Recovery for an adult child of alcoholics
By Claire

When I was 21, I was diagnosed with postnatal depression, something that I found very difficult to live with.  As the years went on, the darkness inside of me only grew worse.  I made so many trips to my GP over the years.  All I’d ever hear was, ‘You have depression and anxiety, try this medication’.  No matter what I tried, nothing ever seemed to work or help my recovery.  I’ve had counselling and psychiatric help over the years and nobody could ever tell me what was wrong.  As an adult child of alcoholics, I had no idea that my childhood was still affecting my mental health.

I kept my pain to myself

I kept a lot of my pain to myself and suffered in silence, I always felt that I could never quite pinpoint exactly how I felt.  So how could anyone really help me if I couldn’t explain how I truly felt?  I struggled every day.  The darkness inside me controlled all my emotions, which were mostly negative.  I couldn’t see the good in anything.  I truthfully felt dead inside, and it only got worse as the years went on.

One person in my life I felt I could talk to a little about my problems was my older sister. She had suffered emotional difficulties, like me, over the years.  Having a good old chat about my darkness, she said to me, ‘I don’t think you’ve got depression, you’re affected by mum and dad’s alcoholism’.  I was naively saying to her, ‘How is that possible, how can I possibly be affected, our parents being alcoholics hasn’t affected us, that’s ridiculous’.

I’m an adult child of alcoholics

So she pointed me in the direction of some websites that might help me better understand what she was saying.  And there it was.  Everything I’d felt for nearly 20 years of my life was there right in front of me.  I found out that I am what is known as an adult child of alcoholics.  I was living in an adult world as an adult but sadly with the emotions of a very young child.  All the answers to so many questions were in front of me.  Recovery finally felt possible.  All the mental pain and suffering I had gone through could so easily been avoided if my sisters and I had received help from a young age.

Alcoholism isn’t a lifestyle choice, although I know a lot of people think that, and I was one of these people.  It’s a disease that affects everyone in the family.  It’s the legal drug that’s destroying so many lives around the world.  Generation after generation of dysfunction and learned behaviours.  Sadly alcoholism still carries a stigma today, and I believe that has a lot to do with why innocent children like I was aren’t receiving the emotional help that they so desperately need for their recovery.  These innocent children living in this world grow up with so much pain and darkness in them that the only way to cope is to drink or take drugs.

My siblings and I never got help

My siblings and I never got any help dealing with my parents’ alcoholism because of my mum’s obsession with what people think of her.  She had an image of a devoted mother to portray, and me and my siblings needing help didn’t get taken into consideration.  This sadly is the world we live in where people are judged and ridiculed for an illness they have very little control over.  I was 38 years old before I finally understood who I was and how badly my parents’ illness had affected me.  I reached my rock bottom, where taking my own life was an option.  It was mental torture and I couldn’t take it any more, but four years on I’m thankfully not that person.

The emotional rollercoaster of recovery

I’ve gone through an emotional rollercoaster everyday but the pain of recovery has been worth it.  I’ve never fought for anything as hard in my life as fighting what my parents’ alcoholism has done to me.  Today I’m at peace and living the life I’d only ever dreamed of.  I’m living proof that an adult child of alcoholics can achieve recovery from a traumatic childhood.  Having something to fight for makes all the difference.  I have a loving partner and two children.  We are breaking the dysfunction and raising our children the correct way.

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