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The Biggest Lie of All

Old 07-20-2011, 08:42 PM
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The Biggest Lie of All

I have read many threads here in the past year that include the words, "the kids didn't know" about my ASpouse.

As an ACOA, and a person who has mentored children for a long time, I will tell you flat-out, Cyranoak style: Good GOD!

Of course they know.

They may not be old enough to know "My Daddy/Mommy/Caretaker, etc. is an Alcoholic", but they know the tension, the arguments, the silences, the heavy sighs, the smells, the manipulations, the sense of danger to self from a very early age.

I personally knew by the time I was 4 years old (my earliest memory). I hear reports of this All. The. Time. from other ACOAs and children alike.

During your recovery, I hope this is one of the things you finally discover. I hope you realize that you have been in denial if you ever thought, "the kids didn't know".

Even if your alcoholic drank late at night or away from home or not a drop in front of the children. They knew. They always knew.

Thank you for letting me talk for a minute.
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:24 PM
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"During your recovery, I hope this is one of the things you finally discover. I hope you realize that you have been in denial if you ever thought, "the kids didn't know".

Hi! I kinda feel this is directed my way since I recently said that the kids did not know on another thread.

During the early years my AH drank after the kids went to bed, after I went to bed, after the soccer practises and school events etc. He didn't drink at family events, (openly anyway). He stopped drinking openly in front of the kids when they were very, very young. He was so secretive and so concerned about being a good dad, that I think he, to a good extent, accomplished that. The secretative part of it made me half crazy though wondering is he or isn't he for a looooong time.

If they sensed something it would probably be my codie behaviour: tension and silences. Not arguments, we never argued when the kids were home. But even I, even after knowing what was going on, because it was so well hidden, could forget for months and life would be relatively normal.

After they all were away for college it escalated, and quickly. I felt I had to be sure they knew because I didn't want them to get in the car with him when they came home. When I told them, each individually, they had been at college and/or lived away for at least a year or more. When I told two of them, they could not disguise the shock on their faces. The other one, who had been around home more lately, had figured out something but didn't know the extent. At that point they had not seen him drunk, no police, no DUI, no lost jobs, no falling down, no drama.

We've had many heart to hearts about this, as you can imagine (the kids and I), and we're good at getting things out that bug us, even in uncomfortable situations. We've talked about their childhood and their memories and I believe them when they say they did not know.

I think when they are older and have their own kids, they might put more things together, have more memories float back and have some serious thoughts to think over.

Yes, they are probably not untouched by this hidden drinking and more likely by my reactions to it, although they wouldn't know at the time why I might have been testy, but I don't think their experience is typical from what I've heard at Alanon (3 years) or read on these boards.

I don't think I am in denial, and I don't mean to disrespect your experience, but this is how I think, and how they say, it played out in our family.

p.s. The "kids" are all mid-twenties and more. The talk, and the crisis they did experience was 4 years ago.
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Old 07-20-2011, 09:33 PM
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Thanks for sharing skippernlilg. My kids (10yrs and 8yrs) have known for a while now and I have even heard them tell their visiting cousins and friends that their dad drinks alcohol and thats why he is sleeping, etc, etc. I have told them their dad needs to go to a doctor to get help with quitting and it is not their fault and there is nothing that they can do to make him quit, until and unless their dad realises and gets help. Even after this, I know they have been affected by AH's drinking and I am doing this (divorce and make sure I and the kids live separately) for their sake. I just hope and pray they are not affected any more and they and me have a peaceful life going forward.
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Old 07-20-2011, 10:14 PM
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Originally Posted by wellnowwhat View Post
"During your recovery, I hope this is one of the things you finally discover. I hope you realize that you have been in denial if you ever thought, "the kids didn't know".

Hi! I kinda feel this is directed my way since I recently said that the kids did not know on another thread.

During the early years my AH drank after the kids went to bed, after I went to bed, after the soccer practises and school events etc. He didn't drink at family events, (openly anyway). He stopped drinking openly in front of the kids when they were very, very young. He was so secretive and so concerned about being a good dad, that I think he, to a good extent, accomplished that. The secretative part of it made me half crazy though wondering is he or isn't he for a looooong time.

If they sensed something it would probably be my codie behaviour: tension and silences. Not arguments, we never argued when the kids were home. But even I, even after knowing what was going on, because it was so well hidden, could forget for months and life would be relatively normal.

