I have touched on this topic before and how difficult it can be growing up to parents addicted to alcohol. I often look back and wonder how I managed to stay sane and not give into my circumstances. It is easy to do. After coming across a post of a young girl trying to escape a home filled with alcohol abuse, I decided to write about my experience and how I got out.
If you are a child of an alcoholic, you are not destined to repeat the addictive behaviors of your parents.
It’s hard for me to pinpoint the first memory I have of my mother being drunk because there were so many. One memory is my mother diving into a pool drunk when she knew she could not swim, and me driving her home with her car at about 12 or 13 years old after an evening at a bar. She always took me with and I hated it. Another is her picking me up from school reeking of alcohol, this happened more times than I can remember. Then there are others where she would through whatever was closest to her across the room and storm into my room in the middle of the night screaming at me in some alcohol infused fit of rage. These evenings of abuse often turned physical.
Living with someone who becomes difficult or violent with alcohol can be extremely difficult. You know that anything triggers them and a peaceful evening can change with a sip of alcohol. I knew that if I just did the slightest thing to set my mother off, we would end up in an evening of rage. Breathing too loudly or one bad look at my mother was all she needed to be triggered.
As a kid I dealt with so many situations that children should not have to deal with. I didn't know that help exists and I thought that this was just something I had to grow up with. It was different back then, we didn't have laptops and cellphones to look up help or to find out where you could get help or what you could do. This was before all of that was so easily available.
I finished high school when I was 17 and decided that when I had completed school, I would find myself a job and I would get out of my mother's house. The only way I would escape was to look after myself and get away from the environment I was in. Becoming a doctor or a lawyer was just not an option for me so I started working in a call center. It paid alright for someone who had just finished high school and it was enough for me to find a place to stay on my own. While my fellow classmates were preparing for university, I was flat hunting for cheap rentals. I was not old enough to sign a rental lease yet (You have to be 18 here) so I asked my friend's mother who I grew up with if she would co-sign with me and she agreed. Very much against my mother's wishes, I moved out of her house with a single bed, my clothes and that was it. I had no fridge, I had no couches or plates or mugs or glasses or anything I needed but the peace and quiet was all I wanted, and I knew I would make a plan for the rest at a later point.
Since moving out of that environment I could finally focus on a healthy mind and making something of myself. I have now been out of that environment for over 12 years. It’s not always going to be easy and it might seem like an easier option to stay in that environment but the chances are so much more likely that you eventually too will just give into those circumstances.
I’m not special, for having made it out of that situation, there are plenty of people who have and you can too. The difference between now and when I was growing up in the small town that I did - is access to knowledge and help. There are so many resources now where you can find help and other people that are going through the same situations. You don’t have to be isolated and alone.
I didn't understand why my mother was abusive to me and what I did wrong. The things I didn't know growing up were Alcoholism is a sickness. You can’t make it better. You deserve help for yourself. You are not alone. There are people and places that can help.
Looking back now, 17 was definitely too young to be living on your own but I don’t regret it. If I grew up to all the things so easily accessible today, I would have sought out some help, called a professional, spoken to people that are going through the same situations. If you are someone that grew up like me, there IS help for you.
Here are a few resources to check out:
- Al-Anon: Al-Anon is one of the most well-known support groups for family members and loved ones of alcoholics. Members follow a 12-step program and regular meetings are held all over the U.S. and internationally.
- Nar-Anon: Nar-Anon is intended to help family members and loved ones of individuals who are addicted to narcotics or who are in recovery. It is also designed to provide support for family members of alcoholics and much like Al-Anon meetings, Nar-Anon meetings can be found in all 50 states nationwide as well as internationally.
- Co-DA: This 12-step group is designed to help individuals in co-dependent relationships, whether they are directly affected by alcoholism or not.
- School counselor: For children of alcoholics who are in grade school, middle school, or high school, a school counselor may be a trusted adult who can provide personal assistance and support.
- Therapist: One-on-one therapy can also help you work through painful memories or current struggles related to a parent’s alcohol abuse.
- Online support groups: There are also many online support groups where children of alcoholics can talk with one another and share helpful information and resources.
Seeking help and connecting with other children of alcoholics may help you move past a trauma filled childhood and heal the scars that are left behind.