Here, four people who grew up with an alcoholic parent share their stories.
These stories have been collected by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork, with the aim of raising awareness about how addiction impacts children.
“I will never get my childhood back”
“My life as a child of an alcoholic parent was frightening and lonely. My dad was a chronic alcoholic. I had a different childhood to all my friends: no birthday parties, couldn’t invite friends over to the house, and Christmas was a nightmare.
There was no one I could talk to and no one could help me, I just had to put up with it.
When I was 17 I had no choice but to leave home. I had to live my own life. My mother was heartbroken but she knew I had to go.
When I was 18, I was able to get counselling which was a great help to me. I was able to understand that alcoholism was an illness. A few months after leaving home my dad turned his life around and stopped drinking.
I will never get my childhood back but I now have a great relationship with my father and my mother now has the life she deserves. I hope this story can give other children some hope and let them know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The following is a short poem a woman sent to us about her father’s alcoholism.
I don’t miss the sense of invisibility to you,
I don’t miss listening constantly for the front door,
I don’t miss watching your face to decipher your mood,
I don’t miss dodging your verbal assaults,
I don’t miss the sense of being so small,
I don’t miss the enormity of you and your drink,
I don’t miss the deep shame,
I don’t miss everyone covering up for you,
I don’t miss everyone knowing but me,
I don’t miss the smell of drink,
I don’t miss the fear of drink,
I don’t miss my friends knowing,
I don’t miss no-one caring about me,
I don’t miss fear,
I don’t miss loving you,
I don’t miss hating you,
I don’t miss you.
“We had food in the house but it wasn’t for us – it was for the social worker to see.”
“My alcoholic parent was my mother. She always drank. She started when she was young. When she was a child her father abused her and her brothers. They were battered by their father constantly. They locked their doors every night to keep their father out. She was beaten badly and was always expected to act like a lady. She started drinking to forget the pain she had to go through. This doesn’t make what she did to her children any bit forgivable.
When I was a child my uncle and aunts tried to take me away from my home by taking me on day trips with my sister. Back then I thought my mother would heal. My sister and I used to beg my uncle and aunts to bring us home so we could mind our mother. We didn’t want to upset her by being away for too long. One of my uncles was like a father to me. His oldest daughter and I look like brother and sister. We are just as close too. They tried to help me and give me a better life but they couldn’t.
My mom had a lot of ‘boyfriends’. They never really stayed too long. A small few used to beat me. These men were constantly in our house so we never really questioned a strange man in our house. It was normal for us.
At 15 years old I would come home from school and meet up with my mother and grandmother in the pub. My mother would buy me beer and I would sit in the pub with my drunken mother and help her get home. My home was filthy. There used to be dogs running through the house constantly and the house was never cleaned. We had food but it wasn’t for us. The food was perfect but we were not allowed eat it as it was only for when the social workers called so it would look like she was feeding us. In reality we were starving.
I started hanging out with a very rough group where I lived. They were drinking constantly and doing drugs. Eventually, I got away from them and my mother. I ran from Ireland at 16 to the States to my father. My sister was so upset with me for leaving her with my mother back in Ireland.
Now I’m living in America with a beautiful wife and three amazing children. Sometimes what happened still affects me but I try to block it out and ignore it and carry on. I’m honestly not recommending running away. I am planning on coming back to Ireland soon to sort out a few things with my mother.
“I’ve never not know Mum to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed”
Well to begin with there’s a common misconception that men are generally the alcoholics in a family but when it’s the mother, the nucleus of the family is destroyed and everything falling apart becomes an inevitable fate.I come from a small family with it just being my mum, dad and my brother and I. We’ve been battling with my mother’s alcoholism for as long as I remember, I’ve never not know her to have her cans by her chair and her vodka stashed away under the bed. It wasn’t that I always saw it as the norm but when you don’t know any different it does tend to be a bit more difficult to imagine the situation differently. I’m actually very happy to see the back of 2014 as from December 2013 my whole family spiralled out of control and I spent more times in hospital than anywhere else.My parents split in December 2013 after 21 years married (I am 20 years old) my mum’s alcoholism was at its peak. Having been in and out of hospital for the past six years due to liver failure, she was on a path to destruction. In those months, mum had fallen whilst drunk and tried to hit my father with a golf club and broke her femur. She had several serious operations and she nearly died as her blood is extremely thin due to medication and alcoholism.Mum came out of hospital and continued to drink and began running around saying that she was fine and could walk. She fell hundreds of times and it became so bad she now can’t walk properly.I live with my grandmother, having left school at 17 as I suffered from depression and I went back to do my Leaving Cert and moved out of my home. Within months a series of events led to both my father and brother leaving and moving into an apartment and my mum was left wallowing in her drunken states ringing and abusing everybody (she still does this).I contacted the HSE in January 2014 with several emails sent to all organisations that support victims of alcoholism, I got a lot of reaction. I was furious that I spent years sitting in my mothers doctor’s surgery with my dad begging for ways out. They would always look at us helplessly and say “move out”. I felt embarrassed and as if there were no light at the end of the tunnel. My grandmother who I live with and who’s been a mother to me all my life has had a nervous breakdown and right now I spend my days working eight hour shifts as a photographer in a studio and then I go home to this mess.
