The Family Stories
Sometimes when my dad comes home he’s happy and laughing but sometimes he’s mean. He yells at mom and us. When he’s really mad, he throws and breaks things. I never know which dad will come home, the happy dad or the angry dad. If he’s angry I escape the fighting and noise by reading. I am very well read. I know a lot of stuff. As a result I do well in school. This is a good thing except no one knows how scarred I am all the time and how bad I hurt.
My dad comes home mad and he yells at my mom. She starts crying and he yells more. I don’t like to see her cry. I start picking up things that aren’t put away right. I wash the dishes that are in the sink. I put the clothes from the washer in to the dryer. Everyone calls me “mommy’s little helper”. I suppose that’s good but no one knows how scarred I am. No one knows how bad I hurt.
My dad comes home yelling and I just can’t stand it. That noise gets stuck in my head. I go outside. I pick up a baseball bat. I smash the windows out of a car parked on the street. I throw rocks through a neighbors window. I walked in the neighborhood market and steal a can of cola and a candy bar. I can still hear the sound of my dad screaming when the police arrive. I fight with them and they handcuff me and start taking me downtown. I can’t tell them I am afraid. I can’t tell them how bad I hurt.
Growing up in an alcoholic home is riddled with doubt and confusion. Spouses and children assume roles and behaviors in efforts to appease the alcoholic or to stay unseen. These roles and behaviors that might be with them all their life.
I grew up in an alcoholic home and dad would come home late at night. I would be in bed. It matter little if I was asleep or not on the nights he came home slamming the doors. The noise jolted me out of my sleep but I laid quietly in bed. I pretended to be asleep. He would open my door, satisfied that I was asleep he would slam it shut and continue down the hall. Now I would sit up, fold myself in to a ball and stay there until morning.
In the morning mom would be in the kitchen making coffee. I would hear dad walking down the hall whistling. It was as if one person came home at night and a completely different person woke up in the morning. I don’t know the name of the song but the whistling terrified me as much as the door slamming had.
Many, many, many years later I am still frightened by two things: doors being slammed and whistling when I can’t see the person whistling.
Many times the non drinking members of a family assume responsibilities that should belong to the drinker. A wife may assume all financial responsibilities timing automatic deposits and bill payments so the funds are available for paying bills. The alcoholic may get an allowance even though he works and produces the largest income. A wife may call his employer saying her husband is sick when in reality he is just too hung over to make it to work. A wife who continually rescues her husband from the consequences of his drinking, may begin to feel very superior to her husband. There is no longer a partnership. The wife may have a superiority complex while at the same time she feels angry that she has an errant boy on her hands.
I am the parent of an alcoholic child. He’s 18 with a couple months before he graduates. I get notification in May that he will not graduate with his class. He has to many unexcused absences. Absent? How could that be? I drove him and his friend Joey to school almost every day of high school. Could I have driven them to campus and they walked off before first period. And they think he’s drinking. That can’t be. He’s a good boy. He knows better. It’s that Joey. Joey is a bad influence.
My adult daughter is living with me. She stays out late and comes home drunk. She is disrespectful to me and my husband (who, she often reminds us both, is not her father). Friends say I should make her move out but, where would she go? She doesn’t make enough money at her job to support herself. Besides, right now she is unemployed. It wasn’t her fault. She said she only missed the bus one day and was late for work just that one time. She says it was a personality conflict. She says they just didn’t like her. I believe her. She is my daughter.
I am married to an alcoholic. I have asked him not to drink. I have pointed out the negative consequences he has faced and the consequences we have faced as a couple. He tells me I am crazy. He tells me my father was an alcoholic and he is not like my father. He’s right. He is not like my father. Maybe I am crazy. Maybe I should stop trying to control him. Maybe I should be more understanding.
I am married to an alcoholic. I beg and plead with him to come straight home from work. Do not stop for a drink. He promises he won’t and I know he means it when he promises but then he comes home drunk again, I wonder what’s wrong with me. Doesn’t he love me enough to honor his promise? What have I done to cause him to behave this way?
Each of these stories are real experiences. Someone lived them. These examples of the power a drinker has over the behavior and emotions of wives, husbands, mother’s fathers, children, brothers, sisters, friends, employees and co-workers.
So many lives center around the behavior of a drinker. People believe they are somehow to blame for a drinker’s choices. They believe the self centered lies the drinker often tells. “You are stupid”. “You do not love me enough”. “You are not pretty enough or smart enough”. “You pamper me too much”. “You don’t pay enough attention to me”. Alcoholism has many faces but it is surely marked by justification. The drinker can tell a story making any of his behaviors the fault of someone else and in a very short amount of time the friends and family members believe what the drinker is saying is true. They believe it and as he’s telling it, the drinker hears it and he believes it as well. Now family members are against a wall. If they think they caused the problem drinking, they certainly had better figure out how to cure it.
Friends and family members who have found a way to step out of the insanity and away from the faulty stories call their interactions with the drinker a “merry-go-round of denial”. You know he did, he said he didn’t, you know he did, he said he didn’t. It becomes easier to believe he didn’t then continue a pointless debate.
Well meaning friends tell you to leave him but you don’t. You love him and if you could just love him enough or the right way. Soon your friends aren’t calling as much because they cannot listen to your stories again. It is too painful for them to listen to how you were hurt emotionally or physically. They can no longer watch you become bitter and angry.
Friends tell you to “kick her out of the house” but that sounds so harsh. She’s your daughter. This is just a phase. You need to keep her safe. It’s an ugly world for a single girl. And pretty soon your friends stop calling because they have no other advise for you. They have heard the demands she makes on you. They have heard her lies and manipulation and they have seen her escalate the few times you have said “no”. It hurts them too much.
But, you are not stuck on the merry go round. You can get off
Call one of those friends who is concerned about you. Ask them to attend an Alanon Meeting with you. It’s easier to go anywhere if you go with a friend. If you go alone, you will get to the door and realize you made a mistake in choosing to come here. You will start a conversation with yourself and convince yourself you over reacted when you thought to come here. It’s hard to convince a friend of the things we convince ourselves of.
If you have a friend with you, your friend will be listening to the experiences of men and women you have been in the very same positions you are in. Be sure your friend knows at the beginning you are only going to gather information. You are not making a commitment to recovery today. Go to five meetings and listen.
Email your questions or topic suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s experience this journey together. You will remain anonymous.