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Readers Respond: How Do You Feel Growing Up With an Alcoholic Parent Has Changed You?

Responses: 605


Updated October 09, 2014

The Enabler

I spent my chaotic and confusing childhood coping with an alcoholic father and a mother who spent her entire life hiding behind the craziness. The other woman who he loved for 30 years had a child but nothing would shake my mom's loyalty and as a result I have spent my entire life trying to make a "perfect" life with unavailable men. I crave them and wallow in the pain of their rejection. My first and only marriage ended 14 years ago - he was abusive emotionally, physically and financially (an accountant) and in the end stripped me down to one near suicide attempt. I am re-building now for those long lonely and painful 14 years and to this day unable to sustain healthy relationships with men. My children are in pretty good shape as I gave ever ounce and of myself to raise them as perfectly as I could =- luckily they both have solid partners and I attribute that to good fortune - it is the silver lining that perhaps they may escape the pain and loneliness that I still endure each day.
—Guest Perfect Rose

Afraid to Live my whole life

Growing up with an alcoholic father and mother was horrible it teaches you to love people that hurt you. My earliest memories are of hiding behind the refrigerator so that I would not get beaten ( must have been about two) and remembering my sisters being dragged by their hair across the floor screaming. This continued for years. I remember when I was about 12 making the decision to never have children- I remember saying out loud that if this is the way people treat children I will never have any- I had just witnessed my sister being beaten by my father in a parking lot. I have never been able to have a healthy relationship with a man in my life. I am 53 years old and can't trust men. I have been married twice and just know that I can't make it work. I look at other people that have children and husbands and I just can't relate to them at all. I have no experience with real love or family so I protect myself by being alone. I love my pets. I trust animals more than humans.

Loving, giving, alcoholic mother...

Who passed it on to me. My mom had a hard life: drunk dad who never said he loved her, constant criticism etc. She developed OCD and was an active alcoholic my whole life. She spent my whole life trying to please her father and he died never having said he was proud of her. My dad is also loving and available, but he's an enabler. He would rather go for a motorcycle ride than address her as she was very volatile. The hardest part is I can't deny her love for me. She was always there. Obsessively there. Like raising me PERFECT would please her father. My family was loving and supportive, but my moms drinking was always the elephant in the room. I've since battled my own alcoholism, distrust of women and have found no stability in my personal life. I'm now a stand up comedian with a neurotic addiction to being on stage. I never feel I'm working hard enough and I harpoon relationships with women so as not to get hurt. I use stand up as an excuse for everything. I'm preparing an intervention
—Guest Kenny

Two alcoholic parents.

Im 19 years old but i feel 35 on the inside. Sence i was a child ive realized something was wrong with my life at home. Both my parents are alcoholics, always have been, they never grew up. My mother drug my father down with her. I find it really hard to have respect for my mom and im angry with my father. I always second guess myself like i dont value my own opinion because i was always told i was wrong. I find myself to be a people pleaser, and am always harsh on myself. I have a hard time controling my emotions, sometimes i act on emotion only. I have a very hard time trusting people probally because ive always been dissapointed. Its horrible to say but I have low self value and i realize that by how ive let my boyfriends treat/talk to me. Besides all of that im a very loyal and independent person, i believe God only gives you what he knows you can handle...and im moving to Chicago in a week to live with my sister who has been a mother to me. The beat goes on
—Guest Stephanie


I grew up w/alcoholic mother and she is still drunk.... never knew my dad , I married a alcoholic and in the middle of a divorce now because of it, i feel it changed everything about me, i really wish i could have known the person I was meant to be. I know I am very loving, compassionate and generous. But I have a lot of issues. My teenage son is now drinking I hate it! I hate what my kids have lived threw and my heartbreaking over another alcoholic.
—Guest guest cindi

Holidays are the worst

Sometimes I feel like she does it just to spite me - even though I'm a great daughter. My 22 was on the 17th of December - she was sober. Because I was studying for finals, my mom decided to make me a cake (originally I had said I would make it). I gave her the recipe. In the middle of the baking, I came out of my room from studying and something seemed fishy. She can have one sip and I can root her out instantly. She was drinking the vanilla- the big plastic bottle of vanilla. I tried to stay calm- family was coming over later... I took the vanilla and hid it in my room. She found it and I tried to reason with her before...she downed the whole bottle. THAT is alcoholism. Insanity. The next day, the vodka was bought. I doubt Christmas will be very merry, and the presents will be opened in the middle of January. She will once again be jobless- as this is now the 3rd day she's missed work. This will lead to more stress, more booze. Sick, never-ending cyle.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

I don't remember a time before he was an alcoholic. I know I still carry anxiety and second guess myself a lot. I try to control things because I'm afraid the world will fall apart if I don't. But I think I am a more thoughtful and compassionate person, having been through my father's alcoholism and the subsequent healing it required. I also think I have a really good husband because I decided I'd rather be alone than ever put up with maltreatment. I didn't settle. I have no idea who I would have been had my father not been an alcoholic, but I can only look forward from here.
—Guest Michelle O'Neil

