Question: Do you have an alcoholic parent that consistently sweeps their addiction and other family problems under the rug?
If you’re an Adult Child Of An Alcoholic (ACOA) then the answer to that question is probably yes.
The first time I learned how deep my mom’s denial was – was when I told her that I was in therapy in my early 20’s.
After all the years of her drinking and abuse she couldn’t understand why I needed it. In fact her exact response to me was,
“Do you really think you need therapy?”
It got even worse when she’d talk about my stepfather Joe. Like her, he was an alcoholic. But he was 1000 times more physically abusive.
She’d often justify his behavior by saying things like, “You know. Joe’s not a bad guy. He just never had kids. He doesn’t know how to act around them.”
Her denial was so infuriating. And it became even more so when, as an adult, I’d try to talk to her about how their addiction impacted me.
She’d either make up wacky excuses, refuse to acknowledge the past or accuse me of thinking that I was better than her for bringing it up.
The bad news here is that I often allowed her denial to undermine my recovery and doubt my needs.
But the good news is that I’ve learned a few insights and ideas that can help keep your recovery and self-discovery solid even if your alcoholic parent is swimming in the deep sea of denial.
And this is what I’m sharing with you today:)
Now. After you’ve checked out today’s post, I want to hear from you in the comment section.
Have you ever dealt with an alcoholic parent that’s knee deep in denial? How exactly did you handle your situation? What other ideas or experiences can you share?
Remember, your voice, experiences and insights are vital to this community. And what you have to share is not only unique but it may be exactly what someone else needs to read right now.
And remember as Albert Einstein once said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” So, what’s yours?
As always, thanks for reading, commenting and sharing.
Until Next Tuesday.
#1 Take A Hint From William Shakespeare
As ACOA’s, when we discover how intensely a parent’s alcoholism has impacted our lives, the tendency is for us to want to share what we’ve learned with our parent.
We typically do this for a variety of reasons. But the two most common are,
- We think our new found knowledge can save our parent from their denial and alcoholism
- We want to call them out on their shit
Whatever the motivation I can guarantee you that you’re sitting on some expectations that may never get met.
And as William Shakespeare once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
Maybe you’re expecting that once you tell your parent about your new experiences and feelings that they will be happy for you, admit that there’s alcoholism in the family, drop the denial or even apologize.
But here’s the deal. You may be at a point where you’re no longer willing to help sweep things under the rug but that doesn’t mean that your parent is.
And expecting them to have a specific reaction to you will only end up frustrating your progress. Or break your heart as our boy William Shakespeare said.
Which leads me right into #2.
#2 You Don’t Need Their Validation To Be Alright
When I told my mom that I was in therapy, I was looking for her validation.
I wanted her to tell me that I was doing the right thing. I wanted her to tell me the she was glad that I finally figured everything out. And more than anything I wanted her to admit to the truth that her addiction and all the years of abuse really screwed me up.
I had no such luck. Instead I allowed her reaction to fill my head with doubt and guilt.
But here’s what I eventually realized. I never needed her (or anyone) to respond to me in a certain way to be alright.
My recovery didn’t need her stamp of approval. Whether she ever supported me or not it didn’t matter. Whether she continued to live in denial it didn’t matter.
Now. That’s not to say that having her support wouldn’t have been nice. And if your parent steps up to the plate and offers you support then that’s great.
But if not, just know that you’ll be alright. Keep on recovering!
#3 Make Taking Care Of You Your Top Priority
You may be so out of touch with your own needs, wants and desires that the idea of taking care of yourself stirs up loads of resistance, confusion and soul sucking guilt.
Regardless, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself.
In fact, while you’re pursuing recovery, taking care of yourself is absolutely necessary.
And I love what Herbert L.Gravitz and Julie D. Bowden have to say about ACOA self-care in their book, Recovery: A Guide For Adult Children of Alcoholics. They say,
“You must take care of yourself. You are in transition, making changes, adding to your store of knowledge. Some thoughts and feelings that you have not experienced for a long time might be coming into your awareness. This is a vulnerable time. Do not deny this; you have done that long enough. Taking care of yourself might involve taking breaks, moving slowly, as well as thinking over the differences between what you feel, what you think, and how you behave. Taking care of yourself also means giving yourself permission to set new priorities. Your first priority right now can be to take care of your recovery-not the recovery of your family.”