As a child, I felt I could do nothing right. My father was impatient and critical. I thought, “When I’m grown up, I’ll get it right.” My father’s parenting style was to point out everything that I did wrong, and nothing that I did right. I believe he thought he was helping me become a better person. Of course, I never got everything right, but it didn’t stop me from trying. I demanded too much of myself in striving for my father’s approval. This determination carried over into my roles as a wife, a mother, and an employee.
Every once in a while I’m asked, “What brought you to Al‑Anon?” The question always makes me smile. The answer, for me, is kindness.
As a young child growing up in an alcoholic home, I had a recurring nightmare. Over and over, the dream woke me up in terror.
I have fond memories of my childhood. My father, whom I loved very much, was the center of my universe. He was loved by all—family and friends. He was well-educated and very intelligent. However, even as a ten-year-old, I could see how his life was shrinking, and how he’d become trapped inside his addiction to drink. It made him weak, unable to function and live a healthy life, or provide for his family.
I was brought up in an alcoholic home where my father drank and my mother was the crazy one who tried to control it all. We had little money and not much food. Dad was the ruler, and mom was his punching bag. We children would run and hide when we he came home drunk. I was the oldest, so responsibility for the other children fell to me at an early age.
When I shared that I was feeling lonely and unloved in my marriage, it was suggested that I needed to love myself first. (I would always try to smile when I heard that, because it helped to suppress my gag reflex.) I absolutely hated what I perceived to be an over-simplified and corny approach to my serious problems. My bigger problem was this: I didn’t know how to love myself.
I didn’t know, Mom, that you were struggling with alcohol and prescription drugs.
I’d be glad to share what’s helped me deal with Dad’s drinking since the intervention five and a half years ago—let him live the way he wants, without my interference (as painful as that is to say). The paradox I’ve learned is that the best way to help Dad is to not help him (lol).
Mum and I did not get along. We communicated by ridiculing each other. Since she was intolerant and impatient with me, I was intolerant and impatient with her. Even so, when I moved thousands of miles away, we were always in touch, and I could count on her for a Valentine’s Day card every year.