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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]]

goodenuffmum Sun 30-Dec-12 19:37:36

Both of my parents are alcoholics and I was the carer for both (and my younger brother) from about the age of 7. Mum is also a narcissist.

I finally accepted that my dh has a problem with drink (they say we have a 60% chance of being alcoholics ourselves or marrying one!) and I joined Al Anon 8 weeks ago. It is making such a difference to my life. I now understand why I am so controlling, never feel like I fit in anywhere, never open up totally, always trying to sort out everyones life and such a damn perfectionist sad

Dont get me wrong, Im still REALLY angry at the damage they caused me and my db both physically and mentally but Im trying to not let them effect me for the next 40 years smile

greeneyed Sun 30-Dec-12 19:57:16

Sorry for everyone posting here and what you've been through. My father is an alcoholic. Fwiw the adult children who are also addicted have perhaps been left the most tragic legacy of all. Wish all well in coming to terms with and making sense of their experiences x

StickEmWithThePointyEnd Mon 31-Dec-12 05:57:03

I now understand why I am so controlling, never feel like I fit in anywhere, never open up totally, always trying to sort out everyones life and such a damn perfectionist

It's quite scary how you have just desribed me to a tee.

MummyPig24 Mon 31-Dec-12 08:45:31

Sorry to read everyones sad stories. My dad is an alcoholic. He has had a problem with alcohol for as long as I can remember.

My mum died nearly 10yrs ago and that os when the drinking became out of control but I didn't realise until about a year ago.

Recently dad was very ill, admitted alcoholism and received hospital treatment. He seemed determined to get sober. He is drinking again. It is only a matter of time before it is at the stage where he becomes very ill again. He has a job but who will continue to employ an alcoholic who is becoming increasingly unable to function. I truly believe he will drink himself to death.

Dads alcoholism has definitely affected me, and more so my brother. It's very difficult to come to terms with when we can clearly see what is going to happen. I wish I could just walk away from it all. Being honest with him doesn't work, ignoring it doesn't work.

I just can't understand the selfishness of it all. It's quite sickening really.

hogmanure Mon 31-Dec-12 12:57:41

also sorry to hear everyones stories sad

but at the same time we are a stoical lot smile

am going to buy that book

apologies am exhausted just home from a night shift

goodenuffmum Mon 31-Dec-12 15:16:48

everyone I have met at AlAnon share the same characteristics. I recognised a bit of myself with every story they told sad

The thing I hate the most about myself is that I dont know how to let go and have FUN: not think about what others think; or tomorrow, or how I will cope with a hangover...blah, blah.

My friend and neighbour is in the same situation and we have set ourselves the target of being able to be have a bottle of wine together and be totally relaxed. Sad or what?grin

hogmanure Mon 31-Dec-12 23:21:14

Happy New Year to you all
Be kind to yourselves, accept the past and work towards an emotionally healthy future... not fixing people who don't want to be fixed, but looking after yourselves xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

ilovewoody Mon 31-Dec-12 23:33:32

Thanks hogmanure
Happy new year to you too.
Have definetly decided to make some changes to me this year. Hope to stop worrying about what other people do and work on making myself happy.
Onwards and upwards for us all x

CanIHaveAPetGiraffePlease Mon 31-Dec-12 23:48:18

I absolutely HATE that the legacy of growing up in an alcoholic home endures throughout adulthood. I thought leaving home when I went to uni meant I was free from it all.

I'm 33 and realise how my life is still limited by my childhood. I want to be free of it. So much lost potential. So much sadness. So much damage.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 00:29:12

changed my name smile

Feel a lot of sadness for everyone on here.. but feel better since reading about the likely legacy of my childhood, like its not my fault I am sad sometimes and am always trying to make everything normal and perfect. That I lack confidence and am easily disheartened .

CanI.. we can be free of it by understanding it and with counselling I hope

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 00:36:33

Are any of you religious?

Mayisout Tue 01-Jan-13 11:46:16

CanIhaveaPetGiraffePlease if you are 33 you have a great chance of recovering from the negative effects, or certainly a chance of understanding how your childhood affected you and to develop ways to work round these. I only started discussing the issues when I was 50 but feel I am vastly better now, 7 years later, and I assume that nowadays children of alcoholics are able to find support online that was never there in my day. So hopefully it is much less of a problem nowadays.
I think it was never discussed within the family, or not within we children's hearing, as an attempt to protect us or just because of embarrassment, when in fact that made it seem a huge, shameful thing which must never be acknowledged. So much of the damage done was inadvertant, by that I mean inadvertant by the other adults involved, not the alcy.

JuliaScurr Tue 01-Jan-13 12:30:02

It's very hard to work out what is my original personality and what is a reaction to being ACOA
it forms our character to some extent

traipsingalong Tue 01-Jan-13 12:55:59

My father was an alcoholic.

I tend to put up with things that I think a lot of other people wouldn't, partly because I've had so much practice, and partly because I'm not really sure what's normal.

I am also extremely good at hiding what I feel. So as someone said earlier, people think I'm cold sometimes. My default reaction to everything is to show...... nothing (because if you let them know how you feel then they know your weakness I suppose is how it started when I was a little girl). Then I have a 'delayed' reaction, perhaps days later.

I have made a few bad mistakes in life which have had their basis in me putting other people's needs/wants massively before my own.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 14:28:19

Some thoughts

Another effect of the dysfunctional family is lack of family support and family get mother could never help with the babies or family as she couldn't be trusted with her drinking... she thought she was fine, of course. Not only do you not get support, you have to support them.

What does that do to us, that the person you looked to to trust their judgement can't be trusted to be sensible?! No wonder we have to be ultra sensible and responsible... We also struggle to be heard shouting "No , everything is NOT fine, but we are apparently pretending it is " So no outside agencies are called in to help us... we just coped with it all on our own.

