Mumsnet has not checked the qualifications of anyone posting here. If you need help urgently, please see our domestic violence webguide and/or relationships webguide, which can point you to expert advice and support.
Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents(124 Posts)
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]]
My mum is an alcoholic. My teenage years were the worst. My dad played in a band and worked 5/6 nights a week which gave her the opportunity to drink as much as she liked. He hated her drinking and it caused terrible rows between them so she rarely did it in front of him. Throughout my childhood I assumed he never knew how much she drank. She used to threaten my brother and I that if we ever told him he would kick her out and we'd be breaking up the family. Stupidly we listened to her. But in hindsight I think he must have had some idea. Dads quite good at just burying his head in the sand and ignoring any problem he doesn't want to acknowledge.
I left that house as soon as I could, I was 17, had done my last school exams, got a job the following week and just moved out. I hate her for what she did, for ruining my childhood, but most of all for not taking any responsibility for it. All through my childhood she blamed other people for her drinking. It was my dads fault for going out to work and leaving her at home on her own, it was my fault... not sure why but it often was apparently. And now she talks about our childhood as if we were the waltons. I dont know if she genuinely cant remember a lot of what went on or she's purposely pretending not to but it drives me mad.
I posted on here a couple of months ago asking whether I should confront her and the general opinion was that I shouldn't, that she would never apologise and probably deny it/accuse me of over reacting which would upset me even more. This is all true so I have left things alone for now.
I find social situations difficult, I have little self confidence. I find building and maintaining friendships hard and I actively seek relationships/friendships with older women. I don't know how much of this is down to my early life and how much of it would have been me anyway if that makes sense but I resent her for it.
On a positive note I believe it has made me a better parent and foster parent than I may otherwise have been. I will NEVER allow my children to go through any of the crap I had to put up with. The irony of it is she hardly drinks at all now. Shame she couldn't have managed that 20 years ago when we needed her to.
BigTilly, yes and the thing I really resent about that is constantly second-guessing at normal behaviour. I look at my teens and worry all the time that they might feel that futile depressed sadness and while I know that they aren't me with my experiences, I do find myself having a thousand thought processes about simple exchanges.
Teen: can I go out with x?
Methinks) fuck, are you desperate to leave, can you not talk to me about it, have I failed you? Do you hate your life like I did, are you jn constant hellish torment, are you ashamed to bring people home? Can you see how much I love you and don't want to smother you but I need to he a perfect mum who keeps you safe... Ad nauseum
(says) Course you can, do you need a lift?
It's exhausting! I also have furious conversations with my DPs in my head. Learning to stop that is liberating.
My father was/is an alcoholic. I've not spoken to him in twenty years. I'm not sure if he is even alive. I don't really care.
For me it was the torture of not knowing what I was going home to. Once found him on the street just up from the school bus stop. He was so drunk that he was slouched against a lamp post and I had to somehow get him home by half dragging him along the ground. Once I got him inside I got him in the recovery position as he was known to be sick/wet himself whilst in the drunken coma. I was 13 at the time. I've found him walking home from the pub with blood dripping from his face. He was an easy target for fisty cuff fights. Sometimes go home to find him in smart shirt and tie - soon learnt what that meant - he had been caught doing something and he had obviously been to court that day.
The most scary incident was when I was at home with my best friend and armed police men turned up at our house. We were bundled out - police found a fire arm in the house. But by far the worst was walking home from school to find the fire brigade leaving - my father had barricaded himself into his bedroom - nailed planks of wood over the door and took an overdose. My mother found him and alerted the authorities. Soon after this she (finally) had enough of him (took her nearly 25 years) and in the end he was sectioned and taken away.
I am angry and upset that I didn't have a normal childhood. I was made to do things (help him drive a car when his arm was broken) that my friends didn't have to do. I am upset that I couldn't bring friends home on a whim (see above). I am angry that we were the talk of the town and nobody did anything to help us (the children) and my mother (dv).
I have never told anyone any of the above and new friends will never know my history as I am ashamed. But I thank god every day that my children will never know this man and they will never have to deal with what I had to.
Thank you for starting this thread - I will never get over the damage alcohol has done to my family. I wish I could scream that sometimes I need looking after to but I have had to deal with so much that I don't even know if I could be looked after.
PS sorry about the length of the post
applefalls, it must have been (and continue to be) doubly worse for you
I am also glad that my father died before I even met DH and that neither he nor my DC had to witness the shame I would have felt if they had met him. I only have photos of him taken when I was a baby and was still the man I adored.
It took me years to stop going for men who were like my father.
