Family Situation- Advice?

Okay, please bear with me. This is a rather scattered, and a bit bitter, but it was quite difficult for me to write out in any form.

I am the daughter of an alcoholic, along with two sisters. Our family has been termed “quite dysfunctional” by a small amount of people who I’ve trusted enough to tell about the situation. My father, when not drunk, is, if not verbally, then most certainly emotionally abusive towards our entire family in varying degrees. My middle sister is his perfect little angel child, and she still gets it every so often. My youngest sister is more of my mother’s concern, as my mother is a special education teacher and my sister is dyslexic. Mom gets a lot of crap from him, but he respects her a bit more, being as she is his wife, and if she would leave, that would put him in a very bad position. This leaves me as the main dumping zone for a lot of stuff. I cannot say anything to him without having it twisted, torn apart, and shoved back in my face. It’s almost at the point that if I even say hello to him when he hasn’t had any alcohol, I can get into trouble. My mother is not able to even try to defend me, even if she wanted to. It only makes the situation worse, and gets her drawn into it too. If anything goes wrong in this family, it is somehow attached to me almost every time.

When my father drinks, he is very… nice. Because he never shows physical affection, hugs and such, towards any of his family when he is not drunk, it is rather frightening to be approached by him while he is intoxicated and to be hugged. While I don’t think he would ever go beyond that point, it’s always a possibility in my mind. When I get compliments from him about anything at all, it is usually when he is in this state. Compliments really don’t mean as much when the person giving them out is not in their right mind.

I’ve heard many, many things from this man. A few years ago, he gathered us kids in a meeting without my mom and declared to us that if we wouldn’t listen to what he said and follow any and all of the directions he gave us, our mother would get an ulcer from the stress, go insane and have to be in a mental hospital, and die. And we would be responsible for it. When you hear that as a child, that scares you. He had complete control. He still does, basically, even though we know now that we could not cause all that ourselves. There have been many other incidences similar to this.

It terrifies me, being at some place or another, having him pull up in our van, and having to get in there, not knowing if it’s safe, not knowing if we’ll make it home. It sickens me to enter our garage, kicking aside beer bottles just to get inside the door. And when he’s gone, out getting more to drink, or drinking with friends, and all of us are at home, not knowing if this could be the night when he finally gets into an accident, or gets caught driving drunk. When he looks into the pleading face of one of his children, and tells them that if they have a problem with his behavior, then it’s their problem, not his. When he is passed out in his chair in the living room with the TV blaring.

I have been told that there is no way I can be responsible for all this. It’s very difficult to believe that when almost every single day, I do something else to let him down, to disappoint him. When there is nothing, he will find something, or create another bad situation. The way he talks to me makes me feel like the lowest creature on earth, not worthy to be living, too much trouble to be alive.

There must be some of you out there who have been in, or are in similar situations. What can I do? Is there any way to rise above all this and eventually get out altogether? Coping tips? Anything? Any suggestions, stories, really anything at all would be helpful.

My father died 9 years ago from this illness, at age 66.

I hit submit prior to finishing my post, sorry!

Please try to get him help - but if that fails, do NOT take the responsibility for his life. It’s up to him to change his behaviors. I wish you much luck!

Well, Flick, you know my take on the situation. Not much more advice I can give. Just want you to know you’ll be in my prayers for awhile, and I’m sure you’ll be in a couple other people’s also. You can rise above this, I know you can.

literatelady, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. There are many people on this board who have been where you are. There are also a few sober alcoholics who may pop in to try and help.

My father is an alcoholic, too. I dealt with it by burrowing deep inside myself and building multiple defences, not letting anyone close. I had a lot of resentment towards my mother as well. I also dealt with it by realising that I would never be good enough, or do the right thing, or make him happy and proud, etc, so I just went out and did a lot of stuff that with hindsight wasn’t the smartest of choices. If you are doing this, spare a thought for your future, when you are free and don’t do things that may permanently affect you or keep you from being free.