My mum has been in hospital about eight times since February 2014 when a stomach ulcer burst and she was found in a pool of blood by my grandmother. I soon lost faith but I always tried to get help; my letter to the HSE got me six months with a councillor but I was so busy with my Leaving Cert and everything I just couldn’t find time to go.
Now I am still living with this situation but I try my very best to overcome it everyday and I refuse any kind of medication such as an “anti depressant” as I believe it’s just a easy way for doctors to dose people up and make money. I wish to study politics and history and possibly then business in university in the future and I hope that one day I can actually help people.
This story is shared by ‘Teens Affected by Addiction’, a Young Social Innovators project from Mount Mercy College in Cork. The students have recently received funding from the YSI Den to publish a book with the stories of adults who grew up with an addict in the home. Please see www.teensaffectedbyaddiction.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to share your story.
Follow Teens Affected by Addiction on Twitter: @affbyaddiction
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Talking negatively about your ex has lasting effects on your children. How do I know? I have been collecting stories from children and adult children of divorce for three years now. I am writing a book to end bitter divorce battles. My hope is if I show the lasting damage from a child's perspective, it might somehow sink in and stop the nasty behavior. This isn't psycho babble: here are four real life stories.
Mike, a 43-year-old man, still remembers his mother referring to his father as a loser after the divorce. Mike still can't shake the word "loser" from his head. Anytime he hears someone called a loser, he cringes. It has taken him to years to view his dad differently than the story told to him by his mother.
To date, Mike finds himself constantly trying to achieve so that his mother won't think he's a loser. I bet she never expected that by calling her ex-husband a loser, it would have such a lasting impact on her son.
Jack, a 13-year-old freshman in high school, lives out his parent's divorce far too often. His biggest pet peeve? He isn't allowed to take anything from his father's house over to his mother's house -- like his basketball shorts. Jack assures his father that his mother will not be wearing the basketball shorts, just him. His father doesn't care. His father, who is quite wealthy by the way, would not give Jack $20 to take to school for an event that was actually on the day his mother had him. "She has to pay for it!" insisted Jack's father. Even at 13, Jack has had enough of this pettiness from his father. He dreads going to see his father because it's always a battle about something related to his time with his mother.
I bet Jack's father doesn't even realize he is missing out on quality time with his son. Instead, he is too busy keeping score and trying to control what goes on with his ex wife.
Heidi, a 38-year-old stylist, still listens to her mother complain about her father. Her parents divorced 30 years ago. Her mother clearly hasn't gotten over it. Heidi gets embarrassed every time she has friends over at her mom's house. The first thing out of her mother's mouth is, "Do you notice this small apartment I live in? It's because Heidi's dad didn't give me any money when we divorced." It doesn't matter that Heidi's mother has had a great job over the past 30 years yet refuses to change her living circumstances. Heidi actually thinks that her mother is addicted to playing the victim card.
What Heidi's mother doesn't realize is that she has missed out on 30 years of her life. Instead, she is bitterly stuck in the '70's.
Kate no longer talks to the father that bad-mouthed her mother. Her parents divorced when she was nine and Kate remembers nothing but her father's name-calling and fighting for years on end. When her father had custody of her, all he would do was talk about what a horrible woman her mother was. "Your mother is a cheater. She broke up this family," he would say. "All she wants to do is take my money." "She's crazy." Any time Kate would try to defend her mother, her father would yell to her, "you don't know anything!" In reality, Kate knew quite a bit. Kate was aware that her mother cheated on her father. Her mother sat down with her and apologized for doing so. She apologized to Kate for breaking up the family. She was always kind to Kate's father and never uttered a bad word about him. As she got older, Kate understood that her father was hurt, but she couldn't understand why he wouldn't let it go. Her father was always angry. This made Kate dread being with her father. After years of going through the motions, Kate decided she didn't want to spend time with her father. She told him she was tired of hearing about how awful her mother was. Do you know what Kate's father said to her? "You are just like your mother -- Crazy." At 17, that wasn't what Kate needed or wanted to hear.
Kate is now 23 years old and hasn't spoken to her father in six years. Do you think this is how Kate's father imagined his relationship with his daughter would turn out?
The point of outlining all these scenarios is to illustrate that things don't have to end up nasty.
It takes a real grown-up adult to realize that you can't be bitter about the past. It takes a mature adult to see the bigger picture. It takes loving your children more than you hate your ex to stop the nastiness. I urge you to look at the bigger picture. You are not harming your ex. You are harming your children.
Follow Marina Sbrochi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Divorcedwkids