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Children of alcoholics can we talk about December

(26 Posts)
Cinammoncake Mon 02-Dec-19 21:47:04

I really struggle with it. I have to make an effort but just want to get under the duvet till it's over. My alcoholic parent is long gone but I think it's something to do with past memories and the whole drinking culture of Christmas. Anyone else get this?

MsRomanoff Mon 02-Dec-19 22:41:13

Yep. I dont do Christmas dos. Or christmas drinks.

Dps step mum, my mil, is also an alcoholic. Tends to ruin every christmas. I wouldnt bother except my sil (her daughter) is my best friend and me and dp try and protect her and her kids from it all.

I am NC with my own parents (mum is the drinker, dad enables and excuses her behaviour), Christmas just feels like a time of dreas and fear.

I try to get excited I do through the motions. But I have never felt this warm fuzzy feeling people talk about at Christmas.
I feel quite emotionally detached from it all. Roll on January

flowers for you x

TheElfFellOffTheShelf Mon 02-Dec-19 23:56:47

I kind of get it OP but I think I go too far the other way.

As a child I always remember feeling an overwhelming sense of dread going to see my dad on a weekend (he & my mam split up when I was about 4 so thankfully my sister and I were shielded from the worst of his drunken antics) and that felt worse in December because he hates Christmas and all its excesses (!) This meant that we didn't feel like we could show any excitement at his house and we daren't talk about anything Christmas related.

His house was/is cold and miserable anyway but in December the contrast between there and home was magnified. Home was warm, bright, decorated, comfortable and usually full of happiness but I remember feeling like we were being sent away every weekend to spend 2 days being cold, subdued and quiet whereas my younger half siblings got to stay and do things like Santa visits, watch Xmas films, play Christmas games, help decorate the tree and whatever else.

There were also those weekends where my dad would go out on an overnight bender and leave us alone in his damp and draughty house and it was always worse at Christmas. Sometimes we didn't roll in until the following morning and would then spend the most of the day sparked out on the sofa (the only seat in the house). We were only about 9 and 11.

As soon as we were old enough we stopped staying over and only visited on a Sunday afternoon for a few hours and now I rarely see him.

It has affected how I do Christmas with my own family now because I want my children to feel safe and welcome, as well as letting them get excited, so I feel under pressure to try and cram as much in as possible on as small a budget as possible and then feel like I've failed if we can't afford it.

Dh and I don't drink and I actively avoid parties and nights out at this time of year because I remember those lonely nights waiting for my dad and worrying about what state he'd be in when he eventually stumbled in. January has always brought relief and calm.

SquashedFlyBiscuit Tue 03-Dec-19 00:02:58

I feel the pressure to make a family xmas for the kids when they dont really have decent extended family, all toys are from us etc. I struggle with envying those going to family who will cook xmas dinner, or those who say want 5 different lego sets and know x, y and z will get them for them. Or whi can all share a boxing day walk etc.

I do know other famileis arent perfect but I really feel that twinge of deep sadness when I ehar others talking of family...

PintOfBovril Tue 03-Dec-19 00:09:11

Same here... Christmas was always a time for dread and the anticipation of horrific arguments, my dad being violent and my mum weeping in the kitchen. So I try to make sure that Christmas for our family is full of love and peace but I will never forget just how absolutely miserable they were as a child.

Defenbaker Tue 03-Dec-19 01:19:28

I'm glad you started this thread OP. My father was an alcoholic who hated Christmas, so drank even more during December to make himself feel better. There were always more arguments between him and Mum in December, partly due to his heavy drinking and foul temper, but also arguments about money, because Mum was a SAHM and had to ask him for every penny for presents and food, and he resented the additional expense. Poor Mum tried so hard to make Christmas a happy time, but Dad was difficult and grumpy, and found fault with everything. He also found fault with her cooking (she had a tendency to overcook things, but it was all edible and tasty, as far as I remember), but never helped her in the kitchen. I remember him saying angrily "Christmas dinner is supposed to be the best meal of the year, but in this house it's always the worst!" So nasty. When I married, I was glad to be free of the toxic atmosphere of my parents' house on Christmas day. We used to visit them for an hour or two on the day and take presents, but rarely invited them to us, because I could not face making the effort for a father who'd made so little effort for me, and had sabotaged so many of my childhood Christmases.

