Collateral Damage: Being the Son of an Alcoholic

As a child we accept most everything around us as normal. We just don’t know or can’t perceive the difference.

Mommy and Daddy love us, only sometimes they don’t. Mommy and Daddy make sure we have meals to eat and clean clothes to wear; only sometimes they don’t. Mommy and Daddy praise my art work and my good grades from school, only sometimes they don’t. When I come home from school or from playing with friends, I never know which side of Mommy or Daddy I will find.

This always made me nervous and sometimes, a little frightened to go home. I envied my friends, because they always knew who was behind their front door, while I never did. They knew at supper time, food was being prepared, and they weren’t afraid to ask why if Mommy wasn’t cooking.

Scared to Ask “Why?”

I learned early on, the only thing worse than no supper, was to ask “why?” I accepted this as normal and I also learned that sometimes Mommy and Daddy just didn’t feel like cooking supper.

When my school teacher would say, “ask your parents for $5.00” for school fees or a field trip, I’d become very nervous. I had learned to navigate these waters quietly in soft whispers. Otherwise, I might get the lecture, about how hard Daddy works. Sometimes the lecture might go on for an hour and sometimes all night.

When Daddy forgot to pick me up from the movies, I knew he was busy. When he forgot to pick me up from school, I knew a teacher would eventually give me a ride home.

I accepted these things as normal, until I was in High School. My friends began to brag about sneaking out of the house at night and I was ashamed, because I had to sneak in. I’d learned all the signs and observed very carefully. If the light was on in Daddy’s bathroom, he was asleep and the coast was clear. If the lights and the stereo were on in the den, I must use the window. Slip in, get undressed in the dark, and dive into bed ready to feign sleep at the sound of his hand on the door knob.

I knew better than to bring a date home or even to try to begin a conversation about what I was doing. When I got a job at a local gas station, I thought my dad would be proud of me. Instead he railed, “What about your school work!” After I left the job he remarked, “Just couldn’t stick with it, could you?”

My Dad Was Passed Out . . .

On a double date, I discovered I’d left my wallet behind and we had to go back to my house. I asked my date to wait in the car, but she insisted on coming with me. The light was on in the den and the stereo was playing and while trying to keep my composure, I was terrified at the possibilities.

As we walked by the bay window, I saw him. He was passed out naked on the floor in his bathrobe. The stereo was blaring and I wanted to die. This wasn’t normal. Why was this happening to me? What had I done to deserve this? I’d been born the son of an alcoholic, and through time and age, I was able to build a life of my own.

Eventually, apologies were exchanged and accepted, but there will always be collateral damage. I can’t deal with confrontation and I can’t deal with being lectured; I flash back to those times. My heart seizes in my chest with terror and I want to die.

My father’s last words to me were “I love you.” I know that he did, he was a good father, who at times failed me. Because of the problems he couldn’t address in his life, he used alcohol to ease his pain. But in doing so, he merely passed his pain on to me. The sins of the father visited upon the son.

Addiction Hurts Your Kids

This narrative was written by an adult reflecting on his tainted childhood growing up with addiction in the home. Thankfully, the author of this post was able to avoid addiction directly—but he couldn’t avoid his childhood.

Children of parents who struggle with addiction are 2 to 4 times more likely to abuse substances themselves. They inherit biological predispositions for addictive tendencies and grow up in an environment filled with stress, trauma, and pain, adding to their likelihood for mental, emotional, and psychological problems.

Is this the legacy you want to pass down to your children?

Don’t wait. Break the cycle of addiction today.

Author: David C. (David is  writer based in Ohio)