My loving mother

She has always been there for me and has kept me safe but sometimes i feel like i have to do the same for her. She has had so many injures and accidents throughout the years with the main factor being alcohol that i wish she would wake up and see how harmful drinking is. Im scared for her, for my family, and for myself. I dont love her less because she has chosen to live her life this way, im just worried for her every second i see that bottle of wine in the fridge. I never really had a childhood because most of it was walking my mom home from parties. Growing up now it has progressively gotten worse and of course it will haunt me for the rest of my life. The images will forever be burned in my mind of how my mother acted. She isnt my mom when she drinks because she would never do any of that sober, unless she hides the real her. I dont like to think of her that way and it's hard for me to talk about it because no one else has a mother like mine. I love her and pray for her safety.
—Guest Olivia


My mother is STILL alcoholic and she's nearing 80; she has never been sober; our family is in shatters; I think we siblings do not want to come together because it brings back too much pain (my mother tried to have sex with my brother when he was in high school...."I know what he needs....") I do not know how to be in a healthy relationship- I guess I have no model; the last two men I dated were drunks who put me down all the time. Destined to be alone.
—Guest Judy

my heart hurts

As I read these posts, I think of the period of time when my mom was an alcoholic. It seemingly happened quite suddenly. We were teenagers. We would come home and she would be passed out or start harrassing us. It does something to the soul of child to watch your parent out of control. My dad was a functional alcoholic and would go out and get drunk and return. He was just unavailable. Today, I am married to a man who is a functional alcoholic. I hate it! I maintain my life, but I hate to see my daughter witness such an unavailable father. I am a Christian and as I write an planning to join a support group and begin to actively participate in intercessory prayer. WE ALL NEED IT and I will remember you guys in prayer too!
—Guest WRA

Parents who Drink, I'm 14

I'm currently 14, and I'm reading these and thinking how similar this is. Both my parents drink, dad leaves early in the morning, and comes home late and argues, and sometimes physically abuses my mom. He was in the Marines, and I think is mad in his own way. My brother is 11, and my dad always calls him fat, and emotionally abuses both of us. My mom told me last week she thought of suicide. I'm a great student. All A's, advanced, 5 sports, I'm doing great. This is my normal life now, I know what to watch for, fear, and I don't know the feeling of desperation of anything else but this. I use to cut myself, and I stopped. I tried to be in a relationship (Maybe I'm too young?) But it's hard, because my parents only stay together for financial issues. They don't even sleep in the same bed. My older brother, 28, hates my dad, and they always fight, physically. Dad also does illegal things, and well, I guess I'm just saying it's not over.
—Guest No One

Incredibly difficult trusting others

My father was totally emotionally unavailable, excessively critical, and a bully. What a combination. I question my self worth every day. My mother is a habitual liar and could be physically abusive at times. More than anything, growing up with 2 alcoholic parents made me feel different than others. I just knew things were wrong growing up in their household and yet that became my definition of normal. At age 48, I still don't trust people, feel unloved and life doesn't interest me much although I'm not suicidal. Haven't dated in 26 years and I'm not sure I know how. Other than that, everything is wonderful :-). As someone else pointed out, this is all a cathartic exercise and a chance to express things I've never shared before. Good luck everyone.
—Guest mantra

A way of fighting

My father started drinking a lot of alcohol when I was 10 years old, I grew up also with my my mother and two older sisters. I was an outstanding student in primary school, but in the last year my performance started to low down as my father started drinking a lot, my fears of being like increased from that time, also for the reason that he tried to affect me saying to me that I would fail and suffer in my life. My family was dysfunctional, my mother didn´t play her role as mother, but my oldest sister play it, and she tried to persuade my to play the role of father. Along my adolescence and early years of adult life I experienced a lot of illnesses coming from my mental problems. At the age of 22 I experienced a depression, when studying abroad, after that I have started to change many things that had carried out from my childhood. I believe that the problems of growing up in such a family can be overcome through courage and consciousness of what was left.
—Guest Alberto

Iniquity of the fathers (3)

. Over the course of my life, my feelings for her have swung upon a wild pendulum: from adoration to fear; from fear to resentment; from resentment to outright hatred; and sporadically, back to love. She played me like a yo-yo. She demanded my full attention -- to the point of sheer exasperation on my part; yet she physically rebuffed me every time I attempt to show her affection. It was this hideous, never-ending little carousel ride. And I have spattered the detritus and debris of my pain, confusion, shame, and guilt onto my children, who have, in turn, begun to sow the tares of dysfunction into the lives of their own kids. The awful effects of alcoholism are far-reaching, contaminating one generation after the next. It’s time to stop the madness.

Iniquity of the fathers (2)

My “legal guardian’s” father was an alcoholic. I never knew him; he died long before I was born. My “legal guardian” never got over all the pain that he caused her. And so, for the rest of her life, she remained a bitter, vindictive soul who held me in contempt for my inability/unwillingness to bear the burden of responsibility that she saddled me with -- for as far back as I can remember -- of recompense for all the injustice/indignity heaped upon her during her youth. All throughout my childhood, I thought something was wrong with ME because I could never ever manage to please her. For God’s Sake, I was a child!! Why on earth is a child supposed to be responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of a parent’s moods and emotions?? While the physical assaults finally ended once I became a young adult, I still endured relentless character assassination and brain-breaking head-games.
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