I hated watching my father get drunk, and witnessing all the arguments. I felt so sorry for Mum, because she tried so hard to get things right, but it was such an uphill struggle. In their final years, Dad ended up drinking a bottle of whisky a day, sometimes more, while Mum sank into depression and lethargy. Dad developed dementia, which Mum had little sympathy for, because she believed it was drink induced. I think that drink may have played a part. When Dad's dementia progressed and he had to go into a care home, he was always asking after Mum, and wanting her to visit him. She was relieved to be rid of him, and barely visited. I was stuck in the middle, trying to do what was right for both of them, so I occasionally persuaded Mum to visit him, while totally understanding why she didn't want to. A lot of the time I lied to him about why she didn't visit him. He remembered their marriage through rose/dementia tinted spectacles, and forgot what an abusive selfish nightmare of a husband he'd been to her. I wasn't inclined to remind him - he was just a frail old man by then. He mellowed a bit as the dementia took hold, and occasionally showed me a little affection, which was a pleasant change from the indifference I'd received from him for most of my life.

Mum died first. I found it so hard to continue visiting him after her death, partly because he kept forgetting that she'd died, and asking how she was (which meant I had to tell more lies, to spare his feelings), but also because part of me resented that he was still alive, but she was gone. My poor Mum put up with so much crap from him, then he got to outlive her. I felt that by rights he should have died from liver failure years ago, then she could have had a few decent years left. I know that alcoholism is a disease and I shouldn't judge him... but I can't help feeling angry that his love of drink ruined so much of my Mum's life. Dad died a few months after Mum. Despite everything, I did grieve for my father's loss, but not half as much as I did for Mum.

Having an alcoholic parent sucks, especially at Christmas. I still hate being around drunk people, and am indifferent to alcohol myself. Which is just as well, considering that I probably carry the alcoholism gene.

SquashedFlyBiscuit Tue 03-Dec-19 09:26:38

I feel slightly the other way. I know my mums alcoholism is due to mental illness and although it screwed me up see it as her being so incredibly unwell she couldnt cope or manage without it. A bit like someone suicidal is "hard work" for the family but is genuinely incredibly unwell.

Im angry at my dad for not protecting us or stepping up and showing love or doing parental things when mum was so obviously unable to. He blatently wasnt expecting to have to parent so just didnt. I realise it was hard for him but hes never tried to make amends now and lives the life of Reilly while Im still really screwed up from childhood. Its so hard to see at xmas, especially as he has a new woman and spends it with her family and now "does" Christmas whn he never did when I was living with him.

Cinammoncake Tue 03-Dec-19 12:52:40

Thank you so much to all of you for responding to this. I can relate to every single one of you in terms of what you've said, and it's a relief really, to know that you get it. It feels very hard for me to express any of this irl. But those who have been there know. My heart truly goes out to all of you. No kid should have had to put up with what we put up with.

Like lots of you have said, I try to make it a peaceful nice time too for dcs but do feel under pressure and feel like I have to hide my true feelings, all the horrific memories of dreadful violence and that constant fear and dread of a drunken parent. I don't really drink either, I think it must often be the response. Agree also about not wanting to go to parties and hang round drunk people.

Roll on January
I agree!

I'm going to think of you all and hope we can draw strength in knowing there are others out there. We've got this thread in case anybody wants to post on it for support or to sound off.

AllYouGoodGoodPeople Tue 03-Dec-19 13:02:43

My parent is dead but yes, everything about Christmas is tainted. All the traditions, she'd get so stressed about it all and blow up but things had to be done a certain way or it was worse. Each year I move further and further away from it and it's better.

sonjadog Tue 03-Dec-19 14:12:19

Yes, I am feeling the same thing at the moment. My alcoholic father is long dead, but I still get the feeling of sadness and dread I got at this time of year for all those years past.

