, as a problem, you know, it was all part and parcel of the deal. And, you know, I remember days when I was young where mum and dad would have incredible parties or barbecues at the house and would like get through a lot of alcohol, but it wasn’t a problem. It wasn’t every day, it wasn’t a need, if you know what I mean, it was just part and parcel of the actual life they led. Um, so yeah, that, that from that point of view had always had this love of music had just basically done what he wanted to do for a living. So he did the job he loved. Um, and I think when that stopped, I think that’s when the alcohol became a problem.
So thinking back to those early days is probably a lot of good memories of music parties.
Yeah. I mean, literally to the point where we would have a barbecue in the back garden and the piano would be out and there’d be music blaring and people we didn’t know would randomly turn up to the house and asked to join in, you know, things like that happened. It was, it was just, it was, it was a fun childhood in that respect. Um, obviously that was, as I say, you know, as he got, as I got towards my teenage years, the need, should we say the demand for rock and roll singers kind of hit a Rocky patch for one of the best. Um, and I think really he just had to get a proper job. And I think, you know, really the proper job than not being able to do what he loved. I think all that pressure that he was never used to. And I think that really was what turned, you know, a sociable drinking habit into, uh, into, uh, an addiction really. Hmm.
It’s interesting to hear you talk about your dad. And, and one of the things that we tend to do is we tend to try to understand why they did what they did. And we can hear that through how you’re talking about the change in your dad, but let’s talk about you now. So when things started to change, uh, you said that you were in your teens.
Yeah. Sort of around 17, really. So really sort of important time in my life. I was having a hard time of school and not academically necessarily, but just peer group wise. I was bullied, you know, this isn’t, this isn’t anything unusual. I don’t think for a lot of kids to be honest, but, you know, I just, I didn’t have, I didn’t feel like I had my dad there to talk to him about this. I couldn’t open up to him. I couldn’t discuss things with him. You know, my dad had the best of times was very old school. Um, he was adopted at quite a young age, I believe, and had a fairly rough childhood himself. So he was very much coming from the point of view of children should be seen and not heard and he wasn’t one for showing his emotions either.
So for me, as what I would say is quite a fairly sensitive kid to then have this additional barrier of, I want to talk to my dad, Hey dad. And the first words out of his mouth was slurred. It was like, I just, just shut him off basically. And, and just closed down and, and dealt with everything myself. And I think really that’s when the rot set in with our relationship, because it was a case of anytime I wanted to talk to him, I could see it had a drink when I just, that was it. My, my went back, went up straight away, as soon as I knew he’d had a drink, it was like, didn’t want to talk.
So how did that make you feel seeing your dad that way?
It’s a really, really hard thing to nail down is such a mixed bag of emotions. There’s this whole there’s anger. There’s shame, I guess as well. I mean, you know, certainly later on in life, when I would introduce people to him or we’d be out and then he’d start drinking a lot and, you know, become that sort of embarrassing that I know dad’s meant to be embarrassing anyway, I’m really good at that. But you know, that, that point where you step over the market, it just becomes, you know, something beyond the joke and also, you know, just loneliness, I suppose, as well. I mean, you know, it was always reasonably close to my mum, but I hadn’t got that male role model in my life anymore. Really. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t anyway, you know, I just had mum and, you know, dad was sort of this background figure now that I didn’t feel I could relate to or talk to or anything. So it was, it was re it was a really hard time for me. Um, and it, I mean, you know, at the end of the day, I guess it’s shaped who I am now, but at the time it really was quite hard.
So when you say that you feel it’s shaped the way that you are today, what do you mean by that? How, what do you think is why are you the way that you are because of that experience?
