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Did I Do the Right Thing Confronting My Father About His Alcoholism?

by Tami
(Phoenix, Arizona)

I know that there are a lot of people that don't realize the affects of being raised by an alcoholic, until much later in their own adult life. And, I am one of those.

There has been a lot of emotions flying through my household since we confronted my dad with his alcoholism. I still have those nagging voices in my head that ask me over and over if we did it right? If I should of handled it different?

After, reading the article on having only one chance to confront the alcoholic and making sure to address the alcoholic the correct way, I am wondering if it was handled correctly?

After allowing my dad to move in a trailer in our back yard, I realized for the first time, yes, my dad is an alcoholic. It was like someone turned on the light. It took about one year to realize this.

On the eve of coming to this great revelation, my dad was in one of his bad mood drunks. So, he decided to challenge my husband with something he disagreed with that we choose to do as a family. My husband handled him very well...considering. To make a long story short, he went to bed angry at us , went to my sisters the next day and didn't hear from him for two days.

We needed to get a hold of him to know what he wanted us to do with his dog and when he was planning on coming home. I also let him know that we had the key to his house and the only way he could get in was by coming to see us first. We needed to talk with him.

He avoids confrontation at all costs. Sounds familiar because that is exactly the way I am...hmmmm??? It was hard for me to even call him at my sisters and tell him we needed to talk.

There happened to be a family dinner at my sisters that evening when all of this came down and we, my husband and I are now the black sheep of the family. My sister, mad at me would not answer the phone so, we finally got a hold of my brother in law and my husband talked with him to let him know what was going on.It seemed like they had a good talk.

Brother in law agreed to take my dad for the week. By the time they got to my house, which is only about 15 min. away, my dad already had used the 'alcoholic psychology', on my brother in law and caused him to side with him.

When he came in our house to retrieve the key to his house he had asked my husband something ... Miles addressed my dad as an alcoholic. Brother in law defended my dad and said he had not been drinking that much and he was not drunk. That's funny, why was he slurring then?

I have to admit,I was angry at everybody that night .... angry at myself for enabling my dad all these years, angry at my dad for who my mom, sisters,and myself have become because of his alcohol. I was so angry that my dad caused all my family to be mad at us. Alcohol lies, cheats, and destroys relationships.

Needless to say my sister is still not talking to me. She tried to email me and I deleted right away because she is approaching me as being the main problem of all of this. I am not the one to blame and it is not my fault. I will acknowledge her when I know she will not be controlling the situation because she is a major control freak.

I pray it will all come out in the wash eventually. My dad is now with his sister and we haven't talked since he left for my sister's. My emotions are on a roller coaster, because I want to talk with him so badly. But, I also know I am not strong enough. Hopefully, someday soon I will be strong enough.

My dad was told by my husband that he can't talk to me until he talks to him. I am not sure if this is right or wrong?

Honestly, realizing that my dad is an alcoholic took such a burden off of me but, opened up a new can of worms, so to say. I know now that I took the initial step to recovery, there is no going back. That would be the worst thing I can do to myself,my dad, and my family.

I need some assurance I did the right thing. Thank you for taking the time to read this.


Hi Tami

Don't beat yourself up because you've done nothing wrong. It's amazing how cunning alcoholics can be and the deception they can cause - like you've now witnessed in your Dad - so that you almost feel like you're the one with the problem.

Confronting or initiating a conversation with someone to share your beliefs that they have a problem like alcoholism, isn't necessarily the same thing as performing an organised intervention - which is a planned and organised family intervention where you're basically saying enough is enough and that the person in question better get proper help or there will be severe consequences. So you don't need to feel like you've blown anything.

Alcoholics are brilliant manipulators - so your Dad is simply doing what most addicts would do in his position - play you against your sister, and somehow make it seem that you're basically delusional and the one with the problem.

You need to understand that's just part of the 'game' of addiction unfortunately. There's nothing you can really do or say that will convince anyone of your argument. Your sister and the rest of your family have to see it for themselves.

