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s/o Adult Children of Alcoholics--can you help?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Hi, I didn't want to take the original thread in a different direction, but as I was reading through it, I found I was coming up with some questions.

 

My H (not so D, these days) is the child of alcoholics.  Alcoholism goes back through many generations on both sides of his family, as far as I can tell.  His mother has been in recovery for about fifteen years (after H was grown and moved out), I think, and his father has died.  I grew up with parents who didn't (and wouldn't) drink at all and was never around alcohol as a child or teenager; it wasn't until I was out on my own that I conducted my own experiments with social drinking.  I am continually shocked about how naive (or just stupid?) I am about many things, alcohol in particular.

 

What I would like to ask is whether any of you who are adult children of alcoholics might be willing to help me understand some things?  I'm trying to figure out how/whether or not H and I can make any progress with some of the issues between us--we've been in counseling for almost a year.

 

H doesn't seem to be able to reflect on most things as far as past experience.  He's made some awful choices (including illegal things) and has been inclined to blame me; not for the actual choices, but for my response/attempts to create boundaries.  He doesn't seem to be willing or able to remember much about his childhood, except to say it was great, or his parents were great, although the best comparison I can come up with for his M.O. is that of a beaten dog--either cowering and groveling, fearful and maybe hopeful he'll get some of what he needs, or snarling and growling, certain that someone is out to hurt him.  Our counselor, for what it's worth, thinks that he's carrying a burden of quite a bit of trauma from his childhood, and that it's basically a barrier to dealing with anything here and now.  He has lied to me quite a bit and doesn't seem to understand the idea of transparency or accountability, and I think it's likely that he's alcohol dependent, but there's a great deal of denial about that on his part/the part of his family.  He has spent the last few years telling me that everything is my fault; I'm depressed, controlling, malicious, whatever, and telling his family the same stories, and I've only just begun to see how much manipulation has been at play--there isn't much that I can do right, unless it's exactly what would please him/meet his need for unconditional everything.

 

I know that we're all very different people from a background of very different experiences, but I'm really trying to understand some of his behaviors more clearly for my sake and his (and that of our child).  I'm just wondering if there might be some common perspectives that any of you who grew up with alcoholic parents might be able to share with me toward that end.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 12

Hello!  I'm so sorry you're going through this. hug2.gif  It is so hard to say what it going on with your DH.  My parents have been alcoholics all my life, and I am 40 years old so that is a long time.  In some sense, I can look back at my childhood and say it was great, normal.  We had a nice house, enough to eat, clothes when we needed them, celebrations with extended family.  Then I have some "ah-ha" moments, where I'll remember something odd, like my father yelling at me for something very, very slight, and his argument not making any sense.  At the time I was always filling with self doubt, as if my offense were so out of this world that I couldn't even comprehend it, so how "bad" must I be?  It's only now, as an adult, that I can look back at those moments and realize they were clouded by alcohol.  When that happens, it hurts my heart.  I heart for my former self, having to deal with that.  It is hard to look back at your own life with a different lense.

 

I recently had a conversation with a childhood friend, and she stated that she had always known my parents were alcoholics.  (We met in 7th grade)  When she said that, it was really a mix of emotions for me.  Embarassment, that it was so obvious to everyone but me, shame, sadness, it was an odd moment.  I wonder if your husband goes through something similar when someone confronts him about his past.

 

My brother, raised in the same house as me, is a pathological liar.  He is also a terrible liar, absolutely transparent.  He will never back down and admit he has told a lie, even when faced with evidence to the contrary.  He has also had some brief encounters with the law.  I don't know enough about the "symptoms" that children of alcoholics have to comment on whether or not it can be attributed to my parent's problem, as I have only recently begun to delve into it myself.  It does sound like something your husband wrestles with too, so this is why I bring it up.

 

I wish I could be more helpful!  I hope you get some great advice in this tread.  I think it's very encouraging that you are going to counseling together.  I hope you're able to work through a lot of the issues.

post #3 of 12

I'm a child (and grandchild and greatgrandchild, etc) of alcoholics, so I hope I can help you out. It sounds like your counselor is right about your DH having unresolved childhood trauma. It's quite common for people who had traumatic or abusive childhoods to block out the trauma and refer to their childhood in vague, but glowing terms. People with good childhoods will describe their childhoods in glowing terms, but will *also* be able to recall the not-so-rosy events since no childhood is perfect.

 

A big problem with alcoholic families is that they're really co-dependent. In my family, there really were no boundaries and my dad's problems became everyone's problems. So I left home not knowing what boundaries even were and I had learned only passive-aggressive manipulation as a way to get my needs met. Fortunately, I found a great therapist and she recommended the book "Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap" by Barry and Janae Weinhold. It was really eye-opening! I highly recommend you read that book and see if it helps you understand your DH's behavior. Hopefully, when you have a good idea of what he is trying to get out of blaming, judging, and manipulating you, you can emotionally defend yourself. I have found that once I understand why someone is trying to manipulate me, it is easier for me to emotionally step back and not get sucked in to the drama.

 

Obviously, your DH isn't going to change unless he wants to, but I do think there is still hope for your relationship yet. 

post #4 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you so much for the replies.  It helps a great deal to have some encouragement amidst all the confusion.  Miami Mommy (welcome to the PNW!), thanks very much for the book recommendation--I'm going to see if I can find a copy of that book this weekend.  I have been working with our counselor to avoid labeling or pathologizing behaviors, which is helpful, but I keep running smack into the fact that one half of our household has a sense of "normal" that just isn't, and I think I'm ready to try to understand that with a little more breathing room for compassion.  I think.  It's been a tough road, and I don't know where it's leading at this point, but if the best I can do for now is work harder to understand, then that is what I'll do.  At the very least, I need to understand more about what I can do as far as making boundaries clear.

post #5 of 12

I am an ACOA and I don't think I behave like that.  ;-)

 

I did a lot of therapy b/c I was self-motivated.  My life has been immeasurably improved.  If your dh is not motivated, though, you can't force him.

