What It's Like To Be The Child Of An Alcoholic

It takes an emotional toll.

06/07/2016 6:09 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:56 PM AEST
As the daughter of an alcoholic, I have never felt the security and comforts of a sober father.

I can only speak from my personal experience having grown up with one parent that has a severe alcohol addiction. I'm now almost 33 years old, and alcohol has been the primary interference in my now non-existent relationship with my father. Now that I'm older I can put together the puzzle pieces, work out how being the child of an alcoholic has had some impact on the decisions I have made.

As the daughter of an alcoholic, I have never felt the security and comforts of a sober father. I often spent days at a time on my holiday visits in a state of hyper vigilance, because it's never safe to predict your alcoholic parent's behaviour on any given day.

I have experienced a childhood full of questions.

Does my father love alcohol more than me?

I was sure that, in some way or another, he did. It seemed like alcohol was the only thing that could get him through the day. As a child, I had it in my mind that I should be enough to keep him sober. Now that I understand alcoholism better, I realise it's not that simple. As I child I never understood why he had to get drunk at my birthday parties. I never understood why my alcoholic father couldn't hold a phone conversation with me if he was sober.

Why did I have to end up with an alcoholic dad?

For a long time, I pitied myself. I never blamed my father's alcohol problems for my own actions out loud, but deep down I was feeling it. It wasn't clear-cut thoughts, though, just boiling anger and hate for the world. I saw no point in staying in school because, in my mind, I would never succeed anyway.

I could never admit my wrongdoings and I always behaved like the victim. The fear of being responsible for my actions outweighed the fear of what people would think of me once I was caught out trying to cover up my mistakes. I passed the buck until I became a woman, something my father still does today.

Will I become an alcoholic?

Being the daughter of an alcoholic takes an emotional toll on your own mental health and self-esteem, and as a teenager I seemed to be constantly looking for approval in the wrong places. Growing up, I struggled to fit into a neat box and I chose the hard road. I left school early for a low-paying job and ended up developing a short-term relationship with alcohol myself.

During my life, my choice in men has been varied, yet they all had one thing in common. I have chosen men who I feel can be saved. Whether it's because they have an addiction themselves, are terrible with finances or have trouble understanding the meaning of "monogamy".

Being the child of an alcoholic leaves you with an empty space where your parent's love, morals and values would normally fill you over the course of your childhood. It's your "emotional cup". I'm lucky my mother always made sure it was half full -- even when I behaved like the man who chose alcohol over his own daughter.

I admit I've spent some time filling my cup with alcohol and drugs. I've tried filling it by moving around the country, never feeling secure and at home. I've filled it trying to save my partners from themselves. I've even tried filling it with fried chicken and excessive amounts of coffee.

Then, I had children and, unexpectedly, my cup is overflowing. I am no longer the daughter of an alcoholic. I am Kate, determined mother, happy in life, breaking the cycle and owner of a full cup.

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