I don't really have a solution except that the days pass and Christmas will be over in a few weeks. I try to give myself a bit of a break at this time of the year, so if I feel like sitting around not doing much, then that is what I do, and if I feel a bit weepy, then I have a little weep.

SquashedFlyBiscuit Tue 03-Dec-19 14:21:09

I hate all the memories and feel so sad for a child that didnt get proper christmases. I know its wrong to keep going over it and the answer is to move on but uts sad. And i find it hard to interact with my dad at xmas as he has an amazing one now with the new family and I just cant handle it. But saying "you never did it for me 25 years ago" wouls just look bitter...

8weekstogoHohoho Tue 03-Dec-19 14:22:04

I go over the top at Christmas trying to make up for everything I didn't have. I then second guess If it's even good enough and will my DC have good memories but I find myself so wound up that I panic I might ruin their memories of Christmas.

Like a PP I don't have any 'family' close to me due to being in care but I have DP's which is conflicting as his mum is an alcoholic, a functional lovely woman who I adore but still an alcoholic. I love and hate this time of yearfconfused

Cinammoncake Tue 03-Dec-19 14:36:56

sonjadog I found that comforting and think you are right, giving yourself a break is important. This is what I needed to hear, thank you. I'm putting myself under pressure too much and that just makes it worse.

I think it's totally understandable to feel bitter in the circumstances squashedflybiscuit not fair, is it, on you.

It must be hard 8weekstogo to spend it with another alcoholic.
allyougoodpeople I remember the 'walking on eggshells' feeling

Kayleigh12 Thu 05-Dec-19 19:59:09

I’m glad I found this because people in here may be able to help. My partner of 3 years is at the hospital at the mo his dad is possibly going to pass today. He was an alcoholic and no matter how hard his children begged him to quit he wouldn’t. I know my partner is angry about this. I just wondered if anyone has any tips on how to best support him. I would like to be at the hospital but he said he doesn’t want me to go which has upset me but that’s a whole other topic I guess. He has never lost anyone before and I’m worried he may be hit really hard.

Defenbaker Fri 06-Dec-19 00:39:42

@Kayleigh12: He probably will be hit really hard, because whatever his father's failings were, at the end of the day you don't stop loving a parent, just because they failed you. At times I hated my father, but I could never completely stop caring about him, especially as the combined effects of old age, dementia and drink took their toll on him, and he became a frail old man with nothing to look forward to but more of the same. I knew that he'd contributed towards his health problems, but so do most people who end up in hospital, we're all just flawed human beings when it comes down to it.

You said "his children begged him to quit but he wouldn't". I think that once the demon drink has its vice like grip on someone, and they are a full blown alcoholic, it becomes nigh on impossible to quit, as they need alcohol just to feel normal.

Your partner will probably feel all sorts of mixed emotions when his father dies, including anger that his father's drinking ruined family life and caused so much unhappiness to those close to him. Then there are feelings of guilt involved, because alcoholism is an illness, and we are told that we shouldn't feel angry at someone for being ill. My feeling is that it is to a degree a self inflicted illness, because it starts with enjoying a drink, before gradually moving to needing it, but there is a period inbetween where there is still a choice, that time when the drinking becomes heavier and people start noticing and commenting - that's the point where some people wake up to the problem and put the breaks on, while others carry on, in blissful denial. Maddening to those looking on, and maddening to think about, when you're watching their health decline, while thinking that it could have been so different.

The overhelming feeling I had for my father at the end was pity, but also a feeling that it was better for him to pass away, as he had no quality of life by then, and nothing to look forward to. I didn't think his death would affect me too badly, as I never felt close to him, but 3 years later I am still prone to feeling tearful at times, when something reminds me of him. It's possible to hate someone for what they've done, and resent them, but still care deeply for them (maybe even love them), so this is going to be a roller coaster of emotions for your partner. Perhaps you could show him this thread, when the time is right, so he will know that he's not alone in having such mixed feelings.

