Dirty Little Secrets

Families are KNOWN for dirty little secrets. All families. No family is without secrets of some sorts. My family by far was and is THE. WORST. Before anyone thinks I am going to post anything awful….put your pistols away and read with a VERY open mind.
I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic.
What the hell does that mean to you? My dad is an alcoholic. Was an alcoholic. Probably always will be an alcoholic. For the families that hold secrets they called their dads or moms or whomever the family member is and was, “a drinker.” The “drinker” was the socially acceptable term for the alcoholic, because everyone is/was in denial. Which is A-OK, I was in denial, I was clueless, I also suffered from the secrets, the disease and the illnesses that accompany alcoholism.
My dad is/was like any other dad. He was good hearted, loving, smiling, a provider. But his nasty illness to binge on alcohol, drugs, women, everything is/was addicting to him. My mom, she was/is like any other mother. Heart of gold, will do anything for her kids, loving, happy, a provider. But my mom did a very good job of hiding what my dad was doing. His late nights. His hangovers where he was ill and puking from mixing booze with drugs. His illness because he is probably intolerant altogether to alcohol causing him migraines and physical illness. His cheating on my mother. His lack of concern for his children.
These behaviors went on for MANY years. So many years so that I began to be the caretaker in my family. My dad checked out after the birth of my brother, was unseen with my sister, and my mother began working full time to help pay the bills that my father racked up from unnecessary purchases. Oh and did I mention his bipolar disorder too? Friendly combination, addiction and mental illness. The behaviors went on. I became Mom. At the ripe age of EIGHT. I was dressing my siblings for school, feeding them, and caring for myself because my father was still passed out drunk from nights before, or flat out failed to come home. My mother worked nights as a nurse, her ability to be there full time for us kids was obviously limited as my parents were a two parent income household, they both had to work. Finally after two years of the continued misery of my fathers black hole spiral my mother threw in the towel and they got divorced.
Lots of parents get divorced. But I never knew why. I thought, they just don’t get along anymore. Not until I was old enough did the Big Pink Elephant finally receive recognition for being in my life. My dad is an alcoholic. His illness and failure to accept his illness killed my family. A lot of my family was lost because of his illness. My siblings, we rarely speak. Because of so many hurts within a dysfunctional alcoholic or addiction ridden family. We have pains from the family unit and so we turned in on each other, we would fend for ourselves. Not full time, but when we would visit my dad we would. I remember a time when his first wife, whom he began seeing while still married to my mother, came to visit. My father locked myself and my younger siblings out of his apartment with just a few dollars so that we could walk a mile or so to the local Circle K to buy candy and a Thirstbuster. Because he needed a fix.
I am 100 times more likely to become an alcoholic. I choose not to be. I watched my father tear me to pieces like a lion to a lamb. I was called every curse word you could think of…..I can recall and cite verbatum those words, those comments. They sting. They pain. That the one man in my life who should have been my TRUE knight in shining armor was the root of all evil. His secret. His illness. The illness that would tear me to pieces name by name, inch by inch, until my self-worth lay in a puddle of tears. The illness that led me to believe I was the fattest and ugliest person on Earth. The illness that led me to believe I would never be smart enough. His illness, his drinking said those horrible things. The illness he once attested to having. He came to grips with his addiction, his illness. He was sober….for a year. I lived with him during that time. I got to know a bit of my dad. I had someone I could talk to without being called names, without the condescending tone, the belittling, the pain, the sting. But it all changed. I moved out because I was 19, I had a boyfriend (the now hubs), and his divorce became final.
My Dad died to me that year when he began drinking again. He still calls me to this day and I resent him. I am indifferent to his “love” and affection because he sacrificed his sobriety for a woman, for lack of control over a situation. A woman that will never love him again. Will never marry him. Will never speak to him casually. That woman was not my mother. He even told me once that he only truly loved this woman, as if he had forsaken the other woman he was once married to, my mother. My family still does not talk about my dad, his addiction, the pain he causes our family because he chooses to drink, the destruction he causes emotionally and at once physically because of the alcohol. Because his drink means more than the love and respect of his children. His drink is more important that to live his life sober, for him, to enjoy that natural high of life. He is so fully operational as a round the clock drunk that he is delusional, half demented, and quite literally the saddest person ever. I never talk about the truth of my dad because dirty little secrets suck. They are painful. They are damaging.  But I talk about them because alcohol touches all families, somehow, someway, with someone they love. Secrets hurt families, and so we talk about them to put an end to the cycle of hurt.
What I do know is that no matter how damaging and painful those secrets may be, I want my kids to know.
I want my kids to know that I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic. I had the worst teachers for dealing with pain, emotion, anger, rage, hurt, disappointment, fear, sadness, jealousy. These feelings were never dealt with in my family because we could never show people that anything was wrong with our family. That we had a secret to keep. So we kept up the perfect front, the perfect life, perfect feelings. I want my kids to know that being sad, mad, jealous, angry, feeling rage for a short moment is great! Embrace it.  I want my kids to know that I drink once in a blue moon. Having an alcoholic beverage is okay. Having one everyday is not okay. Feeling you need one everyday, every few hours, ALL day, is not okay. The same can be said with drugs. I have had my bout with addiction, its not pretty. I will also share with my kids this bout. I want them to know that they will make choices on their own. I will always love them, just as I do my father. But I will not follow that path. I will share with them that I do not blame my parents, I blame the illness, the lack of knowledge about how to work through the illness, I blame the lack of will.
On the outside you would never have known my family was sick. That we had secrets to keep. That the secrets were killing our family and little bits of our souls. In the end…I turned out to be a stronger, knowledgeable, more compassionate and empathetic person with the drive stronger than anything a human can describe, and a will and spirit that will never be broken.