 

Another option is to do Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples.  Our counselor has promised us that it would heal the past in the present and he has been right.  It is based on attachment theory and is very loving and safe and quick and helpful.

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

EFT sounds interesting, our counselor is Harville Hendrix based, mostly, I think.  I wonder how they compare.  Unfortunately, I think I'm waking up to the idea (fact?) that a lot of the past four years has been embellished by generous helpings of emotional abuse on the part of my H, although he is lately accusing me of abuse.  I think we might be at an end, honestly, because I've gone round this circle way too many times already.  The only reason I'm here at this point is our child.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by annalivia View Post

EFT sounds interesting, our counselor is Harville Hendrix based, mostly, I think.  I wonder how they compare.  Unfortunately, I think I'm waking up to the idea (fact?) that a lot of the past four years has been embellished by generous helpings of emotional abuse on the part of my H, although he is lately accusing me of abuse.  I think we might be at an end, honestly, because I've gone round this circle way too many times already.  The only reason I'm here at this point is our child.



Well, Hendrix gives a great plug/blurb on the EFT-C book! 

 

I am sorry to hear that, but I also get it.  You gotta take care of yourself.

post #8 of 12

This is short, but worth reading. http://www.fhpcc.com/PDFs/AdultChildrenAlcoholics.pdf

post #9 of 12

You know, I'm an ACOA and I don't act that way. I know a lot of ACOAs and they don't act that way.

 

He sounds like an abuser who is using his childhood as an excuse. You might find more insight if you read up on men who are abusive.

post #10 of 12


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by miami mommy View Post

I'm a child (and grandchild and greatgrandchild, etc) of alcoholics, so I hope I can help you out. It sounds like your counselor is right about your DH having unresolved childhood trauma. It's quite common for people who had traumatic or abusive childhoods to block out the trauma and refer to their childhood in vague, but glowing terms. People with good childhoods will describe their childhoods in glowing terms, but will *also* be able to recall the not-so-rosy events since no childhood is perfect.

 



So, so true.  I see this in my BIL and in some of my friends.  (and a tiny bit in my DH, his GF got custody of him so he was raised in different house then his brother)  I think it is a coping and protection mechanism.   Typically, if anyone expresses surprise or questions these glowing memories, the defenses kick into high gear and then you hear about how fantastically great the addict/abuser parent is, how hard they tried to give the family a good life, etc.    
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by miami mommy View Post

 

A big problem with alcoholic families is that they're really co-dependent. In my family, there really were no boundaries and my dad's problems became everyone's problems. So I left home not knowing what boundaries even were and I had learned only passive-aggressive manipulation as a way to get my needs met. Fortunately, I found a great therapist and she recommended the book "Breaking Free of the Co-dependency Trap" by Barry and Janae Weinhold. It was really eye-opening! I highly recommend you read that book and see if it helps you understand your DH's behavior. Hopefully, when you have a good idea of what he is trying to get out of blaming, judging, and manipulating you, you can emotionally defend yourself. I have found that once I understand why someone is trying to manipulate me, it is easier for me to emotionally step back and not get sucked in to the drama.


OMG yes, this cannot be stressed enough.  It is this element that rocked my world when I married DH.  Sure, my family has issues and I knew a lot of "wacky" families but I never experienced a true co-dependency situation until I was with DH for several months.  At some point, my ILs stopped trying to control themselves and let loose with their true behavior.  Even after my DH broke ties with the ILs, he still couldn't shake those co-dependency chains. 

 

Two books that helped him were (and I hope I get the titles and authors right but they are close enough to google or amazon search ) were Lost in the Shuffle by Richard Subby and the Melanie Beatty books.

 

 

post #11 of 12

I grew up in an alcoholic family and I am sure that a lot of what your dh is going through is a result of his childhood.

 

When my dh said that he needed me to learn to communicate in a more appropriate way (I get pretty aggressive when I am feeling vulnerable), I said "OK" eventually.  We had issues for a long time before I could admit my part in things and I didn't try to blame him for my issues.  It took a lot of years before I really understood why I was acting that way and could admit it to dh.

 

 And now, it has been a year of relative sadness and emotional ups and downs trying to sort out boundaries and limitations with my family and how my childhood has effected my adult personality.

 

If your dh is totally unwilling to grow and work on his issues, there really isn't anything more you can do.  I don't care what he went through as a kid, he has no right to create that environment for his own wife and child.

 

 

post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

The replies are really helpful, thank you.  I feel like I'm in crazytown.  Somehow most everything is my fault.  I know that we're both hurting and have been for a while, but because I don't trust his family (especially those who have been hearing that I'm depressed or controlling or spiteful or whatever), because I asked him to stop contact with the person (our wedding officiant, actually) I caught him tangled up with six months after we were married, I am controlling or crazy or something and a few other things.  I'm trying so hard to sort out what's true and I just keep coming back to the idea that there hasn't been happiness for me (beyond my own interior personal stuff, hummingbirds, cherry blossoms, a good book, that sort of thing) for a long time.  The single parent future, however, isn't looking particularly bright for me and my ds.  And the present is just a big, nasty swamp.

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