I used to despair when I heard people say that the best years of your life are when you are at school. While it may be true for some, it definitely wasn’t true for me. The best years of my life are now, when I’m responsible for myself, I make my own decisions, I judge my own worth and I am happy with myself and proud of myself. Hold onto the thought that when you are a self-supporting adult, you answer to nobody. You are free to make your own choices, spend your time doing what you want and finding happiness on your own terms.

It’s hard to know what else to say without knowing your age. I assume you are a minor, still living at home, and are trying to figure out a way to deal with this until you can have some space ?

Lady, it is easy to believe the bad things. It takes a lot more effort to believe the good things about yourself. Please tell me your age, and also two things that you like about yourself. I’d love to hear them :slight_smile:

Do not try to deal with this, alone (or even with just your mom and sisters). I’d give Al-Anon / Alateen a call. (There should be a local chapter that your county family services people can direct you to (even) if the web site can’t give you a local number.)

I know you have issues with the Catholic Church, but you might still be able to get help (or an Alateen connection) through Catholic Social Services (sometimes called Catholic Charities). (In several Ohio counties, Catholic Charities is better funded than the county office of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. (The state agency has almost nothing to help you, but the county branches are supposed to be the usual clearing house agencies for this sort of support. If the county branch of the ODJFS has nothing, try the county Mental Health Services Boards).

There is nothing magic about any of these groups. They cannot wave wands and make it better. However, they can help–but only if you call on them.

There is a fellowship call Adult Children of Alcoholics that would do you well.

They probably have meetings near you. You will find people who have been where you are and who can help you find your way out.

Thank you for the suggestions and links. They are much appreciated.

Yes, I am still a minor living at home with a couple more years until I’ll be able to leave. It’s nice to have things to do, to be out of the house. School has been good for that. Venting to good friends is always helpful too. (Thanks, Brilharma. You and my other dear friend are making this tolerable.)

literatelady, you’re not crazy, and high school was the worst years of my life. My father, too, was emotionally abusive, especially during those years. You can e-mail me or call me any time, and, if you like, I tend to go to Ohio at irregular intervals. If you like, depending on where you are, we may be able to get together sometime. There is also, in case I haven’t mentioned it to you before, Cecil’s Place, a support group for Dopers with depression, but it’s also a place where you can vent and get support in complete privacy. Messages posted there aren’t visible to the world at large, and members must be approved before they can join.

Your family’s problems are not your fault, and things can get better, I promise. Hang in there.


literatelady when I was growing up in a similar situation, I was so closed in because of it. I never told anyone about what was happening at home.
I really booched my schooling because of it, and because I used to read a book a day or more as an escape device.
Every time someone tried to gently broach the subject (the school nurse tried one time, and the guidance counselor) I just said that everything is fine, I just wasn’t feeling well.

My stepdad was a beer drunk. He would drink a case or more a day. He usually opened the first when he got up in the morning, and followed it with a cup of coffee.
I remember that when I was a teenager I was terrified to sleep in the car, as if by concentrating on the road, I could make us not crash.
One time, he got pulled over for erratic driving. My younger 3 sibs and I were in the car with him. The deputy looked at us with such pity. We were less than a mile from home (and this can’t have been proper procedure) so he let my stepdad drive us home with him following behind, then arrested him - but only after he’d told me to take the little ones in the house and made sure that we were out of sight.

Looking back, I could have grown past it a lot quicker than I did if I had help when it was going on. I have come to the realization, after years and years, that none of us has to deal with anything alone. It feels so much better not to shoulder all of the responsibility. It is so freeing not to ‘protect’ things that aren’t your fault. To be sure that someone else knows what’s going on, in case something happens.

Please do think about going to some Adult Children or Al-Anon meetings. Maybe just talking with a teacher or the school nurse could help. I guarantee that both the nurse and the Guidance office has the numbers for relevant local organizations.

If you feel you need a friend to talk to, I’m available by e-mail, too.
A lot of us here have been where you are now. It’ll be ok.