8 Replies to “Dirty Little Secrets”

  1. Hoe. Lee. Crap. Your willingness to open your heart to us is mind-blowing! Geez, Karie! You've got me picking up my jaw off the floor! You are amazing, you are strong, you are intelligent, and you are an awesome mother, woman, and person! Thank you for sharing such an honest, poignant, and deeply moving part of life with us!

  2. REading it hurt …. and yes talking about it will help take the edge off the pain and slowly heal your family to be more of a family. I wish you luck, I send you all the positive energy and blessings I can your way and i hope your little secret….secret no more will eventually not be so poignant!

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I am sorry that your father cannot kick his addiction and I am sure that somewhere he is sorry as well.

  4. wow! Thanks for sharing that! My ex husband was/is a drinker and I know it has really hurt my grown kids in alot of ways!He still drinks heavily and has missed most of the important things in their life

  5. Family secrets hurt like hell because the world never sees what's actually going on inside the home. It's all about keeping up appearances and projecting to the world what we think they want to see. Family abuse is never pretty, and it stays with us a lifetime, and after we're out of it, it takes the rest of our lives to pick up the pieces, heal ourselves, and then try to live that "normal" life that others around expect us to. That child that lives within us that still cries over a lost childhood due to abuse never seems to quite grow up and accept adulthood because he/she were never shown the tools on HOW to be an adult. So again, we are left to our own devices. The healing starts when you loudly proclaim that you did come from a highly dysfunctional and abusive childhood. Next, you have to go to that child within, take her by the hand, and teach her how to grow up and become part of the adult you are now. Finally comes the act of forgiveness because you can never truly let go until you can forgive. It doesn't mean that you forget, it just means that come to that place where you can let the past go and start living your life in the present without the past creeping up and biting you in the ass when you least suspect it.

    I speak from experience as I was molested by a family member starting at age 9. It has taken the better part of the past 17 years to get to where I am now and finally forgive. I am no longer a prisoner of that dysfunctional part of my life anymore. I can finally be a whole parent to my kids because of it. The anger from it doesn't control my life anymore, and the child within me is no longer a child – I don't hear her crying anymore. She finally grew up and became part of me as an adult.

    Peace, Love, and many prayers for you my friend 🙂

  6. Wow. Thank you so much for your honesty. Both my father and my ex step father are "recovering" alcoholics. It's a process that is never over. I can completely relate to the hurtful words and will NEVER forget them. Even if I hear something that sounds similar it brings me right back to the moment.

    An outsider would never, ever understand, either.

    My dad/ ex-stepdad will never really know be because of their love for the alcohol.

    I also read a book once for children of the addicted and one of the things it emphasized was that the kids end up becoming the parents. So very true. And, people have always called me "mature." Definitely not always a choice.

    Weird that I just started following you..it was like I was meant to read this. Thanks.

  7. Jennifer – That's how I roll sister! LOL I think people should know that they are not alone. Rough things happen but we all perservere and those rough times are what make us what we are today as people and parents.

    Mel- The post was very heartfelt for me a lot of tears as I truly embraced the little girl inside me. I no longer feel the anger I used to have, now just pain that is slowly healing. It's a process, but a good one!

    ASM – You know, I think his conscience is gone and at one point he may have been sorry, but I am not so sure anymore. I pity him for all that he misses out on.

    Olga – May your children find solace as I have. Such a painful and awful thing for any child to experience even into adulthood.

    Carolyn – I am so thankful you shared your story with me! So many children inside of us that are finally healing and embracing that part of our lives. Muwah!

    Krystyn – Had I not read the books I had about children of alcoholism I would not be the productive adult I am today. I would continue on a destructive path based on what I was taught as a child. I am so thankful that you came to read this as we are not alone in our battle with alcoholism in our families.

    Much love to you ladies!

  8. Wow, that was powerful. Thank you for sharing that story. I can't speak from experience, but I could only imagine that I would want my kids to know, too.

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