After they all were away for college it escalated, and quickly. I felt I had to be sure they knew because I didn't want them to get in the car with him when they came home. When I told them, each individually, they had been at college and/or lived away for at least a year or more. When I told two of them, they could not disguise the shock on their faces. The other one, who had been around home more lately, had figured out something but didn't know the extent. At that point they had not seen him drunk, no police, no DUI, no lost jobs, no falling down, no drama.

We've had many heart to hearts about this, as you can imagine (the kids and I), and we're good at getting things out that bug us, even in uncomfortable situations. We've talked about their childhood and their memories and I believe them when they say they did not know.

I think when they are older and have their own kids, they might put more things together, have more memories float back and have some serious thoughts to think over.

Yes, they are probably not untouched by this hidden drinking and more likely by my reactions to it, although they wouldn't know at the time why I might have been testy, but I don't think their experience is typical from what I've heard at Alanon (3 years) or read on these boards.

I don't think I am in denial, and I don't mean to disrespect your experience, but this is how I think, and how they say, it played out in our family.

p.s. The "kids" are all mid-twenties and more. The talk, and the crisis they did experience was 4 years ago.
Hi!

I did not direct my post toward any one person at all, and I'm not even sure I've read any comments from/by you personally as of yet. I've been on and off here for the past few weeks quite sparingly. So, HI!! Nice to meet you.

I am not even sure I've read this thing 'the kids didn't know' any time recently. What triggered my post was that my brother and I spoke on the phone today, and it's been awhile since he and I have had a chance to talk about 'things' in our shared ACOA experience. Our conversation had weighed heavily on me today, and this is the post I came up with.

I hope your kids do not have 'flashbacks' after they have kids of their own. I wish you well on your journey!
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Old 07-20-2011, 10:24 PM
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Hi! Thanks for that! And nice to meet you, too!

I have rather thin skin sometimes and I sometimes feel uncomfortable at Alanon and on this site because although he is a true blue alcoholic, I don't have any real horror stories to share. I feel, sheesh, even my alcoholic isn't alcoholic enough!?!?! Sick, right?

When I am thinking more clearly, I am grateful that being such a good Dad was so important to him throughout his struggles with alcohol.

Yes, we did have one crisis, and it was awful (hospital, etc). And no, no recovery at all yet. When he drinks he just gets quieter and then goes to bed. So rather than being the overbearing personality in the household, I call him (in my head) my ghost.

I read somewhere that we codies have an overwhelming urge to explain ourselves all the time. Yup, that's me!
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Old 07-21-2011, 03:40 AM
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In my case I didn't know my dad was an alcoholic until I was in my 30s. I did know that things weren't right at home and I believed it was my fault. I clearly remember many nights laying in bed listening to the fights and wishing I was dead. No child deserves to live like that.

I hadn't faced my father's alcoholism until this last incident with my AW when I decided to move out and finally started my path on recovery. My experiences with my father are finally coming to the surface and I now recognize the parallels in behavior that I see in my wife.

Your friend,
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Old 07-21-2011, 04:36 AM
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Thanks for posting this. I spent 18 years living in homes with alcoholics, my first recollection was when I was 6. My Dad got sober at age 64, my mother is 85 and still drinking. It has been h#ll, wouldn't wish that toxic home enviorment on any child.
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Old 07-21-2011, 05:34 AM
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Right, they may not know the parent is an alcoholic per se, but I would imagine they know something in their home isn't right. My son realized early that Dad was a little crazy, but didn't really know why, but by the time he was seven he found vodka in the garage with his 9 year old friend who informed him what it was. I think the two of them put it all together from there and I could hear them whispering about Dad sleeping on the couch in the afternoon, etc.

One big reason I got out of there is I didn't want my son to think it was normal for grown men to lie on the couch all day, sleeping (if they do not work nights)! It was a terrible example.
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Old 07-21-2011, 06:54 AM
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I had that very same discussion with my sponsor last night Skipper. I'm wrangling with my acceptance that it's a disease that my husband has... and that sometimes the disease symptoms include drinking, and sometimes it's just crazy-making behaviors.

My sponsor asked me if I had ever told the kids (5 and 3) that Daddy had a disease. I said, "No, because they don't really see him drunk." She said, "But they live with the disease still, you know that right?" And that's when it hit me... yes, they do. They live with his sometimes completely off-the-wall discipline which I KNOW confuses the hell out of them. Hell, at one time earlier this year - they lived with TWO crazy-making parents. By the grace of god, I got my a$$ back into al-anon so I could work on stopping my insanity.

