Freddie's story: "My dad's name was Huw. He was an alcoholic poet."

Freddie Griffiths | June 2020 | 7 minutes

My dad died when I was seven from a cancer largely induced by his addiction to alcohol - fifteen years on I was given a stack of poems that he had written.

These poems were a release for his torment and, being the only tangible items I have of his, allowed me to dig deeper into his addiction as a way to better understand the illness that consumed him.

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My dad died when I was seven from a cancer largely induced by his addiction to alcohol. I was left nothing from my dad as he had nothing left to give by the time of his death. Fifteen years on I was given a stack of poems that he had written. These poems were a release for his torment and, being the only tangible items I have of his, allowed me to dig deeper into his addiction as a way to better understand the illness that consumed him. The film is an intimate and insightful documentary short unravelling his state of mind through the poems he left behind.

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The film came about as a result of unresolved questions I had about my dad. My dad was a mystery to me really. My siblings and I were given this sort of shielded story of our dad which, now knowing the full extent of his alcohol dependency, was both for our protection and so as to not tarnish any memory we managed to keep of him. None of us have any recollection of our dad’s problem with drinking, which is largely down to what my mum called a ‘fully-functioning relationship’ with alcohol. I wanted get a better idea of him, including his alcohol addiction, and this film felt like the perfect opportunity to do so.

The poems themselves deal with both his addiction and his mental health. They focus on the inner thoughts of his day to day and the complexities of hiding his drinking – the pain of having to keep what he thought was this massive secret. Some of the poems are hard for me to read: he expresses this sort of acceptance of death during his later period with his cancer treatment. It’s obvious to me that the poems were used as some sort of therapy for him and I think that’s what makes them so poignant.

The film came about as a result of unresolved questions I had about my dad. My dad was a mystery to me really.

The film didn’t necessarily start as a therapeutic project for me – it stemmed from curiosity. But as it went on and the components of the film started to form, the project became quite cathartic for me. There’s a part of me that feels the process of making this was a release. It’s not that I haven’t spoken openly about his death with my friends and family, but the creating of something rather than having to speak about it really allowed me to delve into more than I was able or comfortable in doing before.

My intentions for the film were never aimed at the larger scope of people dealings with addiction, but rather just shining a light on a personal story which is usually not heard. After the release of the film I’ve had a lot of responses from people who have either been in a similar situation as me or have had drinking problems such as my dad’s. At first I found it strange that people were coming forward with details of their own experiences which were in ways so similar to mine, but I can now see how naive I was to believe these sort of thing had only happened to me when these experiences and struggles are part of a much larger story. Because of this and the obvious positives that have come from sharing my story I wanted to share the film with charities such as Alcohol Change UK so as to make the story accessible to those who might take something from it.

  • Freddie is an animator who studied at the Royal Colleage of Art. You can see more of his work on his website.
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Huw's poetry

I awoke with stomach churning in hate / Yet found none to vent its wrath upon, / Until the mirror met my gaze - / And I knew.
Read his poems