Remember too these 3 key principles in relation to someone you know suffering from an addiction like alcoholism: You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it, and You can't Cure it.

The only person that can ultimately help your father is himself. In other words, if and until he acknowledges he has a problem and is ready to receive help for it - no matter what you say or do is going to change or make a difference to his situation.

Denial is the biggest obstacle to sobriety any person suffering from an addiction faces. And your Dad is a clear example of someone living with a massive dose of denial.

It's sad that he's managed to create a rift between you and your sister, but you simply need to see that for what it is, due to his ability to cleverly manipulate the situation.

What could be helpful for you is to spend time amongst others who know what you're going through and will be able to offer valuable advice and support. Al-Anon is a group for family members and loved one's of alcoholics - so you might want to check them out.

I know what it's like to see a parent manipulate and deceive due to their alcoholism. As hard as it is, you've now seen the light as to what's going on, so hopefully that will help you deal with the situation and realise there really isn't a heck of a lot you can do.

Best of Luck and God Bless

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Jan 20, 2010
I did the right thing...
by: Tami

That's awesome Greg! My husband and I just celebrated our 19th anniversary. :)
We have learned that,even though the alcoholic is not present the affects are still there. My husband and I made a commitment to ourselves and our children to join an Al-Anon family group.
We are in the process of moving state because of job transfer so, once we are settled we will commit ourselves to a group.
My husband as been amazing through all of this. We have taken that first step and we know the road ahead will bring discomfort but we also know it is worth it!
When realizing for the first time I can be free from burdens and unnecessary baggage that I have carried since birth is so freeing in of itself. I felt such a weight lifting off of my shoulders when I finally, put my foot down and decided enough is enough. We know once we took that first step we will not be going back. There really is nothing to be desired to go back to.
Learning from the past and letting it go has helped me to live in the present. To embrace every moment with my husband and my children.
I pray the best for you and your wife. I commend you both for taking the steps that you have.

Jan 20, 2010
Thank you Tami
by: Greg Adams

Indeed, your father is not hopeless. Few of us are. It's truly up to him. There are talented professionals who conduct interventions that are often effective in guiding alcoholics to chose recovery. There's even a cable TV program called "Interventions" that's informative.

I wanted to say (but ran over the character limit) that my wife--who has been with me for 19 years until 8 months ago--and I are in the process of rebuilding our marriage.

She's now seeing my EMDR therapist because we discovered while reading Shapiros' book that the traumas she had suffered from her alcoholic parents that she addressed in traditional talk therapies are still causing her difficulties. She doesn't drink, but she did marry an alcoholic even though she had been raised and harmed by them. This apparently happens quite often as some of us are attracted to the familiar because we simply don't know what's best for us.

She benefitted greatly from our separation because she learned through Alanon and counseling that she can't control my behavior or stop me from drinking myself to death, but she can live a good life if she chooses to do so.

We're spending time together now but she will not live with me until we're both convinced that we really want to be together and uphold our marriage vows and are not just trying to assuage the loneliness of separation. She also wants to see if I am truly committed to a life of permanent sobriety.

She also insists that we attend couples counseling to gain a deeper understanding of our relationship, learn adult ways to solve our problems and new ways of communicating, rather than relying on the teachings of our parents. What we both learned growing up neither worked for them or for us and we can either keep doing what we've been doing or learn new ways and be happier. I agree completely with her requirements.

In the mean time we're getting to know each other, made possible by the fact that I'm finally listening to her and accommodating her needs instead of being totally self centered and selfish (a common trait among alcoholics as the Big Book says). We're also having fun and dating. As an intake counselor told me, "It's what you can do in sobriety."

Learning these things requires effort, practice and skilled teachers. For improved communication skills we're learning NVC, which stands for "Non Violent Communication", aka "Compassionate Communication", a highly effective method developed by Marshall Rosenberg. It's about listening with empathy instead of judgement and putting an end to getting people to do what we want them to do.