If he has to make up reasons to be angry at you or disappointed in you, that should be a pretty strong indicator that he’s getting angry at you because he WANTS to be angry at you, because it serves some purpose for him. Perhaps blaming you makes him stop blaming himself.

What everyone else has said is very good - Al-Anon, Alateen, Adult Children of Alcoholics, whatever’s available in your area.

Also, once you graduate from high school, get OUT. Go to college as soon as you can, or get a job and move out. And do NOT under any circumstances let yourself be drawn back to living with this man. Ever. Be as financially independent as you can so he has as little control over you as possible. He may find someone else to be angry at all the time, but it is not your job to spend your life as his punching bag.

Good luck, and I hope your remaining time with this severely messed up individual goes as quickly as possible.

oy. flashback city.

and i was the only child, so i didn’t get to spread the load. yeah, boy, “never forgive and never forget” were my alcoholic stepdad’s unspoken watchwords. if he couldn’t find anything immediate that you’d done wrong, he’d bring up things from days, weeks or months past to criticize and blame you for.

it’s called scapegoating. if someone in the family is the designated “bad person”, that means you can heap all your anger and abuse on them, rather than face your own self-loathing. and oh boy is it fun to be the family “goat”. :rolleyes:

can’t stress enough how good the suggestions for finding Ala-Anon or AlaTeen will be for you. you’ll be talking with others who know EXACTLY what you’re going through. they’ve been down that same crappy path, many of them. they’ll offer their means of learning to cope; to disentangle yourself from the drinker’s craziness; to stop enabling him to continue his behavior (or his treatment of you); to begin learning how functional people deal with life and the world.

and the sooner you reach out to help yourself, the quicker you can learn to start healing.

with luck, you might even inspire other members of your family to get help also. if enough of you stop “buying into” his craziness, it even has the potential to force him to start changing too.

but DON’T DO IT FOR ANY OF THOSE REASONS. DO IT FOR YOURSELF. because you deserve to be healthy and happy, just as much as any other person.

LiterateLady, I’m so glad to see that you started this thread. You’ve gotten lots of good advice and insight so far. More than anything, as lachesis said, “DO IT FOR YOURSELF.”

It’s all noble and fine to be concerned about your younger sisters and mother. Right now, you must focus on getting your own head straight. The ability to make well considered decisions and informed choices is critical to your future life. If it is at all possible, begin looking for a job, any job. This will keep you out of the house and begin to mobilize resources for you. Having any degree of financial independence will give you options that you simply do not have right now.

All of this is especially important in view of how crucial it is that you leave the destructive environment of your home and begin your own life. A job will also give you the opportunity to be around ordinary people and exercise your social skills, which I suspect are (at least) inhibited, if not impaired, by the abuse you are enduring at home.

I’ll also suggest that you definitely avoid getting into any sort of personal relationship at this time. However supportive a sweetheart might be right now, you do not yet seem to be in a sufficiently clear state of mind to best benefit from such involvement. Being intimate with someone could just as easily elicit from you all of the of the poorly adjusted responses your family life has trained you into.

Again, getting a job could be one of the most healthy things you could do. It will boost your self esteem immensely and give you real world experience. I’ll also second the advice of others and recommend that you seek out a support group. I know that ALATEEN has a big reputation in these circles. I have only had one brief exposure to ALANON and was not entirely impressed with their approach to things or their ability to accept other sources of information. Based upon my, admittedly, limited experience, I would recommend that you seek out Adult Children of Alcoholics.

I’m extremely glad to hear how you have some dependable friends that you can trust and talk to. That is one of the most healthy fallbacks a person can have. I’d also like to commend you for having the courage to bring up all of this here at the SDMB. I can see that you’re already getting good advice and I will be checking back in to bump this thread whenever I recall anything else that might be of help.

More than anything, you will need to find a huge cache of inner strength to deal with all of this. One essential key that life has taught me in dealing with such things is this; Learn to love yourself. You must be convinced of your own self worth, otherwise abuse and mistreatment will always trigger the very worst sort of coping mechanisms in you. As you begin to obtain better and more effective help (not as if what you’re currently doing is wrong), your own self esteem will begin to take root and become the unshakable foundation that will carry you through the rest of life’s trials.