Kayleigh12 Fri 06-Dec-19 06:07:42

@Defenbaker thank you so much it’s so helpful to get an insight from someone who was in this situation. I have always been a very hard person and got annoyed with his dad that my partner was having to feel let down by his ‘selfish’ dad even though he idolised him but it’s not always that simple. It was a very serious illness. Thanks again for the advice

Fucket Fri 06-Dec-19 06:18:19

I focus on my children and thankfully I have a dh who has grown up under normal circumstances and therefore stops me going to OTT. Yes I’m guilty of spoiling them sometimes.

I think it also helps that my mum passed away before the kids were born, so for me there is a clear division between my old life and new life. I don’t know what it’d be like with her around now, hell I would imagine. I am very good at putting all those memories and heartache in a box in my head and forgetting about it.

I also avoid drunk people. So I tend to leave parties / dinners early, or just not bother. If I encounter drunks the box opens and my night is ruined.

MerryDeath Fri 06-Dec-19 06:46:44

wow.. these experiences. my parents are fine but my DP is why i dread this time of year. it's complicated with him and i may well have nothing to fear or it may be a disaster and i just don't know until he hits the skids.

Mary1935 Fri 06-Dec-19 07:37:31

Yes Christmas is tough. My alcoholic father once smashed up the Xmas tree and any toys under there. It was never happy. I was never happy as a child. I have spent years on my own on Xmas day - feeling very isolated and alone. Then I married another adult child and he hated Xmas. He would sometimes go to bed on Xmas day, despite us having a son - I made a great effort for my son - not OTT but just so it was nice with minimal disturbance.
I’m separated now - Xmas is painful - no useful extended family to go to - usually me and my son alone - although I try and see friends.
This year my son is going to his fathers at 11am on Xmas day! The bloody bastard will need to make an effort this year with his son.
Hugs to us all. I will treat myself nicely and buy myself some nice foods.

Tiddleypops Fri 06-Dec-19 09:41:16

The pain, damage and destruction caused by alcoholism is just so awful. It really is the family disease, and so many of those scenarios described here resonate. The control, the tension, the extra drinking on top of the already drinking, the one parent over compensating for the other but in turn making it all a bit weird. It makes me so sad sad

I am an adult child, although I am luck enough to have not had to endure living with my alcoholic mother. My dad was main main parent and is brilliant - I can see now too that he set good boundaries and I benefited from this. I loved Christmas as a kid. I'm lucky.

These days, my problem is that I am married to (divorcing) an alcoholic (following he script there confused). He has 3 DC. 2 older teens who are my step DC and live with their DM. Ans a primary aged DS who is my only one. Divorcing is taking forever, and H is now out of work, estranged from his family, he is 'unable' to move out. Dragging his heels every step of the way (of course he is!)
I was dreading it to be honest, I have been trying to ignore the fact that it is December altogether, but sadly time marches on, Nativities appear, people want to make plans! I'm feeling a little more optimistic now, I refuse to get drawn into his chaos. Detach, detach, detach. I will not feel that dread in my own home, DS and I will enjoy Christmas. H is ill, but we don't have to be. He can participate as little or as much as he is able to. I think that is the best I can do right now.

SisterFarAway Fri 06-Dec-19 11:09:36

My mum died due to her alcoholism 20 years ago, and for years and years I blamed her for drinking. As an adult I now know better, she had no chance thanks to her highly manipulative mother who played all her children against each other, all four became alcoholics.
Christmas was a lot better when we didn't have to go to my maternal grandparents as that would exacerbate the situation and my mum would drink even more.

Not that Christmas was overly jolly from about the late 80's, as my mother started drinking and spent almost all money on drink. If we got any presents it was usually something very cheap (one year it was one Lego figure between the three of us) or what my paternal grandparents and relatives would give us. But those were always lovely gifts.
Food was usually bought thanks to a supermarket voucher we got from a charity. I resented that as I was convinced we'd have more than enough money if my mother didn't spend it all on her beer.
Then came 1996, on 23rd October that year my dad was diagnosed with Cancer, my mother always downplayed how serious it was, I saw for myself on my 18th Birthday and knew there was no hope. He died on 23rd December that year - I miss him every single day.