These things aren't easy but the best things in life usually aren't, and they sure don't come in a bottle.

Jan 20, 2010
I did the right thing...
by: Tami

Thank you so much Greg for sharing with me. What an awesome testimony you have for yourself and to share with others.
My dad has been an alcoholic for about 50 years. My mom was married to him for 11 of these years. She didn't have a life with in those years. My dad would get on those violent rampages and beat her up.Which caused my oldest sister to become our protector. Still to this day we always call her when my sisters and I get into predicaments. I recognize now more so the behaviors I became.
Your testimony encouraged me. There is hope for my dad. I guess it really doesn't matter how old someone is or how long they have had their addiction.

Jan 19, 2010
This alcoholic applauds your courage.
by: Greg Adams

I love about this forum because I get to see what it's like for people on the receiving end of an alcoholics behavior. It reinforces my conclusion that I must not drink under any circumstances.

It takes courage to confront your father and withstand the rejection of your siblings and in-laws. We alcoholics must not be coddled or enabled. It not only harms the enabler, it also allows the alcoholic to get away with their behavior for a longer period of time. We are mentally ill people when we drink, and maybe even when we stop, but we are still responsible for our own behavior and recovery.

To normal people our behavior makes no sense at all. How could we possibly choose to drink in spite of the obvious obvious harm? Let me try to explain to the best of my ability.

Like many alcoholics and addicts, I was driven to seek relief from my self hatred and intense fear of people by abusive alcoholic parents. They me that those strange brown bottles in that beautiful cabinet held a power to make them enjoy life for a few hours.

The day came when I got up the courage to sample those awful tasting liquids--a little bit out of the many bottles so it wouldn't be missed--and I soon discovered the solution to my problems. I felt OK for the first time in my life.

The negative consequences began almost immediately, but because alcohol always made me feel Ok for the first several drinks before it made me sick or caused other problems, I told myself that I wouldn't drink as much the next time. Instead of moderating, my body just acclimated to it. I had become addicted.

I was caught in the vicious cycle of on and off drinking for the next forty years, during which I wrecked three marriages and harmed my two beautiful daughters. Hardly a day that goes by that I don't think about what I did.

So why didn't I stay stopped the first, second, third, fourth or fifth time I was hospitalized? How could I go for six years without drinking only to return to it? Because I was unable to escape the self hatred--first taught to me by sick parents and bullying peers and then reinforced by my despicable behavior toward my own family--and the fear of people that plagued me when sober. I gave up on sobriety and consigned myself to die--the sooner the better--until recently.

My behavior at work got so bad I was referred to a therapist who employed a technique called EMDR. It's the only treatment I've ever received that finally relieved me of the PTSD caused by traumatic events that kept me returning to alcohol for relief. Once the most debilitating PTSD symptoms were relieved, giving up alcohol became rather easy.

I'm happy to be free--not just from alcohol--but from the self loathing and anxiety. I'm at peace with the world now because I no longer see people through the lens of the past or the bottom of a bottle. My boss, who seriously wanted me gone, told me that I'm like a different person. He's right. I am.

Jan 14, 2010
Yes, You Did
by: C-P

One of the reasons addiction thrives for as long as it does, is that our instinctive reaction is to almost want to suppress what is really going on. There is an inherent shame and stigma to addictions like alcoholism, so we rather tip-toe and whisper in hushed tones about the problem, rather than confront it head on.

Your father needs to know you're no longer playing that game, because by bringing everything out into the open, you no longer give him anywhere to hide. And that's why he's gone and 'hidden behind' your sister because he knows he can still get away with what he's doing there.

By also calling things as they are, you no longer play the enabler, and hopefully that will help your father break through his denial faster.
You've done the right thing. So you need to stick to your guns and not let this mis-placed guilt get you to back track.

So well done on the courage you've shown.

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