Damage to Children

Some alcoholics still have families when they get to AA. This is a place to ask questions and share experiences about relating to family members sober, especially when newly sober. (If you are not an alcoholic, please use the "Our Friends and Families" forum.)

Damage to Children

Postby Sapphirestar1 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 1:45 pm

I am sober 5 months. I have 3 grown children ...2 sons still living at home. My oldest son hates me. We were so close when he was growing up. He feels I haven't "fixed" things since I quit drinking. I am separated from my husband (7 yrs! he is a heavy drinker) My kids now totally blame me for the fractured relationships in our family. My husband never was involved with the kids as they were growing up. I feel so guilty, hopeless and :(
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby marietta » Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:22 pm

Hi, Sapphirestar1, and welcome to the forum. Boy, families are so complex even under the best of circumstances, and when we're in recovery it sometimes seems they are the last to understand and accept it, the last to forgive, the last to give room for recovery. Wonder why that is? Hurt most where best loved? We have lots of wreckage to deal with when we first come in, but also as time goes on we realize there's more wreckage than we could see at first. It's a methodical process to inventory all this out in Step 4, and work a Step Five with a sponsor. Even still, more wreckage pops up. We find we have embarked on a Spring Cleaning ritual the likes of which we never could have imagined, all because of wetting down our character defects with alcohol.

You have grown sons living at home who are criticizing your program. If I were in that situation I would protect my program first and put the grown and able-bodied sons out as my first effort toward cultivating sobriety. No one who is trying to learn how to live a sober life after years of drinking needs someone, particularly a family member, looking over her shoulder and taking her inventory and critiquing her progress or presumed lack thereof, and then topping that off with "hate". You need space to work your Program without interference from possibly well-meaning but actually crippling outsiders. Would either of these two young men care to attend open AA meetings with you (or even without you) so they can get an idea what the Program is all about? Would they consider going to AlAnon to learn to live clean and clear, detached from the past or present actions of the alcoholic(s) in their lives? Would they read the Big Book of AA? Or are they just taking cheap shots at you? Don't defend them; you opened the door to your resentment here, you can't unring that bell.

The easiest thing in the world is to blame others for our sad lives. The most difficult act, the one which takes the most spine and the most humility, is to honestly examine our wrongs, write them down, discuss them with a sponsor and move on up through the Steps. Where are you in your program? Do you have a sponsor? Where are you in the Steps? Do you go to regular meetings? Do you have AA contacts you can call?

Guilt, hopelessness, shame - all of these things can be brought into perspective through working the Steps. I believe your situation calls for action that will support your sobriety, no matter how scary, no matter how difficult. If you're unwilling to put out your sons who "hate" you, at least tell them (do not ask them, TELL THEM) to give you enough room to make the progress you need to make within the program so you can get to a better place for the "hate" discussions to take place. I can't deny that they're hurt; my father was an absent alcoholic and I held him accountable for most of my misery until long after his death. What a crock. Do the work. Get down to the truth of living.

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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Sapphirestar1 » Tue Jul 12, 2011 2:58 pm

Thanks so much, Marietta for your wise response. I actually went to 2 meetings almost every day for the first month and a half of my sobriety. I have recently joined a home group - 1 eve and 1 Wknd day mtg. so I do at least 2 mtgs a week and more if I can manage. I actually just got a sponser today. I actually haven't been doing the hard work I suppose. I have felt an increasing feeling of paralysis and fear as I look at the "mess" I never really knew was there. I feel badly enough for wasting my life...but just despondent over damaging the lives of my kids. I thought I was a good Mom who was only hurting herself. Thanks for the hope you have given me through working through the steps. I have heard about working the steps enough that I suppose I should know that now it's time to really start doing it!
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Lali » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:06 pm

I cannot see putting the children out of the home. To me, that would be like throwing salt in the wounds. It would be great if they could go to AlaTeen and to AA a few times as well to get a better understanding of alcoholism and to learn how to cope with all that they had to deal with during their childhood. I think we must have some empathy for the children.
Last edited by Lali on Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Marc L » Tue Jul 12, 2011 4:44 pm

Hi;
My father was a drunk and my mother was a very very angry person.
Chapter Five in the BigBook mentions something about 'Warped Lives of Blameless Children'.
This happened to me and I fiercely resented my parents because of it. I left Canada and never went back. These things I put into my Step Four.

