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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

Pay attention to these characteristics

Both my parents are alcoholics. Only age and understanding helped me overcome most of the characteristics. At 71, I think I'm in fairly good shape. It takes work and most of all compassion for yourself and others.


When I was a teenager dealing with it every day, I was determined to get everything done that my alcoholic step mom should have done. She was passed out drunk when I got home from school and I took care of my 4 younger siblings. My step mom was not happy about this when she came to and threw things at me and ransacked my room on a regular basis. I have been very angry for a long time (I am 44 now) and recently I sent her a letter saying I don't want to keep in contact and I explained why. She is a liar and a theif. She ruined my family name in my home town and her boyfriend believes her that her 3 children and 2 step children have abandoned her. So, I grew up not trusting my husband of 25 years for the first 15 years. I had very major issues with that, and I still struggle with being accepted. I never feel normal. I always feel like all of my security will vanish at any moment. That is what it feels like to grow up with a really hardcore alcoholic.
—Guest Kathy


My brother felt my parents' insanity was his fault. I tried to tell him, even as a young child, it wasn't. He couldn't believe me. He said my love was too overwhelming and he didn't deserve it. He shot himself in the head. I know it was related to the abuse from my parents. What a waste. Glad there is a conversation now. Maybe it would've helped him. Maybe it helps people now. Worth a try. I know it helps me at any rate. First time I've ever talked about it. So, it's out of me now. God bless BuddyT.
—Guest fish

Eternal victim

I think my mother will never quit drinking. Why: It's never her fault, she is always, still, the victim in her mind.
—Guest fish

Still a child

I'm 44 years old but feel like a child. I feel ashamed of my upbringing and find it hard to relate to others who have had "normal lives"when I see or hear the phrase "everyone has had a hard life" I feel like crying because they don't know what they are talking about. No family is perfect but abusive families are soul destroying. Having to watch others to learn the right way to behave, sometimes you don't know good role models from bad. Dealing with mental health issues and the shame that comes with that. Can you ever overcome the feeling that you are not good enough, the feeling down deep inside that hurts. Does it ever go away?
—Guest Sandie

Damaged Goods

My Dad was/is an alcoholic. He wasn't/isn't a violent drunk, but he could be and still can be a mean one. Most of his anger is geared towards my Mom. He has always blamed her for the fact that both my sister and I are very angry at him. He does not understand why we have a problem with is drinking. As a child I had very few if any friends. As an adult, I still have the same problem. I am so afraid of trusting anyone, I feel paralyzed emotionally. I am a 42 year old women that has never had a meaningful relationship with a man. I feel so alone and that my life has been a complete and total waste of time. I yearn for someone to love me, but I am unable to let anyone close enough to love. I too am a fixer, but I am unable to fix me. I am damaged goods, unable to live the life that I see others living, unable to love or trust anyone.
—Guest GitItGrl68

Self seeking answers

First off I became an alcoholic/addict, and find I struggle with many issues. One is the similar patterns that I had seen while growing up and had added into my own life style. I felt a lot abandonment, while constantly searching for love and acceptance with the people around me. I also find a lot of abuse occurred during those years, emotionally, physically and mentally to name a few. Which affected me in the way I saw and dealt with my own partners I picked. I still struggle but I find it a continuous working progress.
—Guest Cinnamon Giro

Anxiety & emotions

Growing up, my mother was an alcoholic (unfortunately, as I'm now in my 30s, she still is). It's impossible for the child of an alcoholic to catalog all of the fearful memories associated with his or her parent's alcoholism. Nonetheless, there is a kind of mosaic of sadness and bitterness that exists in the mind. In addition, I still feel that I am much more prone to extreme worry at times. I also feel that I was denied many of the nonchalant pleasures of just being a normal kid and young adult. I made a decision at about age 12 that I would not drink, period, so I missed out on a good deal of the "normal" social bonding associated with high school and college. I also kept many friends at an arm's distance, worrying that they would judge me harshly if they found out about my alcoholic mom. I'm happily married now, hold a professional degree, and am relatively well adapted, but being the child of an alcoholic has shaped me (for better or worse) as much anything else in my life.
—Guest opsq


I give myself permission to be mad about my horrible childhood. I take away the power from my abusive parents. That's all.
—Guest fish

Still want to please momma and daddy

I grew up a middle child in a home where my father was an alcoholic and my mother the enabler. Now that I am happily married, I feel I need to seek approval from both of them. They are both so unhappy and angry all the time. If I don't do things their way-- they get pissed. They still are married 35 years but still cant stand each other. My dad still comes home late and drunk every night. My mom brags that she is stronger now, she is just more bitter. I know I have my own family now but I am still stuck to my old one. I know it isn't healthy for me. I love them and want to be close to them. But I can't stand all the negativity, walking on eggshells all the time, also the feeling of never being good enough for them, especially my mother! I feel very guilty even saying any of this especially because they have helped me enough financially, my mother always gives me the guilt trip about it. My father is willing to help, he just wants me to finish school. This is so hard!
—Guest happy momma---sad daughter

Self destruction

To Jenna: I can relate with your story. I had an alcoholic father who raped my sister, my sister is now an alcoholic. My mother was a great woman although suffered great depression. I go into each relationship thinking I can make this person a better person. I lose myself, I give everything to this person and am miserable most of the time. I seek their approval to make me whole. After every relationship that ends and most end very badly.. I spend hours researching co- dependency and narcissism.. which one am I? It's got to be my fault. I am a 48 year old successful sales exec with an outward appearance of confidence and determination, but on the inside I feel empty and alone.
—Guest Jan

Why can't dad help?

Growing up my parents fought so much. I always knew they had their own problems. Too busy to worry about me and my siblings. After I had my own child, I began to wonder why didn't my dad help us? My mom was the problem, it seemed. I figured out that my dad was the problem too. He blamed everything on my mom. If she was the only problem, why didn't he take us away? My heart goes out to the college student who escaped and now worries about her dad and her sister. Why should that burden be on a young woman? Why shouldn't the dad help the child?I ran away when I was 14 and lived with my grandmother. Came back after one year. Why? So I could parent my brothers. I knew I made their lives better if only to cook, clean their clothes etc. Even looking back on it now, it seems complicated somehow. I raised my child away from them, so what's my problem now? My siblings are all in prison with low self-esteem. Apparently, a sister is not a substitute for a parent. It's still confusing.
—Guest fish

Help in understanding.

I am not an alcoholic, I do not drink, but my husband's grandnephew is the child of one. His grandparents and I could not understand why he would be good and then suddenly start and denying it it when it was obvious. Thank you for helping us to understand and now we may be able to help him.
—Guest Grania McCann

Still Struggling

Now that I'm in college, I've been able to finally get myself as far away from my family for almost three years now. Unfortunately, I'm realizing that I can't run away from the problem. I'm realizing that the conflicts with friends and my boyfriend are a result of the behavior that I've learned from home. I'm constantly searching to fix the problems of those around me. I'm consumed with pleasing the people around me and become depressed when I feel that someone doesn't like me or is unhappy with me. I feel guilty for getting out of the house while my dad and sister are stuck at home with my mom and I'm constantly worrying about how they are being affected by having to live with the problem every day. I'm hoping I'll be able to learn from other people's experiences but I'm worried that I've become this person that after 20 years now, will never be able to change.
—Guest Alli

Ok as adult

The human spirit is amazing. I can turn a setback into a positive . I suspect we turned out okay in spite of our childhoods, not because of it. That is called courage. It doesn't make our childhoods okay, it just makes it far away.
—Guest fish
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