There’s a number of things. I think I’m quite well, I guess the first thing is I was from that point onwards always determined not to be addicted to anything. Um, and I found it real easy to recognise the signs of addiction in other people where I in myself. So if at any point I thought, you know, this, why am I doing it? You know, even like playing video games or things like that, if I’m like, why am I staying up till two o’clock in the morning to play this game? This is ridiculous. You know, this feels a bit like it might be taking over. Do you know what I mean? Things like that. And, but also I think emotionally, because I had to deal with everything on my own, I think just an extent I’ve become a lot stronger because of that emotionally, perhaps I don’t know it, I like to think I was always a really sensitive kid and I like to think I’ve carried that forward, but I also have the ability to sort of lock it away if necessary. So if I have to deal with something that’s not particularly easy, then I can deal with it. And then I can, now at least I can talk about it later as, as we’re demonstrating now. Um, but for a long time, I think I, I shut out a lot of things for a very long time. I’d certainly didn’t deal with the relationship I, I didn’t have with my dad.
And so how long did that go on for Simon? The shutting him out.
Probably until about four or five years ago. Um, he passed two years ago, just gone. Um, and I shut him out for a very long time. He got he, he got cancer, um, funnily enough, nothing to do with the drinking. Um, but it was lung cancer and cancer, the colon, I believe, um, which he sort of B and then it all came back. But I mean, he, he made it to 84 nearly, it was just before his 84th birthday when he passed. Um, not quite sure how he managed that he may have pickled himself possibly, but it was, it was a time when I thought that, you know, you’ve shut this guy out for such a long time. You don’t know how much time you’ve got left, you know, and Jane and I were friends at that point, my girlfriend, and she talked to me a lot about it and helped me deal with a lot of it really and helped me open up about it.
Speaker 2: (11:06)
And I think it’s having that, having that person there to actually talk to about these things where, you know, they will just sit and listen and I think that’s made a big difference to me certainly. And I think then from that point forward, I could actually, you know, try and talk to dad and, and we knew we, I mean, we never really talked about the drinking, not ever. We didn’t talk about the years where I felt he missed out or I missed out. We just came to a sort of understanding of where we both were and how we felt about each other. And for the first time in 30 years, maybe nearly I could tell him I loved him, which was, you know, that was, that was a big deal really.
Wonderful that you had that gift of time to have some time with them and to express that you loved him.
Yes. Yeah. I mean, I think now if I hadn’t had that, I don’t, I don’t, I think I’d probably carry it for the rest of my life. Um, but the fact that I could do that, the fact that I took that time, you know, I, I just looked past where we’d come from and just dealt with where we were right then. And just, I just in a, he was my dad at the end of the day, you know, and I do love him. I did love him. And, and I told him as much, as much as I could really, before, before he passed.
That’s wonderful. And, shows the courage that you have to, you know, to do the difficult thing and overcome those barriers that you had built up over those years to step forward and to talk to him.
Yeah. I mean, this is the thing, once you do it, it’s easier every time, you know, it, if it’s that massive first bury, you just have to push through. Um, and you know, it did take a lot on it, but it, but I’m glad I did it really am wonderful.
And thinking about all of these years and this experience that you’ve been through with your dad, how do you think it’s impacted your experience of being a parent now with your own children?
Well, I mean, uh, you know, I’ve, I’ve tried to take a, funnily enough. I tried to take a similar approach to my own dad in terms of, um, alcohol and things like that. You know, he, mum and dad introduced me to alcohol gradually over sort of my late teens kind of years, you know, they, they would never demonising anything. Um, and I think that’s kind of important because I think there’s this whole temptation because of where I came from with that too. Like, you know, think that alcohol is really bad. You mustn’t do this, don’t go near this, don’t do that, whatever you do, you know? And, and that, I think that just pushes children to want it all the more and just think this must be really awesome if you don’t want it to stay, you know, you know, anytime you tell your kids not to do something that bounds or want to do it.
So I’m kind of glad that it hasn’t pushed me down that road. Um, but it has also made me, I think I’m very aware of how I am with my children in terms of being open with them being available to them, if they need me or, you know, I’ve always said to them, if we want it, they don’t want to talk to me. Obviously I’m their dad, you know, who wants to talk to their dad. Right. Um, but I’ve always said to them, I’m here. If you want to talk, it doesn’t matter what it’s about. There’s no judgement , you know, there’s probably very little you’re going to surprise me with then they genuinely do. Um, so I think to an extent that has helped me in that regard, because it’s made me think, I don’t want to be that close book. I don’t want to be, um, I don’t want to be someone who pushes them away if I can help it. Um, I, haven’t always, I’ve always been the best I necessarily, um, but I’ve done my best at the time. You know, that’s what you can do. Really. I, I think my dad did, unfortunately, he had this dog on his back that wouldn’t let go and he couldn’t shake it. He didn’t have the strength of the roads to just go, right. I’m not going to do it anymore. Unfortunately.
