I saw this photo quote image online and knew I had to write a blog about the affect’s alcoholism can have on children. This is going to be an emotional one for me. I think I was in denial as to how much of an impact my husband’s alcoholism would have on our children, especially our daughter. As I sit here looking back over the past 16 years I can see things much more clearly now. What people don’t realize is that one persons alcoholism affects an entire family, you all become sick and dysfunctional without even knowing it!
Although it wasn’t my place to raise his kids I am glad I was here to make some positive impact in their lives. My husband use to drink at home until one day he heard the girl’s counting his beer bottles for recycling 17, 18, 19……..that was only for one night and they were all his. Then his son said to me “when I grow up I’m going to be an alcoholic”! I said “don’t you say that you do not have to be an alcoholic, you can be anything you want to be” he was 10 years old! One day our daughter came home from school and showed me a picture she drew of our family with sayings in caption bubbles and over her dad it said “Honey go get me a beer”. I can’t imagine what the teacher must have thought about that.
My husband started spending more time away from home sitting in the bars instead of drinking at home because he thought the kids wouldn’t know. I lied to them often making excuses for him, mainly saying he had to work late. I didn’t want to hurt them, they were so young they didn’t need to know. Over the years I watched my husbands alcoholism get much worse. He was emotionally unavailable for all of us and he was verbally abusive. Fast forward to when my step-son was 13 and got in trouble with the law for the first time for vandalism, destruction of property, breaking and entering, stealing, Etc. I knew it would get worse, I tried to warn my husband I could see the kid was crying for attention and help but nobody wanted to listen to me because somehow I was just the “mean” step-parent! I should also mention that I am the only parent that didn’t drink. His dad, step-dad, and mother are all alcoholics.
At 16 years old my step son had an over dose on heroine. This kid is lucky he didn’t die that day. I watched these kids have virtually no structure or guidance in their lives. I tried so hard to be that person but in my experience with the people in my life that were alcoholics lets just say they were selfish, in denial, took no responsibility or accountability, they had no idea how to be good parents because they were so sick in their disease they couldn’t see the reality of any situation. They stepped all over me and made it as difficult as they could for me to be anyone these kids should respect!
My husband & I argued a lot (mostly because of his drinking) which wasn’t good for the kids. I tried to get my husband to see he had a drinking problem but I was just told I was crazy and I was the problem. As I said in the beginning you become as sick and twisted up in their disease as they are. There was so much that happened with the kids over the years that I couldn’t possibly share it all, but the highlights are things like when my step-daughter graduated high school which let me tell you I am the biggest reason why she did graduate. She got married shortly after and I was NOT allowed to attend the wedding (Yet I am the one who spent most of the time trying to raise her). My oldest step-daughter moved out with her baby 3 1/2 years after we were together because of an argument her and her father got into. My step-son ended up in and out of jail and finally prison. Then our daughter moved out in a matter of days after she found out her dad was unfaithful to me she had enough and left.
Now these are of course big moments with a story behind each one but what I am trying to emphasis here is that one persons addiction can have a greater affect on others than you may see. My husbands behaviors caused problems with his family, with the kids, with our marriage, his work, every part of our life. The worst part is he shifted most of that blame onto me because my husband is an alcoholic and there is no accountability in this disease! therefore life for me was terribly heart breaking.
When my husband first got sober the first 10 months was worse than when he was drinking! He became explosively verbally abusive with me and our daughter. He threatened her all the time to “pack her shit and move out of HIS house”. During that time he was also unfaithful. The words that were spoken were so damaging and destructive. He literally tore apart her heart and soul. He shattered the very image of what a good man and what a good father looked like. He shattered her world because of his behaviors he showed her that people lie, cheat, manipulate, & hurt others just to get whatever it is that they want! Her trust in people and relationships was broken. I have never been more heart broken in my life than when I had to let my daughter go because I knew it was the only way she could break free from this sick evil disease of her dad’s alcoholism and it would be the only chance she would have to heal.
It has been a long and sometimes very painful journey these past 3 1/2 years of my husbands recovery. On the flip side of that it has also been amazing and we have been blessed. Our daughter is still healing, she still has things to deal with but she has learned to forgive her dad and they continue to grow and repair that relationship. My husband has a relationship with all of his children and they have all forgiven him and so have I. My step-son struggles the most with addiction. He has an uncertain future if he doesn’t get the help he needs for his addiction so he can get clean and stay clean. He struggles with sobriety. I worry about him and what may happen.
What I can say is that my husband being in recovery has helped our family to heal but it caused a lot of damage and some of that will never go away. Today we are healthier and strive to be that way everyday. We still continue to work on things and heal. It is a daily process. If I could get a message out to anyone it would be this…………
Parents don’t be the one that says “NOT MY KID” it is all our kids! Kids see and hear a lot more than you know. Talk to them, be involved in their lives. If you have any type of addiction problem please take that first step and get help for yourself. If you suspect your child may have a problem don’t worry about their privacy you find out that is your job as a parent to keep them as safe as you can. Be Honest with your children, talk about drugs, alcohol, sex, they need to know. I carry guilt about what my daughter went through, and wondering if I could have pushed it more with my step children, but given the situation I feel I did the best I could at the time.
I will say this about all our kids. The oldest is married with 3 children of her own and I would like to believe because she had an alcoholic father and a mother with mental problems that she will be a better more protective & structured parent. My step-son goes back and forth with being clean but he is now “daddy” to his girlfriends little girl and he has learned growing up that in his words “he doesn’t want to be like his mom was” he does go over board with the structure because of that so I hope he finds that balance in his life. My youngest step-daughter is married and moved out of state but recently had serious marital problems heading for divorce. However, they recently were able to work through things and they are now living back together and they are happier than they have been. Then there is our daughter my baby girl who I raised the way I wanted because I could. She is very independent, she is a hard worker, she is honest, she will be graduating college in two months with a Bachelors degree, she has such a kind heart, she is a strong young lady! I am so proud of her resilience and her drive to make her life the way she wants it to be!
Believe me when I tell you that you think your sheltering your kids and they aren’t “really” exposed to this that and the other thing but let me tell you they are exposed, they do know what happens, and they pick up on your vibes. It is so devastating to them it affects them as they grow up and into their adult years. Be a good example for your children, if you need help show them it is OK to reach for it. Let your whole family be a part of your recovery because it is NOT just a you disease it is a Family disease and everyone needs to heal not just the alcoholic. We have been blessed with miracles in our life that recovery promises! Take those steps do what works for you. Everyone can heal, it doesn’t mean everyone will stay together sometimes it is best for people to go there own ways but that doesn’t mean forgiveness can’t happen, it doesn’t mean you can’t repair your life but it all begins with your recovery and taking that first step and admitting that your life has become unmanageable due to whatever addiction has it’s hold on you. There is Hope, just believe and know everything will work out the way it is suppose to work out! Look at your kids, Look at your Family…….. that should be enough incentive to put down the bottle pick up the phone and get yourself into recovery today! Don’t live with regrets start with a clean slate, right now in this moment is all you have!
Wishing you Peace & Serenity……….Harmony