Let’s Talk About…The Lies Children of an Alcoholic Tell

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Growing up my dad was an alcoholic and still is to this date. Though he’s been an alcoholic my entire life, he didn’t hit the “breaking point” until I was in the third grade when both his parents and cats of 18 years passed away. Then he just gave up on being invested at all in our family. In fourth grade is when I remember I started noticing how much he drank and the way it affected my mom. And I started telling lies to stretch or mask the truth from everyone including myself. In part this was because it was such a taboo thing to talk about your problems. You weren’t supposed to talk about if your parents were arguing or struggling with disorders. And of course, none of my friends at the time had experienced anything similar… expect for maybe Rose, but I still had it ingrain in my mind that you weren’t supposed to talk about it.

The lying started because we moved to a new house and my dad drank every night, wouldn’t go to events because he was passed out from drinking, or my mom didn’t want to bring him along. But she didn’t want us to talk to others about it, if asked we always said the blanket statement of “oh he’s just out of town again.” And it was so easy just to state this lie because he was gone so much as he traveled for work. At some point people just stopped asking us because they figured he was just traveling again, which was almost a relief because I didn’t have to tell the lie. At church when I went to Bible study, I felt like I couldn’t talk about his drinking problem but I still wanted to ask for help so I would lie again and asked for them to pray for him to be less “distant” or had to “travel” less.

My bedroom starting when I was in the fourth grade, was in the lower level near the computer room where he hung out and the window went to our deck where we had our hot tub. Some nights in one of these two locations, I would hear my parents arguing about his drinking or things he’s done because of his drinking. And those days I would walk to them then yell at them to quit it, later begging my mom not to leave. Because divorce was taboo, it was the unspeakable thing I didn’t want to happen. Which still makes me feel horrible that I made my mom feel trapped in an unhappy marriage, because she only stuck it out until my sister and I were done with school. And if they weren’t arguing, I could hear my dad either running into the wall of my room because he “lost” his footing after drinking in the hot tub or passed out in the basement with the TV still going. Every day at school I felt the need again to lie that nothing was happening at home and I wasn’t bothered by it. School was one of my few escapes from it, and I didn’t want home drama to ruin it. Therefore, I lied. Though at the time I didn’t even think about the fact that I was lying, it was just a natural response by that point.

He was never abuse in the physical sense to any of us, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t abusive in other ways. Alcoholics have a way of making everyone else feel like they are responsible for the problems of the alcoholic, which is a form of emotional and verbal abuse. And in this way, I was lying to myself by believing him. I listened to the silver words and let them twist my mind. I told myself if I just wasn’t bipolar or had mental problems of my own, then he wouldn’t be drunk. Or in college, if I could only find a job, then I wouldn’t be the source of his “financial drain” that’s causing him to drink. More and more lies I believed from telling them to myself over and over again. Of course, none of these things were true. My mental issues weren’t why he was drinking, he was drinking because of his own mental disabilities. Going to college wasn’t draining him of money, it was his four DUIs he was paying lawyers to stall in courts and keeping a secret from us.

After so many years of dealing with it and dragging him to AA, we just couldn’t take it anymore and stopped lying to ourselves and others. I finally told my friends and others, though they already knew from the few times he was home when they came over. My mom divorced him and we moved out. If you’ve ever dealt with an alcoholic parent or are dealing with one, it is not your fault that they are drinking.

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