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Living with Alcoholic Parents: My Experiences and Advice to Others

It’s sad to think that many children are growing up in alcoholic homes, not knowing who their “real” mom or dad is, because all they see is the person who is under the influence of alcohol all the time. How is a child supposed to live in these terrible conditions, having to take care of themselves while their mom or dad is passed out on the couch every night?

According to the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), an estimated 6.6 million children live in a household with at least 1 alcoholic parent. Sadly, I’m part of that number, because I was a child who grew up with an alcoholic mother.

All of my childhood years, I feel as if I grew up on my own. Of course, there were times my mother was sober, and I did have my dad to look up to most of the time, although he drank too sometimes. Those sober times were when I would enjoy being with my mom, when she would take me shopping, out to eat, and just spend time with me. However, there would be times when she would be so ridiculously drunk, I couldn’t even be around her because I couldn’t stand it.

As a young child, I didn’t understand what was going on with her, or why she was acting like this. The problem seemed to be going on at night most of the time, or when I was just getting home from school. There would times I’d get off the bus and walk into my house, just to see my mom passed out on the couch with an empty bottle of wine sitting next to her. I would sometimes be so scared that I would call my dad at work to see what time he was coming home.

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As I got older, I started to understand what was going on. During my middle school years, I’d come home and just go outside to play all night, because I knew my mom was drunk and passed out, she wouldn’t care. That’s so sad, because I know I wasn’t the only child doing this. I’m sure kids across the country were going outside, while their parents didn’t know, and next thing you know they are being kidnapped or something. I was fortunate enough to not be one of those kids, and I’m thankful that God was looking after me while my mother wasn’t.

There would be times my mom would still be awake, but so drunk that you couldn’t even understand what she was talking about. I hated that so much, especially when I was in high school. I just wanted to ignore her, but she would just keep bothering me with her stupid remarks. I just felt like saying “go pass out on the couch like you always do”. And I started to argue back to her, which I later learned to never argue with an alcoholic, it will get you nowhere. As I got into my senior year of high school, that’s when it really started to get intolerable. I met a great guy at my work, who my parents made a horrible impression on. To this day, he still doesn’t want to meet them, which I don’t blame him for either. During my last year in high school, I started to come home to these horrible fights between my parents, with both of them being drunk. One time in particular, I came home to my mother, drunk off her ass, with all of my dad’s guns in her car, ready to drive to the police station. These kinds of situations brought the cops up numerous times per week.

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After I graduated, I moved in with my boyfriend and out of my parent’s house for the last time ever. I felt so good about myself for making this step in my life, and at that point I felt so grown up and mature, at only 18 years old. I learned that living with a parent with alcoholism, you tend to grow up faster than you’re supposed to, and mature quicker than other kids do. That’s not always a bad thing, but I missed out on a lot of things during my childhood, and it actually feels like to be a “normal” kid with a “normal” family.

There are so many little things that went on during my childhood, but I don’t need to go into detail. I’d be here forever. At almost 21 years old, I’m still on my own with my boyfriend of 3 ½ years. He has been a major life saver for me, being there for me when my parents weren’t. I needed his support, as well as the little family I do have, my aunt and pap. These were the people that saw what I went through as I grew up, and they understood my pain. I’m happy to say that my mother is now a recovering alcoholic. On her 43rd birthday, she almost died of overdose on alcohol and drugs. Luckily, she was rushed to the hospital and saved, to live and have a second chance at life, this time, without alcohol. She was put through a treatment plan, along with AA meetings. It’s almost been a year since that incident, and I’ve never had a better relationship with my mom like I do now. It’s nice to be able to talk to her without her being under the influence. It’s just my mom, plain and simple, and nothing else. For the first time in 20 years, I now know who my “real” mom is, and I’m glad that I have the chance to get to know her. In a way, I think someone was watching over her that night she overdosed, just as they watched over me growing up. Whoever it is, thank you for your guidance and protection, and getting us both through those horrible times.

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Some advice for adult children of alcoholics:

Help your parents get treatment. I’m lucky that mom went into treatment herself, because she was scared to death of what the alcohol might do to her next. Don’t wait until it’s too late to help them. Push them through treatment, and attend meetings with them to show you care and want them to get better. In the end, they will be a better person, and they’ll be thankful that alcohol is out of their life forever. I know my mom is.