8 things to help
I just found this site and thought I would share my story in the hope it helps or comforts others. My Mum became an alcoholic when I was about 8. She had an affair and then started drinking. She tried to kill herself several times, and at the age of 9 or10 I had to hide the paracetomol from her and make her show me her chest to see there were no wounds where she had tried to stab herself. I climbed out of my bedroom window once to call the police as I thought she might stab me. When they arrived she had sobered up and pretended nothing had happened and I felt silly. I tried to ignore it and get on with being a teenager. I tried to help by talking and listening but it never seemed to work. It was difficult because I could not talk to her about normal teenage things I was going through as she just wasn't all there. My teachers and friends parents just thought she was a bit eccentric as she would hide it and pretend we were a normal family. At college I had to tell a teacher as I wasn't coping with my work. He didn't really know how to help but he did get me some leeway with assignments etc. I spoke to a counsellor a couple of times but it didn't feel like much help. I decided the best thing was to leave home as soon as possible as it was getting worse with my mum calling me names like a sl**. It all changed when my dad divorced my mum. For the first time ever she was on her own. She gave up booze because she had to work to survive. I was away at university by this time. This was how it ended for me. I have been to counselling twice, once at university which was not helpful as I saw a student counsellor who did not understand parental alcoholism and more recently a cognitive behaviour therapist. And a result of my childhood, I have struggled with low self esteem, where I feel I have to earn recognition and acceptance by others and am afraid of upsetting people in case they get angry with me. I am learning to change this and have more self esteem. My brother unfortunately has had drug problems and was sectioned with schizophrenia in his 20s. What I want to share is what I have learned and advice I would give to other people living with an addicted parent. 1. The most important lesson for me has undoubtedly been you cannot help the other person. They have to help themselves. This is the hardest lesson to learn of all. It was bought home to me in an instant when my parents divorced and my mum got her act together. It's hard because you really want to make the other person ok, so they can be happy and things will be good, and then you can be happy too. It feels like accepting you can't help means giving up on the hope that things will get better. It doesn't. The problem is when you are a child or a teenager you don't have a huge amount of power or choice. You're stuck there at home with an adult and you've got to make the best of it. So you pick the best strategies that you can with the power that you have. Trying to help your parent is one strategy and it is a completely understandable choice. The problem is it doesn't always work. People who rely on drink are pretty unstable. Things may improve a bit then they get worse again. The only way someone will give up booze is if they really want to. And if they do really want to, the other truth is that its probably not you that can help them with it. Human behaviour is complex and they need support from trained psychologists to change their behaviour. You can encourage and let them know how well they are doing but you can't make them do it. As children we are sensitive to pain and suffering, and naturally want to care for our adult alcoholic and make things better for them and us. Its no use me telling you it isn't your responsibility because of course you feel you must do something. But the way of the world is that adults have to become adults and learn to be responsible for their own behaviour. 2. Define your limits. This was something very powerful I did that really helped me. I was only able to do it when I was about 19 when I had the courage to stand up for myself. My mum had been drinking heavily and generally being abusive. I had had enough. I told her that if she ever ever spoke to me in that way or treated.me like that again I would never see her again. This was hard because I had to really mean it and be prepared to follow through. She looked shocked. But she did not say a bad word to me again. I think alcoholics come to rely on their children, assuming they will always be there to pick up the pieces. But home truths carefully spoken can be really powerful. People who are alcoholics find.it hard to accept and love and respect themselves, and therefore find it hard to treat other people with respect and show selfless love and affection. But you can be sure that what they really fear is losing everything and everyone they love. If you can point out how their behaviour makes you feel i.e. disappointed, and tell them specific things you are not prepared to accept e.g. violence, shouting etc and what you will do as a consequence - you may not be in a position to leave home but maybe.you could stop helping with certain things then they may see that their behaviour has consequences, and if they change their behaviour it has a positive effect on their relationships which in turn may motivate them more. 3. People who are alcoholic are selfish. This is hard to accept, but maybe try and see selfishness as another symptom along with being an alcoholic. It is really useful to remember this because sometimes it can feel like its your fault. I remember very clearly thinking my mum must not, can not possibly love me because this is not how someone who loves someone behaves. I started to think maybe it was me. She did love me but she was incapable of expressing her feelings because she was hiding from them with drink. She couldn't think about other peoples feelings as she couldn't really deal with her own. It's not your fault, alcoholics are selfish 4. Don't buy booze for your parent. I learned this from my brother stealing money from me more drugs. Unfortunately when it really has a hold the only other thing as important as booze to an alcoholic is getting hold of booze. My brother would ask me for money for bills and spend it on drugs and in the end I would buy him the actual groceries instead. Probably hard to do if you're a kid or if.your parent is violent when you refuse. If you're under 18 maybe you could say you don't get served. The point is to not collude with your parent in the habit so they know you disapprove. 5. Talk to a friends parent. When I had problems I often tried to go to people in.authority, teachers, police etc but they don't always understand or can help much. I sometimes wish I'd spoken to the parent of a friend I liked. I would have liked to have the odd cup of tea and chat, maybe stay over occasionally in a nicer environment to get away. 6. It is NOT NOT NOT your fault. Nothing you did or didn't do caused this. Enough said. 7. The best thing you can do is focus on yourself. You're growing up. You've got.your own life to lead. Unfortunately you've had some tough circumstances but focus on your future. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Children of alcoholics sometimes think they have to be super strong and can't show signs of weakness. actually you need extra help because you've not had parental stability. Confide in.friends.you trust. Speak to a counselor. Get to know a good youth worker. Get involved in local clubs and activities 8. It will get better. No matter how hard, how c**p, how upsetting, how confusing, how messed up you feel it will not last forever. As a young person, because you've not been around very long, now can feel like an eternity.5 years can seem like a very long time. Nothing changes for quite a long time when you're young, you go to school and live in some kind of family environment. As an adult you have the power to make your own decision and lots can happen. You will feel better. it is possible to not have a brilliant childhood and not be a messed up adult and live a meaningful enriched life. You're amazing - strong, brave, resourceful - remember how wonderful you are!