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Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents

(124 Posts)
hogmanure Fri 28-Dec-12 14:01:14

I had an alcoholic mother who steadily drank herself into oblivion over 30 years. I did not suffer any abuse and actually had a very happy early childhood provided by my very forward thinking generous parents who also provided me with a good education and nice home.
Thing started to become difficult in my preteen and teenage years with lots of secret drinking by my mother going on with bottles hidden around the house, daytime naps and lots of drinks parties. My mum didn't have any particular mental health issues but just drank to excess and carried on. and on. and on.
No one spoke about it. No one went to the GP about it.
Later on when I was in my 20s she drank more and more losing her memory and her health. I tackled her about it several times and she said she would try to stop, but wouldn't go to the GP or detox or go to counselling.
As we were all wondering if she had cancer and what to do my father collapsed and had a cardiac arrest at home while my mum was busy drinking in the utility room.
Passers by tried to revive him and called an ambulance but he could not be resuscitated and died at the hospital that day.
Following this my mum went on a huge grief driven binge and had to be hospitalised although she kept self discharging or refused to let people in the house and eventually she was put under section for treatment... sadly although she survived she had extensive brain damage by now due to the alcohol and has never recovered.

This is just my story. Everyone with an alcoholic parent will have their own story and history, but some things we may all have in common.
There are difficulties that Adult children tend to have... not necessarily all of the ones described by NACOA. In my case I mainly lack social confidence and feel empty and lonely sometimes. However I think therapy might help me and I intend to look into this
I'd like to hear from anyone in a similar position so we can have a space to express ourselves.
There are particular issues many children of alcoholics face ... the deceit, the lies, the knowledge something isn't right, the selfishness of addiction, the choice of alcohol over loved ones and children, the grandiose gestures and false laughter, the smell of alcohol in the morning, the dirty dishes, the stubborn insistence of drinking despite everything, the safety / fire issues, the lack of security, the haphazard driving, the shame, the inability to put something right that can't be fixed as it is a choice and coming to terms with that.

[I would prefer it if those ACOA who are themselves addicted do not join this thread as I have too much anger inside me to tolerate and help alcoholics [sorry]]

StuffezLaBouche Fri 28-Dec-12 15:17:01

What a sad post. I was considering posting something myself along these lines at some point, but I always bottle out because I don't want to open Pandora's box, if you get me.

My mum is an alcoholic (god the utility room drinking and hidden bottles in your post rang so many bells). One of my most horrible memories is her comnig to pick me and 2 other girls up from school absolutely hammered, with a mug of wine in the cupholder next to her. I can't even go into the horribleness of my teenage years.
Now, she is an entrepreneur in a particular sector and getting awards and accolade left right and centre. I am pleased for her, but I HATE her at the same time. She still drinks but it is generally more controlled. I also cannot relax when I see her with an alcoholic drink.

Had a short course of counselling a couple of years ago which didn't even scratch the surface.

Sorry for the disjointed ramble, but I can't go really into detail without exploring areas I'm just not ready to go yet.

In my case I mainly lack social confidence and feel empty and lonely sometimes. This is me! I live alone and am single, which I do genuinely enjoy, but I know I have chosen solitude and lack of friends to avoid future hurt. Ironically, my one female friend, who is a genuine soulmate, is a functioning alcoholic closer to my mum's age than mine.

I hope Christmas has been kind to you

hogmanure Fri 28-Dec-12 16:02:49

I hate her too though I hate alcohol more. I took on the role of looking after her for a while but no longer, I can't do that and am NC.

Hi Stuffez... hope you had a good Christmas too. I am happy now but I do think I could be happier and more confident... is the lack of confidence down to feeling embarrassed by her I don't know?

I am quite old now, and feel I have the space and time to work through counselling although only an hour per month or two as I have a very demanding job.

Like you, I am really not into discussing all the events and bad things, I am only interested in ways of seeing how my upbringing may have caused certain traits and overcoming those.

hogmanure Fri 28-Dec-12 17:55:36


SmellsLikeTeenStrop Fri 28-Dec-12 18:08:05

My mum was an alcoholic. She drank herself to death about 6 years ago.