So when you think back about your dad, what’s a happy memory that you have of your dad.
Uh, it’s quite a lot really. Um, we used to go to Guernsey a lot on holiday. Um, so dad and I used to go, it sounds ridiculous, right? We used to go crabbing and Ealing we’d call it. Um, and the crap that we we’d go out with, um, basically kitties, little fishing nets and spades and buckets, and we would catch the most enormous crabs on the beaches again, see, I’m not, I’m literally like, you know, huge cravings and, um, eels as well, like a foot and a half long with a stupid little kid’s net. And it was just hilarious trying to scoop from, into the buckets and whatnot. And dad had shift these huge rocks cause the tide goes out miles on, began to beaches, comes in for hours and, um, you’d have all these big rocks and you turn them over and everything had just scarper.
Um, so there’s that, I mean, there’s, as I say, this, the Bob keys in the garden, you know, dad playing the piano and blaring the music out. And uh, even like in my later teens, you know, we’d have barbecues in the backyard and things like that, you know? So, um, they’re probably the sort of, I suppose they’re the two things that spring to mind really, you know, the fun parties. And then the one thing me and dad did do on our own together was going crabbing and Ealing on the beach in Guernsey, which was cool.
Oh, that sounds brilliant. I think it’s really important to get to a place where we can remember those happy memories he has quite often we can get caught in, in the chaos and, and the sadness of it all. And we forget the happy ones.
Um, yeah, I mean, for a long time, I don’t think I, I really thought about those memories. You know, I saw every time dad came to mind, there was just this instant, you know, backup sort of, um, just remembering, you know, the hiding of the drink, the drinking mum’s collection of miniatures and replacing what was in the bottles. So it wouldn’t be like he had, you know, uh, the, the time on holiday, we almost had a fight because he was drunk and he was trying to tell me what to do. And I was a bit too old for that, you know, things like that. And it’s just, it’s easy just as you say, to just latch onto those memories and forget the other ones sometimes, but they were, they were good memories and you know, it’s good to remember. It’s good to
Remember them. Definitely. If there’s the one thing that people do after hearing this, this episode is I’d like them to remember the happy times, think back to the happy memories because they are there. Um, and to cherish those. So one last question for you, which I think is a really lovely way to end the episode is what’s something that you’re grateful for. Something that I’m grateful for.
Lots of things I’m grateful for, to be honest. Um, I’m grateful for my children. I’m grateful for my girlfriend, my life, my career, uh, the fact that I’ve got a roof over my head and food in my belly, um, I’ve, I’ve kind of always been the eternal optimist. I think maybe that was part of getting through those years in my teenage years, you know, I am Mr. Glass half full all the time, really? Probably to a fault, or maybe, I dunno, maybe it’s maybe it’s gone too far. I don’t know. But, um, I, you know, I think in life I’ve got a lot of things to be grateful. Um, hello things we’re grateful for really so life on the holy spirit, good
Having gratitude I think is incredibly important cause it’s, it’s creates a positive mindset. And as you say, the more positive you are, the more able you are to find solutions and to not just focus on the challenging things that are happening in life. So that’s why I like to end with gratitude.
I’m incredibly grateful, as I said, in the beginning for you to be here and to have this conversation with me, it’s been, it’s been lovely to, to share this time with you. And thank you so much for sharing your story with others. I’m sure it will be helpful to somebody.
I hope so. Yeah. I mean, you know, if they’ll think maybe if I had someone like that in those years, that might help me. I don’t know, but we can, we can, but hope.
Yes. And we can all smile again. So thank you for joining me on smiling again, and it’s lovely to see your smile. Perfect time to say goodbye with a smile. Thank you, Simon.