As alcoholics are prone to do, my parents claimed their drinking was their business.  Although they were the only ones getting drunk, their drinking affected me profoundly.  Just like millions of other children of alcoholics, I experienced debilitating fear.  Children instinctively know they are in danger and must take care of themselves when parents are drunk.  This innately creates a level of fear and insecurity.  It often also contributes to an environment of ignored abuse, as it did in my case.

I frequently feared for my safety.  I worried about mom’s forgotten cigarette causing a fire while I was sleeping.  Or the gas lantern getting knocked over in our cabin while dad stumbled around.  He insisted on taking me flying, fishing and snowmobiling even when he’d been drinking.  I wasn’t strong enough to say no until I was in my teens.

Of course, a huge source of fear also came from being told “Don’t tell, or else” after being abused.  I did tell once when I was eight but it didn’t help.  Dad had choked me to the brink of passing out.  I escaped and ran to get mom at the neighbor’s house, but she made me return home by myself.  She didn’t want to miss her weekly bingo night.

As an adult, I subconsciously reacted in opposition to their drinking and my fear of it.  I didn’t allow alcohol in my home and I felt anything from mild anxiety to terror if people around me were drinking elsewhere. Not surprisingly, this greatly affected my parenting, marriage and social life.  Replacing my identity as a cherished Child of God instead of an abused Child of Alcoholics has taken me many years of talking and grieving.

Understanding I even had reactive behavior was essential before being able to process the root of it.  Through God’s grace, I’ve reached considerable healing and resolution, and can even enjoy my own glass of wine now.  I finally understand –not just in my head, but in that deep emotional place- I am safe and will not get hurt.  This was a long, arduous journey but I am finally free of those shackles.  It is an indescribable relief and source of joy!

Please visit my resources page.  Among other things, you’ll find a list of common symptoms of Adult Children of Alcoholics and a quiz if you think you or a loved one may have been affected by alcoholic parents.

Has alcohol affected your life?  If so, please feel free to share a comment at the top of this post.