This is the first of a two-part entry written by “Patrick Fitz”, an anonymous member of Courage International. 

I once heard Mother Angelica say that if you didn’t experience a certain degree of love, kindness, security and peace as a child, then you didn’t have a childhood. Everyone’s story is different, but I would tend to agree with her. I also heard her tell a joke about the Irish and alcohol, which put me off her initially until recent years. Now, I love her. None of us are perfect, and I read her literature regularly.  

I grew up in an alcoholic home and was the youngest of four children. It was chaotic, terrifying, hilarious and heart rendering; a bit like a rollercoaster. The prime emotion I most remember feeling as a child was fear. In truth, there were pockets of peace and of parental care, in the intermittent periods when Dad was attending AA meetings and thus doing well. The inner mantra among us children was mostly, “How is this (the latest drama) going to affect me?”; this attitude of course being picked up by our parents. In short, I was a frightened kid from the start who was always in need of comforting. I also felt unseen, unheard and unheeded, my Dad’s nickname for me was Jasper; more like Casper.  In short, Dad never really got AA and Mum never really bothered with Alanon. Alcoholism unchecked is the best that I can describe it as. Our Catholic faith was never discussed nor taught to us by our parents; I can see now that we were cultural Catholics. We never prayed together, and as Fr. Patrick Peyton said, “a family that prays together stays together”.  Our family today is as divided as it ever was; how true that saying is in our case. 

I remember telling my mother when I was around nine years old that I didn’t really know my father. At dinner time on the same day, she announced this to him in front of me. He looked stunned and lifted me up onto his lap, inquiring what sort of a statement that was to make. But it was true. Maybe because of this declaration, he made more of an effort with me around that time. However, for the most part, due to his addiction, he couldn’t be there for us, and nor could mum as she tried in vain to deal with his lifelong illness whilst doing her best as a housewife in difficult conditions.  

My SSA (Same Sex Attraction) manifested in the early years. The attraction only centred on the physical and still does; I was also attracted to women both emotionally and physically. However, throughout the years SSA has always lurked beneath the surface, no matter how much I tried to pretend it didn’t.  I eventually acted out with a peer and it became known to my family soon after. Nothing was said or done. No help of any kind offered. Just a knowing silence about the matter from my parents and grandmother. My siblings scapegoated me, one even spreading the news among wider friends, “Read all about it”, if you will. I no longer felt I was my father’s son or little brother to my big brothers. I didn’t speak to any teacher about it, nor did I seek any help. I simply didn’t know what to do. Life at 13 became a veritable hell. 

Football (soccer) and a sense of humour got me through the years, as the Lord blessed me with the ability to crack a ball and a joke to the delight of an audience. So, when it came to beating rivals, all mention or remembrance of being SSA went out the window. My father was back on the sidelines cheering me on. I was back. I also became determined never to act out like that again, even though I would fall again. In short, I tried to bury it as best I could.  

By the age of twenty-two, in my third year at college, cracks started to appear emotionally and mentally. My thinking became very obsessive and markedly fear based. Catastrophic thinking; the following lines from W. B. Yeats certainly applied to me at this time, “turning and turning in the widening gyre. The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold”. In short, I could not hear the voice of God due to the cacophony of self that ruled within, and the harder I tried to continue as I did, relying completely upon self, the harder it was to keep it all together. 

 It subsequently took me six years to do a four-year degree and during these years there was one significant girlfriend who understood how I ticked. I didn’t have to wear the mask around her. She loved me, warts and all. She is since deceased. You could hear her laugh from across the Irish sea. Marie was her name. She too suffered in life but never lost her beautiful ability to laugh. 

As the cracks got bigger, I sought the bigger picture for answers. Unbeknownst to, and in spite of myself, I began seeking truth. I would discover it unexpectedly through my father. In fairness to him, he always went to Mass regularly throughout our upbringing, and could be seen nightly kneeling silently in prayer at his bedside (for some reason he never tried to impart his faith verbally); he would even go to daily Mass at times, but this was all while regularly, every six months or so succumbing to drink. I could at least see that he was getting “something” from going to that little sparsely lit chapel on a hill every morning, in driving wind or rain, drunk or sober. Many things were left unsaid regarding our family history. We Irish are often described as “a nation and race of loss”. I saw that description in my own family. G. K. Chesterton wrote the following about the Irish, “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad; For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”  

Alas, even though I was beginning to look at my father’s faith as the answer, the slide in my own life continued. My SSA came back and the draw to act out was getting stronger and stronger. I kept fighting it on my own, trying to suppress it as best I could without success. I was learning the hard way that it just simply doesn’t up and leave the person. I needed to accept and face it. A parish priest around this time saw my plight and recommended that I get involved in voluntary work with those suffering from Alzheimer’s. It did help immensely, as the sufferers gave me nothing but understanding and love. I was involved in this respite center for four years whilst working part time elsewhere. It was certainly a God send; I loved working with the sufferers; they helped me laugh again, but I was still somewhat running from what needed to be looked at within. God was always gently nudging me towards where the healing lay, but like the falcon, I simply wasn’t listening to the falconer. 

Read Part Two