Childhood wasn't all that bad really, I don't remember her drinking much when I was young, but teenage years and onwards she started to drink heavily, her binges would last longer and the gap between them would be shorter.

What hurts is that she used to say she was deliberately drinking herself to death. She had polio as a child and it left her with a weakened leg, as she aged the weakness became greater and she was told she would end up wheelchair bound, so she said she'd rather die than be in a wheelchair. She had 4 kids, and before she died she had 5 grandchildren. We weren't enough to live for.

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Fri 28-Dec-12 18:09:29

god, how screwed up is that, telling your own children that you were deliberately trying to kill yourself.

ilovewoody Fri 28-Dec-12 19:33:08

My dad is an alcoholic. Told me to F* off on Christmas day for trying to get him to slow down before the rest of the family arrived. He got more and more drunk and was a total pain in the a**e. then he fell asleep and missed Christmas dinner.
I am humiliated by him, angry, sad and worried for my DM who has to put up with him on a daily basis.
I know it is awful to say but I wish him dead.
It's the only way we will be free of him.

Muminwestlondon Fri 28-Dec-12 20:00:12

Some sad stories here already. I also am the adult child of a (thankfully dead) alcoholic. ilovewoody I totally understand how you feel. Unfortunately although my father died when I was 17, 30 years ago, I still feel unhappy on a daily basis and don't think I will ever be free.

In my case my father was an alcoholic before I was born. My childhood was characterised by the usual social embarassments. My friends would overhear the rows - the neighbours even got a petition to evict us at one point; everything of value was pawned (including my mum's rings and my and my sisters jewellery, the sewing machine etc); not being able to tell my first boyfriend the reason I couldn't bring him home was not just because of the holes in the carpet and the shabby furniture but my drunken father snoring in a chair or ranting and raving in his less unconscious moments.

My father would give my mother the housekeeping money on payday each week and then spend the rest of the week demanding it back. Every night they would row. I would lie in my bed in fear hearing them row, imagining them going to the kitchen to get knives to murder each other.

Finally, after many years of refusing to leave him, my Mum finally got a divorce and we moved into social housing a few months later (I still remember my joy at the age of 16 at actually having hot water and carpets without holes!). My father died from a cardiac arrest a few months later - no doubt he had no purpose in life apart from abusing us.

The effects are still with me. By my teens I had no social confidence and had a phobia about crowds. I can still never relax and enjoy myself wholeheartedly. I had many unhappy relationships with nasty controlling men until I met DH in my 30s, been married 17 years and have two lovely daughters. I was lucky to get a good career fairly late in life but have always been held back by lack of confidence.

When I become a parent myself, I realise how much he must have hated us, I would always put my kids first; or perhaps his addiction was so severe that I cannot understand it. Anyway I don't think I will ever be free. My whole childhood was dominated by it. Christmas is time of joy but I just remember him breaking open the gas meter so he could go to the pub (gas and electricity were continually cut off as well).

ilovewoody Fri 28-Dec-12 20:09:11

Muminwestlondon glad to hear you have a successful marriage and daughters. No matter what you have been through you have made a success of your life and should feel proud.
Unfortunately I married a man very like my father which almost ruined me. I have divorced him now but find myself at 40 single and childless. That is the legacy I have to carry.
It makes me sad to think that so may years after your fathers death you are still sad. I think like you that my dad must hate us. Why else would you treat your family like that? If he was to stop drinking and change his ways I could totally forgive him but I know this will never happen.

SmellsLikeTeenStrop Fri 28-Dec-12 20:28:17

My mother was a happy drunk, my friends actually really liked her and used to love coming round to our house.

I don't think she hated us, she tried to give up for us on countless occasions. Every binge was the last one and I think she really believed it, but something would always happen that would send her rushing back to the bottle.