DocBrown - I really can identify with the feeling of being terrified about what I was coming home to, or if mum was having a "wobbler" - the term my dad used when my mum was so beaten, hungover and able to cope that she could get out of bed for days on end. During these times, we'd get fed very basic food - beans on toast or breakfast cereal and be expected to keep very quiet so as not to "disturb" my mother. My father would be cheery and act as if nothing had happened. It was lonely and scary.
My parents had a drink fuelled fight when I was about 9. They smashed up a lot of our furniture and I was terrified. After my Dad punched my mum in the face and up-ended the glass dining room table with it shattering everywhere I became so frightened, I crept into my parents bedroom (where there was a second telephone on my mum's bedside table). I rang a friend's parents and begged them to come over to help me and my little brother - who was 4/5 at that time. I was so ashamed and scared. They called the police and arrived to find my brother and I hiding in our rooms. My mother was bleeding, bruised and wailing hysterically and my father had passed out in bed. I wish I could say this was a one off but things like this would happen at least every six weeks from the time I can remember until I was about 16. I left home at 17, I couldn't take any more.
Sorry for rambling on here. It's proving quite cathartic to say the things I have held inside and been so ashamed of for so long.
Why do I feel so guilty that I can't forgive them?
My father doesn't acknowledge that any of this should be a problem for me - he acts like I am a drama queen and have made up what went on. My mother has apologised but it feels hollow.
How do I walk away entirely and just forget this hideous part of my life and let go of this awful guilt. The feeling that I am being disrespectful and a troublemaker by shutting them out of my life entirely. What if they get sick and need me? What if they die and we didn't make our peace? What if? What if? What if?
MrRected You had a horriffic time. I am not surprised that you feel angry and hurt, etc - it is normal to feel like that. And is some guilt due to thinking that society might judge you badly if you don't act the dutiful daughter?
I felt angry with my father from when I realised he would never put me before the drink, till he died. I don't feel guilty about that. I think I am over being angry with my mother for putting up with it so long, but I still feel immensely frustrated by her at times - that's just her personality, I guess.
Would it help you to have some counselling or join a children of AlAnon group? I know a friend of mine did that and it helped her.
Why do I feel so guilty that I can't forgive them
I think you are so wrapped up in other people and their lives and feelings that you lose a sense of yourself.
Read self hlep books, there are loads on Amazon. this is a good one.
You have to learn to put yourself first (this is NORMAL for human beings, by the way, not you being selfish). But counselling and al-anon should help, an acoa group would be best but they are few and far between.
I walked away from my father when, after rehab, he had supposedly got himself together and we had just began speaking again then when I made one of my weekly telephone calls to him he could hardly string two words together because he had been on the vodka again. I then realised that the vodka was more important to him than me. I chose to end our relationship then and there.
He sent me a letter on my eighteenth birthday begging for forgiveness. He sent me a cheque which I tore up. I can't find it anywhere in me to forgive him and I don't feel guilty about that. Father or no father a human being can sometimes hurt you soooo much that the relationship cannot be repaired.
Thanks for that link Justinb..
I seem to be unlucky to have two alcoholic parents. My father is high functioning but is not able to go a day without a drink. Doc you put it so well - they care more about the booze than me. Add a touch of narcissism, a sprinkle of domestic violence and a low functioning alcoholic mother to the mix, I guess it was a disaster in waiting.
MrRected - I think I have found someone who understands how I feel - thank you for that x My father was a high functioning alcoholic as well and on the outside everything was hunky dory but I would dread Sunday afternoons after he had been to the pub. My friends would be spending time with their family whilst my sister and I would be up in our room listening to him beating and rowing with mum. Later my mum would be smiling and happy pretending nothing had happened. We were warned not to interupt because it would make it worse for her
My mum has never told me she loves me, is proud of me and has never hugged me or my children. I don't think she can bring herself to physically touch another human being For this reason, I hug my boys and tell them I love them everyday.
JustinB - I have ordered that book. I think the time has come for me to get some help for myself xx
This is the link to ACOA meetings, there are a few and they would be great if you could join one. I have just started going to one now as I am overseas, it is lovely to have people who are in the same boat, though they are anonymous so not really support groups, more 'find your own answer' groups.
Not sure if the link will work but click on meetings and search on United Kingom.
I am in my mid 20's and grew up in an alcoholic household. Both my parents were highly effective alcoholics who worked during the day and drank during the night. My mother was aggressive my father not. I was a loner with few friends who was bullied and very much misunderstood.
I ended in rehab myself for drug addiction and was removed from my home at 17.... unfortunately, it didn't happen earlier. I ran away and built a life abroad. Later I returned to the UK to study and get a job. I finally feel semi content.
