Brewing Mental Health Awareness - Navigating the Shadows: Life as an Adult Child of a Parent Suffering from Alcohol Misuse
Growing up with a parent who suffered from alcohol misuse is an experience that leaves indelible marks on the soul. As an adult child of a parent that suffered from alcohol use disorder, you may have walked through shadows, faced challenges, and coped with emotions that few can truly comprehend. In this blog post, I want to offer a safe space to reflect, heal, and embrace the strength that comes from your unique journey.
It is easier for me to write about my father now that he has passed, but its also comforting to know that despite the challenges of growing up while he suffered and struggled, I love him very much. That is why our most popular bag, ‘Addicted to J’s Cup’ is a tribute to him and his ability to stay sober for the last ten years of his life which is the greatest gift a parent suffering from alcohol use can give to their adult children.
While my father really hurt me (emotionally), I am so incredibly blessed that even if it was for a short period of time, that I was able to forgive him and have a meaningful relationship with him for the last 10 years of his life.
For me, it was hard to acknowledge the impact of his drinking on our family - it was something not talked about, swept under the carpet, and often times it was hard or impossible to explain to anyone growing up what I was going through. Some of this is because there was a bigger stigma back in the 90s around alcohol use, even more so than today and other parts of it is that it is hard for loved ones to accept and find support to cope and other reasons was because changing, accepting and embracing yourself and sticking with it is hard - which makes it challenging for those suffering to work through, find support and keep going on their journey.
I first knew Dad had an alcohol use disorder when I was in 3rd or 4th grade - he used to take me iceskating every Sunday but one Sunday he had a seizure on the ice. Growing up in the late 80s/early 90s, all I knew to do was stand near him - I was maybe 8 or 9? I heard people around me - teens or adults, say ‘ewww get away from him’ and all I could remember was ‘But that is my Daddy.’ I was sat down on the bleachers and asked for my home number and address, and off I went with Dad in the ambulance to White Plains hospital.
Dad lived, and Dad continued on - there were so many traumatic things that happened and so many missed events and so many disappointments that happened - some and most are just so incredibly painful to write about and maybe over time I will, but it also doesn’t seem like it matters anymore because at the end of the day, I really loved the man - he was a beautiful and intelligent man that really just suffered from a disease, just like those that suffer from cancer. However, with alcoholism there is no cure, alcohol is everywhere, and there is still such a stigma around alcoholism, and while I recognize the importance of anonymity - the people who persevere should be celebrated for their significant accomplishments and the gifts that they give to the world and loved ones around them.
What I think is truely incredible is that I don’t remember him as someone as having an alcohol use disorder but I remember him as the guy that watched inspector gadget, loved chocolate, did headstands with me, played his guitar while I danced, made witty jokes, helped me with my homework and had great advice.
The turning point for Dad was when I was 24, and Dad was in such a bad place, that he was abusing to a point of using Listerine (mouthwash). Some may say it was unfortunate, but it was truly a fortunate circumstance for him, Dad found himself at 59 years old in need to change - it was his rock bottom I suppose. He was in tears - it was the most sad but human side of him that I had ever seen. We were fortunate to be able to have him go to St Vincents rehab and detox center, he went back into the program (AA), and he found ways to stay sober to the best of his ability even if some didn’t understand it. He found a way to give the greatest gift he could give to me, and just be a Dad.
Truthfully, I found growing up with Dad to be difficult - I was angry. I felt lonely. I felt tortured. I was sad. But I found some healthy ways to cope (my energy went to dancing, I colored, I did arts and crafts and cried a lot! I am so grateful that I knew him as him.
So… Dear 11 million children of a parent that suffers from alcohol use, I know its hard to understand what your parent is going through and you shouldn’t have to, but know that your journey will be one of strength, resilience and transformation. As you navigate through these challenges, remember that you are not defined by your past, but rather shaped by the lessons you will learn and have learned. Embrace the healing process with compassion and patience, and in doing so, pave the way for a brighter and more empower future.
Remember, you are not alone on this path. Reach out, share your story, and connect with others who have walked similar roads. There is a space for you here and together, we can find solace, inspire growth, and embrace the beauty that comes from rising above the shadows of our past. You are worthy of love, healing, and the boundless possibilities that await you.