After she died I was really angry with my dad. DM sent the last year of her life in and out of hospital. She'd be in hospital, get sorted out and sobered up, and then on the way home dad would stop by the supermarket and pick her up some alcohol. There was no way my mother could have got to the shops on her own, she was too ill, he could have refused but he didn't because he wanted an easy life.

drizzlecake Fri 28-Dec-12 21:53:12

I am humiliated by him, angry, sad and worried for my DM who has to put up with him on a daily basis

But, ilovewoody she doesn't have to put up with him.

Imo it is the responsibility that you feel for sorting all the problems in the family that can cause you probs in the future. You have this false mask that you wear. You look like you can deal with anything and know best. This makes it v hard to make friends, as you appear a know-all. Plus you can hide your emotions completely (as you deal with daily stress and upset) so seem cold and the mask of 'everything's fine' means you don't open up to people.

So it's hard to make friends.
I liked this book

and this one

ilovewoody Fri 28-Dec-12 22:19:08

Drizzle cake you just made me cry. Don't know how you can see right through me when you don't even know me. But you've hit the nail on the head.
I do feel like its my responsibility to sort this problem out. Don't want my mum or my sister to worry about it.
And I am very closed off emotionally. I had a miscarriage and didn't tell anyone about it as I didn't want them to worry or be upset (I have told my family since though)
I am divorced and very hardened against life. Don't think I would ever meet a man I can trust so am resigned to a life alone. But I'm happy that way. Or so I thought.
I will check out the oops you recommended

ilovewoody Fri 28-Dec-12 22:22:20

Meant to type books not oops smile

FranTan Fri 28-Dec-12 23:38:35

Hi OP,
Have you considered al anon? I know many people who have benefitted from going along to a meeting or picking up the phone to the help line.
Fran x

ihatethecold Sat 29-Dec-12 10:05:40

my adoptive parents are both alcoholics, im estranged from them now which is sad cos i really miss my mum.
its my dads drinking thats caused so much upset to me over the years.
he is a functioning alcoholic who always managed to hold down a high powered job.

in my teenage years i got away with anything because they were to drunk or asleep to notice what i was up too, with dire consequences for me.
i ended up having a child at 16 with an abusive twat, who bullied me for 5 years.
i now don't see my son(22) as my father has done so much damage to our relationship.

it wouldn't bother me if i never saw my dad again and i wish my mum would leave the narcissistic bully, but she just enables him all the time. its such a waste of her life.

but im happy now, i have a lovely dh and 2 lovely kids but there is always a lingering sadness in the background.

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Sat 29-Dec-12 10:20:21

My mum was an alcoholic. I ended up distancing myself to try and protect myself. I have loads of posts on here under various names moaning and despairing about her latest behaviour.

She didn't have anyone else and treated me like an adult from when I was about 8 years old. I had to look after her a lot. Though as an adult and a mother myself now, I can see how much she did or tried to do for us. I didn't see it when I was child and didn't appreciate it. At the same time though, I have to remember that she put me through hell many times. I just wanted her to look after herself, stop drinking, eat properly, but she never had the motivation to.

She died very suddenly in November and it's like someone has literally pulled the ground from beneath my feet.

GeordieCherry Sat 29-Dec-12 10:52:33

I second Al-Anon
My DM is still alive & still drinks. My life is so much better for attending meetings though
I haven't lived with her since I was 18 (35 now) but the effects remain. And they continue after the person dies or has stopped drinking
There are a lot of similar patterns of feelings & behaviour with adult children of alcoholics - anything for a quiet life/ wishing them dead/ putting them to bed/ diluting the drink/ not causing waves/ rescuing people...
My sister hasn't found Al-Anon yet & she still suffers unfortunately.
Teen & pre-teen years in our house were horrible. Always enough money as parents had good jobs & she managed to hold it together for work. But burned dinners, broken promises, inability to be there for us.
I put her to bed most of the time & it was all the most cowardly cover up with friends & family (they all lived very long drives away)
At family gatherings it's still the pissed elephant in the room. But I distance myself from it & manage up have a good time & not make things my responsibility
Sorry, longer than I intended!
I truly believe it has saved my life & that of my ex who is also an alcoholic. I knew I could get away with pushing him down the stairs & him breaking his neck. But I didn't. He's sober for today
Still hoping my Mum finds sobriety. But if she doesn't I know I'm ok
More than happy to be PM'd about this
Good luck all smile

