I didn’t know my dad was an alcoholic until I was in my 40’s. I knew he drank, but then most of my friend’s dads drank. I had one friend who’s dad would be passed out on Sunday’s from his drinking on Saturday. He was an alcoholic. He was what I thought alcoholics (drunks) looked like. My dad wasn’t like that. He wasn’t abusive physically or vocally. He was responsible. He always went to work. There was always food on the table. We were poor, but there were five of us kids plus mom he supported. He had a full-time job and worked part-time jobs to provide for us (and his addiction). I didn’t know we were poor until I got into my teens although I became a thief to get what I wanted. Later in my life a psychiatrist told me he thought I stole to take something of value from those who hurt me. I believe that was at least partially true.
My mother kept his drinking a well hidden secret. She protected him. She protected us children – or so she thought. She did it so well that things were distorted. I remember one Saturday morning she was upset with dad and was confronting him in front of me. It was about his drinking. It didn’t occur to me that it was around 9:00 on a Saturday morning and he already had a certain look that he had when he was drinking. I don’t know how old I was – I’m guessing I was probably in my early teens. I remember sitting at the dining room table watching her confront him and thinking – if I was married to a woman (PG version) like you I’d probably drink too. My relationship with her was never the same after that. I loved her, but I didn’t really like her. I didn’t realize this until I was an adult. Does this mean she was an unloving mother? Not at all. I now know she was doing the best she could to take care of her marriage, the needs of her children and herself, and stay sane in the process. It’s all part of the disease of alcoholism.
One day I picked up a newspaper and I saw an article on adult children of alcoholics. I had been through some depression and was in an unhappy marriage. I had been going to counseling. I was looking for answers for problems in my life. This article listed some personality traits of adult children of alcoholics. As I read them I began to realize they were pretty much describing me. I knew then, on some level, that I had been raised in an alcoholic home. I photocopied the article and sent it to my siblings along with a letter that I had discovered “our” problem. The following Sunday night I received a phone call at 10:00 – it was my mother. She said, “My God Tom – what have you done?”. I asked her what she meant. She was referring to the letter and article I had sent my siblings. At least two of them had called her and asked her what it was about. I told her, “I told the truth.”. I asked her if dad had been an alcoholic (he died 15 years earlier) and she admitted he had been. I opened a can of worms with my siblings and it took me five years to work it out with my youngest sister. In further discussions with each of them it was like we all lived in a different home.
I thought it was very strange that we could all live in the same house with the same mom and dad and not know the truth of what was going on. I have since learned that this is not uncommon. I have met several people who had similar stories. You may have a similar one yourself or maybe you haven’t found out yet, but you suspect something was wrong in your childhood.
If you know or if you suspect you were raised in an alcoholic home I suggest you find either an adult children of alcoholics