I know my kids know that something isn't right. I struggle with what exactly I should be telling them about Daddy. I don't want to "bash" him per se, but I also don't want them confused. Ack. This is hard. I'm working on it. Focusing on me and my recovery so that I will have the strength and wisdom to help guide them the best I can.

Thanks for posting this... I needed this today.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:08 AM
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skipper--great post. It really helped me to read literature on ACOA to see how things affect my kids. I personally believe the alcholic (addict etc.) AND the codependent and /or spouse of the alcholic would do well to learn about these effects. As far as the codependent goes, they may see themselves in the pages. I did--the dysfunction in my family was the same as a child being raised by an alcoholic. Thus, I am an Adult Child, even though I was not aware there may have been any addiction in our home until recently. I brought the issues to adulthood regardless.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:16 AM
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During your recovery, I hope this is one of the things you finally discover. I hope you realize that you have been in denial if you ever thought, "the kids didn't know".
Great post, Skipper! And great title. Because it is one of those lies that we as codies have to believe in order to continue enabling. I've thought a lot about those lately -- how the alternative reality the A spins is one we're part of, and how many lies we tell ourselves (just like the A does) in order to not have to change the status quo we hate. It's mindboggling. And I think this particular lie is important because it's one I told myself exactly in order to not have to do anything about it: "At least the kids don't know, and it's better for them if I stay."

Of course they knew.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:17 AM
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Originally Posted by WritingFromLife View Post
skipper--great post. It really helped me to read literature on ACOA to see how things affect my kids. I personally believe the alcholic (addict etc.) AND the codependent and /or spouse of the alcholic would do well to learn about these effects. As far as the codependent goes, they may see themselves in the pages. I did--the dysfunction in my family was the same as a child being raised by an alcoholic. Thus, I am an Adult Child, even though I was not aware there may have been any addiction in our home until recently. I brought the issues to adulthood regardless.
This is a great idea, and I will.
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:25 AM
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I have been telling my kids (15 and 18) everything for years now. I came to a point in my life that it was to hard to try and hide it. Also I wanted to educate them because I think they should be aware of what this disease does to people/families. For years I educated myself about alcoholics and tried to educate my kids, but wasnt taking care of myself. I just wish I knew to educate myself on my recovery at the same time. one day at a time - honesty is the best way to live great post
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Old 07-21-2011, 07:58 AM
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I always thought I hid it from the kids. Yes, they saw it, but mommy covered alot of it up...She made excuses, She covered it, She denied it, She did alot of weird things but everyone was happy and we were a normal family...

So I thought.....13 years later my eyes got opened up, my heart got broke, the stories poured out from my daughter, I dropped to my knees, lost my family, lost my relationship with my daughter, lost my marriage and somewhere I lost me

It had more of a mental affect on me, It changed who I really was and what I really stood for, It controlled me, abused me and made me act crazy, it made me act in a way that I am ashamed of today

With the help of Alanon and working the steps, I have my eyes back open....
I did not hide it from the kids like I thought I did, I played right into the game
of alcoholism....

THANK GOD! I have the relationship back with my daughter and I have learned
what an awful diesase that it is and how it changed me.......

So to the parents that think your hiding it or the kids cant see it or they are not old
enough to understand.....Do yourself and the kids a favor..Get your Axx to Alanon & Begin to soul search yourself!! Fast & Hard....Wake up & pull your head out of denial!!
It effects you more than you think it does. (That is part of denial & learning about you)

Think about how much time you spend in one day or one month, dwelling, crying,thinking, acting as a servant, hiding, pretending, over reacting, moody,fighting, anger, depression, embrassment, rages, raising your voice, making good decisions or bad ones, flying off the handle, forgetting...due to living with that alcoholic spouse....

It will amaze you, if you really soul search yourself!!!

If you think you have problems now and continue to pretend the kids are okay.
Well, wait for a couple of years, then you can deal with a messed up kid that has
emotional scars from living in a home of an alcoholic or living with mommy that is
an emotional basket case, like me......

This thread really triggered alot in me. Guess, I needed to hear it today.
When I get wobbley on my feet and heart, I read threads like this, and
I know Im okay today. I know I did the best thing for me and the kids!

When the kids tell me now, "Mom you have really changed".
I tell them Yes and Im glad you notice, its good to be back to who I really am.

Wish someone would of told me this 15 years ago and I wish I would of known
the damage that alcoholism causes in a family & how it played with my childrens
minds.....