ilovewoody Sat 29-Dec-12 11:42:34

Such sad stories. What I'm picking up from all your posts is that the effects of our parents drinking will always be with us whether they pass away or stop drinking.
I am waiting for my dad to die before my life will change but even if he lives till 90 things aren't going to be different unless I change my outlook. So I have ordered one of the books mentioned on an earlier post and going to put my energy into changing what's going on in my head.
Thanks for sharing your stories because it has really helped me

hogmanure Sat 29-Dec-12 12:18:30

I agree ..thanks very much to you all, such snapshots of reality with an alcohol dependent parent
I have distanced myself too, both physically and emotionally.. I used to forgive her and try to help but at some point that changed and I really do feel she made her choice and lost me in the process. This is horrible but I feel some contempt for the way alcohol has degraded her.
I am ready to be happy, ready to learn how to be more assertive and have fun.. although not by drinking obviously!
i would really like it if some of us travelled that journey together.

btw I apologise for my horrible namechange... my usual name is much nicer but I didn't want to go too far in outing myself more than I already have

hogmanure Sun 30-Dec-12 10:18:18

Loving "pissed elephant in the room"
And yes to diluting the drink and burnt dinners.
Anyone elses mum drive over the lawn instead of down the drive? Lol
I used to beg my mum to go to bed in case she caused a fire staying up smoking and drinking.. It really makes you into a character like the daughter from Ab Fab ( whose name I have suddenly forgotten !)

drizzlecake Sun 30-Dec-12 14:26:34

The responsibility side of things really came home to me over the last few years.

My very elderly mother was unable to manage on her own any longer. My alcy DF had died a few years earlier (huge weight like a grey cloud lifted off my shoulders then even though I had left home 30 odd years before!). I felt duty bound to have DM live with me but just got sort of panic attacks whenever I thought about it.

She went into a care home where I visited her regularly. But I gradually realised the reason I couldn't bear living with her was because I had always put on the 'I"m fine' / 'don't worry about me' / 'I can cope with anything' act when with her, due to the dire circumstances of DF's drinking throughout my childhood, and me not wanting to cause her any more worry or problems than she already had.

The upshot was that I would have felt I had to be 'fine' and 'ok' 24/7 if she lived with me (to perpetuate the false mask i wore when with her) and that that would have been too difficult, I felt I would never ever be able to just be myself, to be angry with someone, to be upset about someting, whilst she was with me and that was what caused the panic feelings.

It's sad that although we always got on well we never had a real mother/daughter relationship, I never ever turned to her for help or encouragement, it was always the other way round. I hope this makes sense, it's hard to explain these things. She passed away in September, by the way, and I am still only now getting my head round these emotions.

ilovewoody Sun 30-Dec-12 17:47:40

Drizzlecake I understand your feelings of sadness about never having a proper mother/daughter relationship. I feel like that about my dad.

I wish I had a lovely dad, the kind that other people have. Someone to go to for advice, spend quality time with etc. We both love movies so a few months ago I invited him to cinema with me as he never goes alone. First time was fine but next time he was drunk (11am!) so we will not be doing that again.

I wish I had a dad to look up to but instead I have a stupid drunk who can't be taken out in public

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Sun 30-Dec-12 17:56:23

My mum used to call me Saffy (the daughter from Ab Fab).

JuliaScurr Sun 30-Dec-12 19:05:30

JuliaScurr Sun 30-Dec-12 19:14:02

I went to some meetings of this and the one above. The immediate sense of recognition is astonishing. Wish I'd gone for longer.

I don't think I ever grew up properly; I was like forced rhubarb - too much too soon, not strong enough. Always felt I couldn't cope with adult responsibility like career, mortgage, driving, motherhood etc.

Wasted potential. Always want someone to look after me somehow, but also push them away because I can cope.

Sound familiar?

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