Marc
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby marietta » Tue Jul 12, 2011 11:22 pm

If these are grown children, past the age of majority, they should be out in the world anyway. Alateen will not help them and they're too old for that. AlAnon might help but only if they went more than once or twice, only if they went with a willingness to understand the true nature of the disease and its effect on them. Grown children who talk of "hating" their mother are not likely to hear or believe the good news about recovery.

I have empathy for the children. My father was a mean drunk and I never knew him sober. But these people are apparently old enough to quit biting the hand that feeds them and get on with their own lives; would it be too much to ask them to quit taking advantage of the comfort and ease which comes from living in the home of the mother whom they "hate"?

The solution is in working the Steps. The time will come when you can assess the true and the imagined damage and take action to try to make things right with the people who have been hurt by your drinking, Sapphirestar1. Work with your sponsor. Be honest. Believe that your Higher Power will walk you through the fear and despondency. You will get there. You're in my prayers.

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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Lali » Wed Jul 13, 2011 4:38 am

Maybe my post wasn't clear. I meant that the children should attend AlaTeen or Alanon indefinitely, maybe for the rest of their lives. And that perhaps they should attend a few AA meetings. Saphire, you've only been sober 5 months. Give them some time. Do a living amends to your children and they may very well come around.
Last edited by Lali on Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby ann2 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 5:05 am

One thing we tend to forget is just how awful this illness is, the horrible effects of it on both ourselves and our loved ones. What I mean is, alcoholism is really the cause of the problem, and the problem is a huge one. Dr. Silkworth mentions in "The Doctor's Opinion" at the beginning of the BB "the tragedies, the despairing wives, the little children" and of course in the chapter the Family Afterwards there are many mentions of the difficulties in a recovered alcoholic's family life, including this:

The alcoholic may find it hard to re-establish friendly relations with his children. Their young minds were impressionable while he was drinking. Without saying so, they may cordially hate him for what he has done to them and to their mother. The children are sometimes dominated by a pathetic hardness and cynicism. They cannot seem to forgive and forget. This may hang on for months, long after their mother has accepted dad's new way of living and thinking.
Reprinted from Alcoholics Anonymous, page 134, with permission of A.A. World Services, Inc.

I've heard that one earmark of an alcoholic is that when one stops drinking, things get worse. The problems have piled up and it seems to take a miracle to get through them. Yet that's what we offer in AA, miracles, and the 12 steps are how to achieve them, a day at a time.

Your higher power is itching for the opportunity to prove his love and power by making right what alcoholism made wrong in your life and your children's lives. Feeling to blame and trying to fix things on one's own is both prideful and interference with the spiritual solution. Your children don't have to *be* any particular way right now, and expectations of their behavior in response to your recovery are bound to lead to frustration and disappointment.

You're alive, sober and able to participate, grow and pray along this journey. Keep asking for your higher power to take charge and show you the actions to take. For me, that often means doing nothing for a long long time, or at least what seems like a long time. AA didn't promise me a perfect family life -- it promises sobriety, a day at a time, if I can follow the suggestions in the Big Book. I can't do it alone, so I am here and I am asking constantly for the strength and ability that can only come from my understanding of God.

And that's the focus for me. I adore my family and I want to be there for them, but I know I can only through this gift of grace, sobriety. So I work on that, and find myself sharing the joy, love and peace that brings me with those around me, and through that there is a healing -- not one I am responsible for, but one I honor and respect.

Thanks for sharing,

Ann
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Marc L » Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:06 pm

The damage inflicted on the children is difficult if not impossible to measure.
I left Canada and promised myself I'd never go back.
Yes it is true that I was the one who drank and became Alcoholic.
For that I blame my parents still to an extent . I was screwed before I was even born. :D
I am self supporting and do not really want or need them in my life.
Father is dead and gone. I have no quarrels with him.
Mother lives in Canada but we do not communicate much. We have e-mail but she is terrified of an honest look at what happened. Her shame is so great and she is bound by it that no other emotion can come through.
John Bradshaw wrote a really good book about this.