RedRosie Tue 01-Jan-13 14:38:36

Happy New Year all. I'm sad to read these stories also.

I am the middle-aged child of two alcoholic parents, both of whom - after huge effort on their part and after I left home very young to escape - have now been sober for twenty years. They are elderly now.

Both my brother and I have some awful memories from our teenage years. Both of us moved as far away as possible, soon as we could.

I have completely forgiven them and am proud of their will to overcome their problems, but forgotten nothing if that makes any sense. I recently told my father that I had had a miserable and traumatic childhood - he knows that of course, and said he was sorry. He really is, and offered no excuses.

It has had a profound impact on my whole life, which I'm not really ready to discuss in detail, although some of what you say rings bells - particularly the distancing of oneself. And it has not made me a better or a stronger person. Because they overcame their problems, I lack sympathy for others who won't. I see it as won't/a choice, NOT can't/because it is something out of their control. I'm impatient with people that won't take responsibility for themselves. I'm not proud of this or saying it is the right way to feel.

I'm so sorry for those of you who remain in the thick of it. It is not your fault or your responsibility, although I'm sure many people see it that way.

LindaMcCartneySausage Tue 01-Jan-13 15:09:00

My father's an alcoholic and even though I moved out at 18 (am 37 now) and he lives 400 miles away, I still seem to be picking up the pieces and putting things right.

Had a relatively stable childhood as DM held everything together for the family as she juggled a full time professional job and 3 kids while my Dad went AWOL (not sure how she did it tbh!). DF was/is almost a functioning alcoholic and had a professional job too, so money wasn't a huge issue growing up, but even then, his grandiose gestures of buying drinks for whole pubs of strangers (i.e. his new best friends) meant the electricity was cut off. He didn't turn up at my 18th birthday party, even though he'd gone to collect the booze for the party an hour before and was gone for 2 days.

He's since had affairs with "people who understand me" (fellow alcoholics who legitimise his drinking), committed fraud, been done for professional negligence and run up massive debts in my blameless DM's name, but plays the happy chappy clown who "likes a drink" to his friends. He called me "cold and mean" when I asked for money back that I'd lent him and cries to friends that his children are distant.

My Dad is still alive and merrily drinking like it's Hogmanay every day, despite, over the last few years, suffering from prostate cancer (radiotherapy, operations), having 2 heart attacks (hospitalisations, stents) and a major hip replacement. None of that, on top of his debts, proved to be a wake up call. He lies to Drs and everyone about how much he drinks and my stepmother enables him by joining him at the pub (my DM never did) and saying "but he's so sociable!"

Another perfectionist here! I realised very early that I couldn't rely on my parents to help me, so i over achieved at school and decided that i could take being unpopular and got the hell out of Dodge! (plus had my DM as good role model)

ilovewoody Tue 01-Jan-13 15:19:04

I am going out shortly to have new years dinner at my parents house. Dad will no doubt be drunk and a pain in the arse. I'm not going for his sake but for my DMs
Then going on to visit some relatives with them. Would rather stick pins in my eyes but again, going to support DM.
Wish me luck

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 15:59:57

For example

I like chocolate. I get a bit down sometimes and comfort eat when exhausted..
I don't think I should eat too much chocolate as have sl high cholesterol so I limit it, while recognising I am responsible for my own health.
Am I a chocolate addict with the disease of chocolate addiction which is not my fault...No ! Its my fault if I eat it and I watch my weight and may give it up now in the New Year. I may not but then I might get fat.

Drinking to excess is a choice and it is not a disease, that is just an excuse and misleading. Continuing to be alcohol dependent is also a choice... You pays your money and you take your chance.
Alcoholics lie about their drinking to the world and to themselves. We do not have to excuse it or accept it... People want to be drunks or take drugs then ruin their lives, fine get on with it but on top of everything else don't make us excuse you as well and try to help you. Fine to offer a dry out or alcohol service once or twice... but thats the limit, its their party let them get on with it.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 16:00:46

ilovewoody..hope all goes well. Your dm does not have to stay with him.

RedRosie Tue 01-Jan-13 16:15:07

I hear what you say hogmanyay. And indeed said something similar.

However, I don't want anyone reading this who has issues with alcohol to be hurt... They are, I'm sure, often angry enough with themselves without any anger we feel based on our own experiences.

It must be very hard to go ahead with a choice to recover. I admire hugely anyone who does.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 16:37:35

I don't want to enter into a big debate about it but this is a thread where I can express my view imo.

I am not criticising unduly, am not calling names or being offensive but am hopefully putting that opinion out there to help family members of alcoholics realise they cannot approach this like any other problem and certainly not like a disease they can cure.

It is a lifestyle choice not a medical illness or psychiatric illness..substance misuse does not fall into either of those categories.

This thread is for ACOA to feel angry, to reflect and to resolve issues as best they can. They may have spent many many years trying to cure their alcoholic parent, I know I did, well wake up folks it can't be cured as the person doing it does it of their own free will and choice.

Unpalatable but true.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 20:13:17

Good luck and Best Wishes to all of those who have been alcohol dependent and have given up.. Keep strong it is more that worth it . There is a very good reason why I don't drink.. I have seen what it can do .

Whocansay Tue 01-Jan-13 22:17:48

Marking my place. I'm not really sure what I want to say, other than I'm still really ANGRY with my mother. I can't believe that she chose vodka over her children.

I love her, but I have no real idea how to deal with her.

hogmanyay Tue 01-Jan-13 22:55:58

Sorry to hear that whocansay
As you can hear I am also angry with a capital A
In my case, gin

I am so sorry it does hurt and causes other problems which I am just trying to deal with now

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