My father passed away but I have been in touch with my mother over the last years. Sometimes she's lovely and sometimes just plain vicious due to the horrific mood swings. She'd rather die than give up drinking. I don't want to give up on her but I'm emotionally drained. I can't bare any more emotional abuse.... It's just too painful and I've lost my strength.
Learn, I think this thread has fallen off people's radar. Would you be able to start your own? Someone here will be able to offer you good advice and I would hate you to feel your post was unanswered.
Al anon and ACOA are such a tremendous support and reassurance. I really cannot recommend them enough.
You go in and you are understood. You are not alone. You can share your experiences, and someone will know exactly what you are saying, have experienced. Someone talks about their anger and their shame, and the whole room exhales, 'it's not just me!'
Then, in that space of support, you are gently opened to the 12 steps which help you with the fear anxiety and pain (one day at a time), to accept and let go (the serenity prayer), focus on yourself and your own healing.
It is free.
'Keep coming back, it works if you work it, and you're worth it!'
I had an alcoholic mom and a workaholic dad so my experience was not at all like yours. Yet I totally get the being misunderstood part. And never quite fitting in, or ever having a true close friend.
I have read a out ACOA but have not attended the meetings -none nearby. However, I have just ordered the big red book from the ACA/WS0 website...
There are also some books available. Studying up can be very helpful, even though it may be painful to remember a lot of the history.
If your Mom is making your recovery and healing impossible, then you need to take a break from the relationship. Putting yourself first is a perfectly ok thing to do. If you can not avoid being in her company, it might help to try to be emotionally disconnected from her dynamic in the way of dismissing anything and everything in the moment. It might be better explained as giving yourself permission to NOT listen to her if she gets negative.
Congratulations on your career.
Has anyone gone to counselling about their childhood experiences?
I went for 10 sessions at the start of this year to help come to terms with stbxh leaving and it really helped.
Is there anything to be gained from rehashing the past? Al Anon is helping me move on from all the crap, so do I need to look back?
My dad is a functioning alcoholic, by which I mean he mostly held down a job. Because of that, most outsiders refused to believe that he had a problem, and he never accepted it either - he just "liked a drink".
He liked a drink at 6 am. He liked a drink as soon as he finished work. He liked a drink to the point he was incapable of speech every single night. He liked a drink to the point that every family activity was governed by how close it was to the nearest pub, and if there was no pub nearby then then we could not go. He had endless affairs with women from the pub. He spent every spare minute, and all his money, in the pub, which send us children an unambiguous message about how important we were to him. My mother refused to leave him, "for the sake of the kids."
Even now if I call and ask how his day has been, his response is "I went to the Dog and Duck and had a few in there, then walked over to the King's Head for a few. Then I had couple in Paddy Malone's, one in The Coach and Horses ... " ... that is literally all he does, and all he thinks about.
Thing is, he is actually a nice man and does love me. He just loves booze more, and since I accepted that I've been a lot less angry. I have learned not to expect more.
(sorry for splurge)
Here, you are welcome to splurge because you do count xxxxx
Massive hug for you all on this thread xxxxx
It's so nice to have a place to feel validated, after years of no-one believing how hard it was. I'm sure everything looked normal from the outside.
I think it does help to rehash the past for yourself to be able to perhaps finally process the events with the intelligence of an adult's perspective. To understand the dynamic of what was going on, even if years/decades after the fact, can make it possible to finally understand and resolve an issue (and the resulting effects)...and then it becomes possible to truly get beond it, leave it behind, and change, iyswim.
Not dealing with it can work as well...just ignore it and it will go away is kind of a superficial patch. But Imho, I do not think one can heal without the full understanding of:
1) "it was not you, it was them" and
2) what ever social/emotional dynamic was being modeled to you in those formative years which you may find presents you with struggles in the present.
I found counselling to be very helpful too, especially with a counsellor that can focus on family disfunction. A book that was helpful (to me) is Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. And you might look into the series of books written by John Bradshaw about healing from the past , Homecoming is one.
You make a lot of sense....I guess when I look back on incidents I'm seeing them still as a child with no control or options.
I would love to know what Normal is so I can get some personal boundaries.
I need to pluck up the courage to make that call tomorrow and get started
I'm also popping over to amazon to have a gander at those books you suggested.
Has anyone gone to counselling about their childhood experiences?
Yes, been going for 4 years - actually a lot of it has been about work stuff, but my mother, my reason for initially going (started some time after she died), she keeps coming up.
And I completely identify with those who talk about never quite fitting in and all the rest of it.
Join the discussion
Please login first.