Marc
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby ann2 » Wed Jul 13, 2011 11:08 pm

But keep it in perspective -- children get damaged by other things besides alcoholism. There are millions of kids out there who don't have enough to eat, no clothes to speak of, no education, no parents. There are also those who are sold by their parents. There are those living in violence and sexual abuse, those who have been maimed, those who are killed. And there are the other diseases that strike which are more visible than alcoholism.

Part of my recovery has been assessing my upbringing not in light of the ideal childhood, but in comparison to the reality that exists for most children.

Ann
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Marc L » Thu Jul 14, 2011 6:20 am

Not many parents have the gonads to admit that the family environment they are providing for their kids is toxic. It's about assigning blame on others. :D

Marc
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby Chicken » Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:31 am

The AA program Adult Children of Alcoholics helped me immensely with my childhood stuff growing up with two alcoholic parents.
Many AA members come to Adult Children of Alcoholics (and now I'm a dual member too :) ).
Grown up sons could attend.
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby AlisonT » Mon Dec 31, 2012 11:17 am

So the answer for them hating her is for her to hate them back??? When I first got sober I thought my ex-husband was the devil incarnate. It was all his fault. The more time I got, the more blame I realized belonged to me. Work your program Sapphire. Get yourself to the point where you can sit down and say "why do you hate me?" and really listen and hear the response. Don't just tell them you're sorry, tell them what you're doing differently. Strive to let them see the changes in you by your actions not your words. Also a lot of kids, grown and not, will first react negatively when we get sober. When we're drunk we are pushovers. Just give me the booze and you can do what you want. The kids are running the show. Suddenly we get sober and we start doing things like setting boundaries, voicing our opinion. It is a huge change for them too. Give it time, try to respond with love. Focus on your actions, not theirs. It might be helpful to see if they will go to some AA meetings to understand you but more important for you to go to some AlAnon meetings to try and understand them.
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby kb1025 » Tue May 28, 2013 3:41 am

Hi, Sapphirestar1. All of the suggestions above are different ways to handle your situation. Some of them I agree with and some I cannot support. I think you probably have the same opinion. We are all different, have different stories, and were raised in different situation. There is no "One size fits all" answer. We must move forward through sobreity from where we are at today.
I have five grown children. The oldest was 12 years old when I got sober back in February 1979. My drinking caused me to lose my wife, my job, my home, my two boys, and any money I had left. These were not near as important as my total loss of hope. AA gave me back that hope. I had to work the program AS BEST AS I COULD. You are at a point now in your life where you can cherish the time you have sober as opposed to the place you were at before you took that last drink. Compared to a lot of alcoholics who come through AA you are a big winner. Some just pick up a newcomer's chip and never come back.
All things will get better as long as you keep going to meetings, get a sponsor, and most of all DON'T TAKE ANOTHER DRINK. I think some times we in AA get so caught up with all these other great awakenings and advice that we forget this is about alcohol.......cunning, baffling, and powerful.
It took me almost 30 years to rebuild my relationship with my oldest son, and it was not easy. We both had to really work at it.
I would never suggest dissolving a relationship with my children early in sobriety. Compared to the things I had done to my family, the "Real" world has so much more goodies to offer. I came to AA to stop drinking; I stayed to get my life back together. I did not need to create any more problems that I could not reverse.
Hang in there and pray.
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Re: Damage to Children

Postby PaigeB » Tue May 28, 2013 10:52 am

Welcome!

Sapphirestar1 said: I actually just got a sponser today. I actually haven't been doing the hard work I suppose.


Good for you! Get through Steps 4 - 8. I drank through my children's entire life. My youngest seems to hold it against me the most and he is finding that he too has a physical problem with alcohol. After I worked the hard Steps of 4-8, I was able to make amends to them, but I cannot take back all I did. I have to make living amends everyday of my life, loving them now the way I should have all of those years.

By the way, a good hard look at yourself in an inventory is just the nuts & bolts of the matter. You find out what you have on the shelf, what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of, and what you want to buy. This process allows us to see the truth in a non-threatening way. The 5th Step with another alcoholic helps us see truly that we are not alone in our bad actions.

Trust the process of AA that has helped me and so many others regain a normal and loving family life.
If I'm not able to say how I'm working my program today, then I'm not working my program.
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