Trust me, the tribulations have only just begun. But that is no reason the be cowed by what lies ahead. There is also a life of beauty and love that awaits you. If you can learn to carry forward a tool kit of self knowledge and confidence in your self worth, half the battles will have already been fought …


Thanks to all of you. It’s been a relief just to get this out somewhere else and get new perspectives. You guys are great.

Siege- Already a proud member! You’ve got a great place over there, and I thank you for it.

Gravity- “I’m fine” is my standard line to anything and everything. Concentrating on the road is also something I’ve been known to do. My father’s never been caught at the wheel drunk, but it’s many a time that either myself or my sisters find ourselves in the front seat, rigid with worry and eyeing the half full bottle between the seats.

Elfbabe- 962 days 'til I turn eighteen! I’m leaving the moment it’s legally possible, far, far away. The problem with not allowing myself to be his punching bag is the fact that once I am not, he will more than likely turn to one of my sisters for the same purpose. As Zenster said though, I do need to concentrate on “getting my own head straight” before worrying about any of them.

lachesis- Bringing up issues run ragged in the past and looking for faults is one of my father’s specialties.

Seconded with extra heaping helpings of the rolleyes smilie.

Once again, thank you all so much for your suggestions, stories, and everything. It is much, much appreciated.

Hey. Your in my thoughts and prayers as well. Sorry I don’t have any advice or anything, but you do have my prayers.

I don’t have much else to add. The suggestions you’ve gotten have been wonderful.

My father-in-law says he thinks the internet is disgusting. The only people who use it are people looking for porn.

Maybe I need to show him this thread.

Hang in there. You seem strong and intelligent. If no one else appreciates it, you should appreciate it in yourself.

literate, I know almost exactly what you’re going through. My mother, while not an alchoholic, was/is a mentally unstable woman and was horribly physically, mentally and emotionally abusive when I was a kid. All of her problems were my fault. If there was no particular incident or reason to be angry, she’d fabricate something.

I handled it by flying as low as possible on her radar. The older I became, the more difficult that was to pull off, since it was harder and harder to keep my mouth shut about her behavior. My father worked 12+ hours a day, mostly to avoid her himself. That also had the unfortunate consequence of him being unavailable to us kids.

Eventually, I moved out. I was fifteen. I lived with my grandmother until I graduated at 16. Then I was on my own. It was very difficult to find a place in the adult world, but it was better than feeling worthless every moment of every day.

I don’t know that I have the answer, but maybe I can give you some advice. Is there some other responsible adult that you could live with? A relative, perhaps? Would your mother allow you to do that, knowing the situation? Because the best thing, IMO, is to remove yourself from the environment, if possible.

Additionally, how far are you willing to go to help yourself? Alanon is a great organization, btw. Everyone there will understand what you are going through. If you find that you, for your own well-being, must change the situation, you’ll need guts. Talk to your mom first. If she can’t/won’t help you, tell anyone who will listen what is going on in your household. Tell the parents of a close friend. (My best friend’s mother was a god-send when I was a kid.) Tell a counselor at school. You may not believe it, but they really do care. They can also help you find professional help, if you want it. Tell a teacher you trust. Tell aunts, uncles or grandparents.

See, the more people you tell, the more likely you are to find someone who can/will help you. I know that takes incredible bravery, but you can do it. Don’t worry about embarrassing your dad. His problems aren’t yours.

Life will get better once you’ve gotten past these tough times. Trust me- I’ve been there. My e-mail’s in my profile. I’d be happy to “listen” anytime.

LiterateLady, I’d like to suggest that you begin (if you haven’t already) a journal concerning your transition through all of this. Later in life it will provide you with intense insight as to what was going on at the time. More than anything, you’ll be able to assemble for later review, the various important coping methods and sage advice received in your pursuit of freedom from all of this madness.

I wish you well.