Growing Up in an Alcoholic Household

Yesterday I promised that I would tell more about my story today, and I will, but before I do, I just want to say that although I can tell you about the events that led me to where I am today, it really is in the day to day where you see the difference between an adult child of an alcoholic (ACA) and some who came from a normal, functional home, and the difference between an unrecovered ACA and an ACA who is in recovery, so throughout the month I will discuss particular topics in regards to ACAs to give you little snapshots of what it was like–what it is like to be an ACA.

I was born the oldest of three in Pittsburgh, PA, and I remember at an early age feeling as if I had to be a certain way, had to act a certain way.  I had a recurring nightmare around the time I was in Kindergarten I would say that I think sums up the feeling pretty well.

My parents, my sister, and I were on a camping trip.  For whatever reason, my dad was away, on the other side of the lake, and my sister and I were with my mother.  I came upon my  mother in pieces, literally in bloody pieces, but I think she was still alive.  In the dream, I remember thinking that my little sister couldn’t do it-I had to take care of this-I had to take my dad’s boat to go and get my father.  The dream ended with us in the boat speeding back.

I think that although my memories are sketchy from the time where I had the dream, this dream gives some insight as to what was happening.  First, my father was one side of the lake while my sister and I were on the other with my mother.  I think this shows a lot.  In reality, my mom was a stay at home mom, and my dad would go to work during the day, and then go out drinking at night until he quit drinking, and then he would work side jobs in the evening.  I spent very little time with my dad until I was in high school, and he was home more often.  Of course, him being home more often meant that he and my mom fought more often until the night that he left.

So let me just say that I didn’t know that my dad was an alcoholic; I didn’t know that he and my mom were fighting, or that there was anything wrong with how I grew up until I was 17.  Months before I had been through a rough break up, and I was watching Grease for the first time on video–it was like a rite of passage sort of thing, I guess–the video, not what happened next.  My dad tried to get me to go to bed early, so he and my mom could be alone–let’s just say it wasn’t a secret as to why he wanted to be alone.  He didn’t state it explicitly, but he made it clear as to what the reason was.  However, when my mom got home, she wasn’t exactly interested.  I don’t remember the specifics, although I know that my parents had fought at some point in regards to my dad putting me in the middle of their relationship–I was a mini counselor even then–is it any wonder I went into the field of psychology?

Anyway, my parents got into it, and the fight got physical.  Mostly just pushing and shoving, nothing very extreme, and at one point, I threatened to call the police.  My dad hung up the phone.  Now the rest of this becomes a bit cloudy, but what I do know is that I did actually call the police.  While I was on the phone, my dad ripped the phone off the wall.  I don’t actually remember him doing this, although I do remember the brief call where I had asked for help.  I remember my youngest sister waking up and being scared, so I took her in to our other sister’s room–my other sister was not happy.  Then, because the phone was off the wall, and I couldn’t figure out the other phone–it was an old fashioned phone, and I wasn’t sure how to dial out 911 on it, I went to the door to go to a neighbor’s to ask them to call the police.  I knew things were getting out of hand.  Fortunately, the police were at the door, so I went back upstairs to help my sisters.

My dad left that night, and I had limited contact with him until a few years ago.  I still don’t know what to say to him half the time.  Mostly, we talk on holidays and on my birthday, and he tells me how he wishes I would spend those days with friends, which annoys me, because it’s my birthday, my holiday, and I should spend it how I want to.  He’s my dad, and I’m happy he’s in my life, but we don’t know each other very well, and I just, I don’t feel as if he has the right to tell me what I should be doing.

And now he’s in the hospital, or at least was the last that I heard, had been there for at least a week, and I haven’t contacted him yet.  I don’t really know what to say.  I feel as if I am being a bad daughter, but on my end, things have been especially stressful with work, and I’ve been busy with other commitments.  Add lack of time with not knowing what to say….I just haven’t been in touch, and I know I need to, but to me, it is just awkward, because we’re not close, and a part of me doesn’t want to reach out because of that, but it is something I need to do, even just a quick text to let him know that I’m here–I may be here on the other side of the country, but I am here.

Now, this is only a small part of my story, and I’m already over a thousand words, so I think I am going to stop there for today, but I feel as if this is really just the beginning of the story.   I didn’t even really realize I was an ACA until college, and there is so much more between there and moving to CA and to where I am today, so stay tuned for more.

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