My mother's drinking spiraled out of control and she spent a lot of time in the German equivalent of pubs, from early in the mornings until late at night. Usually, I only fell asleep when I heard her keys in the door.
In the spring of 1999 she suddenly stopped drinking, but what we didn't know was that damaged liver caused her to dislike the taste of alcohol. She died in October that year.

Since that year, we have celebrated at my aunt's, it is nice, a lot of food, there is wine, but never too much. Usually I feel a bit out of place, like I have to perform, be happy, when I'm the only person who doesn't get gifts (apparently we don't "do" them anymore for the adults), when all I want to do is to just crawl into bed and cry. I'm also the odd one out, the only one not in a relationship, I don't have kids so "don't know how that feels". No-one ever sees what I did for this family, keeping us together, assuming responsibility for my siblings when we were orphaned, bringing up two teenagers.
Instead, I am somehow made feel guilty that I made my dreams come true and moved to another country, after years and years of looking after other people. Sometimes I wish I had the strength to tell my family to eff off.

Every year I book my flight in the summer and look forward to it, then think what the f... did I do around two weeks before. I really dread Christmas. It always turns out okay, once Christmas Eve is over. This year I will go on a little holiday while I am in Germany just to get away from the fact that I'd be the fifth wheel at New Year's Eve. I don't care if I'm on my own, in my hotel room, I just want to not be the "odd one out" again.

I'll get through it, like I always do, but roll on January, indeed.

SisterFarAway Fri 06-Dec-19 11:10:12

Oh, gosh, sorry, I didn't realise that this turned into a novel blush

SeaEagleFeather Fri 06-Dec-19 21:31:38

my god, sister, one lego figure between you all? and you kept the family together?

I'm so sorry. I hope you find a place to call home and feel safe in the end, lovey

Cinammoncake Fri 06-Dec-19 22:31:58

I'm so moved by all the responses on here flowers

sisterfaraway you know only too well how it feels to have kids because you've already done parenting, at an age where it took so much strength and resilience to do so. Good on you for moving to another country and for surviving all you did.

merrydeath and tiddlypops have you been to al anon? Always worth looking at rl sources of support too.

kayleigh12 they say that bereavement is so hard when you have mixed feelings about a person. I've found that to be the case and I'm sure it'll be hard for your partner, but it's nice you're there to support him. It's hard to see someone die through alcoholism.

Christmas brings up so many hard memories for us and it can get tough. So much of what everyone has written resonates and my heart goes out to all of us.

Ilovethekitties Fri 06-Dec-19 22:43:03

My mum and auntie get absolutely bladdered every Christmas (despite none of the rest of our small family drinking). I am expecting my first child in a week and I will be leaving when I can sense the atmosphere change.

We have all had countless conversations with them over the years about my mums drinking, but as she has a high powered career, she cannot see her alcoholism. It doesn't matter that she has drank two bottles of wine every night since we were children, would go missing in the middle of the night (and I as a 13 year old would have to cycle around looking for her alone in the early hours of the morning as my sister was scared) or when she would get so drunk we would have to try and make her go to bed at 7pm and clean up her vomit from the floor.

She has never changed and shamefully its something I dont even address now as it causes me too much pain for her to constantly deny my memories and how her alcoholism affected me and my sister.

But, even though it has been an issue for the last 20 years, christmas is an especially hard time as it's an excuse for the alcohol to be out in the open and to binge. I do not drink myself, neither does my partner, I despise alcohol and as soon as I see that first bottle of wine open my christmas is totally ruined. Christmas is supposed to be a time of family and happiness and my christmases have always been my auntie and mother being off their faces, me having to cook Christmas lunch as they can't and them in tears in the evening because of the guilt of making everyone uncomfortable.

I wont be having my son around that behaviour when he is born and the only thing I'm thankful for now is learning young about the dangers of alcohol and the effect it has on the people around you.

I know my mum is not a bad person and I know she has a disease, the resentment comes from her not wanting to see the hurt she has caused for so many years and deciding to do something about it. There is always a reason (excuse). I hope one day she decides to stop, it's taken me a long time not to be disgusted by who she turned out to be. I know that isn't fair of me to say, but some things you cant forget

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