Be Thankful for today........
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:15 AM
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Originally Posted by BobbyJ View Post
When the kids tell me now, "Mom you have really changed".
I tell them Yes and Im glad you notice, its good to be back to who I really am.
Awww...that is awesome! I got a similar version of this recently...it meant so much to me to hear my girls say they like me so much better now. I too didn't realize the great lengths I was going to "protect" them from what they so obviously knew already. Until I knew. Then I had to do something about it. That was the hard part.
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:25 AM
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It had more of a mental affect on me, It changed who I really was and what I really stood for, It controlled me, abused me and made me act crazy, it made me act in a way that I am ashamed of today
BobbyJ, don't be so hard on yourself. There is no need to be ashamed. You did the best you could with the tools you had, as we all did.

Forgiving myself was one of the hardest things I ever did.

And I'm starting to get to the point where I wouldn't change anything in the past no matter how bad it was. If it was changed I might not be where I am now.

YOur friend,
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Old 07-21-2011, 08:59 AM
  # 17 (permalink)  
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My kids knew my husband drank. It was just part of our family socializing. I did hide clean up the beers cans for along time so they would not see but then stopped. He was never abusive or irresponsible when he drank. He was just goofy.I often wonder if they thought he drank too much or if they just thought it was "normal" dad behavior. I know my daughter went through a time in her teens where she had a lot of anger towards her father when he drank. And she started treating him like I did. Disrespectfully. I opened the door to that family dynamic and I regret it. My son did not seem to have a problem with it. Of course they were always buddies and I wonder how much they drank together without me knowing. I don't know if my kids are scarred or how much it has affected them. I don't know if there is a time or place to open up that dialogue.
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Old 07-21-2011, 09:47 AM
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I'm with ya...

New to this forum, but so glad I found it.

When I was 14 my mom sat me down to tell me my dad was an alcoholic. She prefaced by saying "I'm sure you already know this, but...". I was completely floored and told her I had no idea. We didn't even keep alcohol in the house. Once my mom started naming behaviors though, it made more sense - how making scrambled eggs with chocolate milk was not dad just being silly, how when it's near impossible to wake him up from a nap it's not because he'd had a long day. It all started to make more sense. For the next 10 years, he was in and out of sobriety - until he drank himself to death at the age of 53.

In the following years, even when I knew he was drinking, I never ONCE saw him do it. He was so secretive and I think extremely concerned with maintaining an "image" of being a good father. I never considered my experience to be "typical" of an ACOA because my dad was nice and not abusive. After he died, I assumed I was free of the ACOA label and never even considered that the word "recovery" could have any meaning in my own life. I've realized in the years since (about 6) that that is not a label you ever actually shed and - SHOCKER - I have some codependent tendencies that I am just now at 30 years old beginning to confront.

While I have spent my teen and adult years crafting an image of success and independence (a lot of energy trying to make my family look normal...gosh, who else in my life was so concerned with images?), my two most significant intimate relationships as an adult have been with alcoholics. I vehemently tried to avoid that and still...there I was. My current relationship *I think* is going to be much healthier...he's also an ACOA, but has spent many years working the steps himself and doing therapy, etc. We're learning a lot together, but I'm just starting to understand how these old patterns are still affecting me. I have found myself very tempted to tell small (and sometimes big) lies out of fear my boyfriend will have a negative response to what I'm feeling/doing/etc. The problem is that there is absolutely no evidence or reason to believe that he would react negatively. AND if he did...does that mean I don't have a right to say what's really on my mind? Of course not! Lots of control and fear stuff.

I also realized recently that while my parents tried to create a stable environment for my sister and I, I think maybe they tried too hard. I really have no memories of them engaging in conflict, much less coming to a healthy resolution as a result of said conflict. I'm not sure I know what that even looks like. I get very anxious any time there is conflict in my life and I think it's partly because I never had any examples of how that can serve to build trust, intimacy, and an overall better relationship (in personal and professional life). In light of this, I'm just feeling kind of frozen in place - like I wasn't given a critical tool for managing adult relationships.

Long story short? In spite of the complete absence of alcohol around me growing up, I have been dramatically impacted by alcoholism. I'm relieved to be coming to terms with this now, but wondering how I might have realized some of these things even earlier in my 20s and maybe saved myself some pain.
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:20 AM
  # 19 (permalink)  
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budtoblossom -
Those are alot of the same things, that my daughter has said to me.
My son on the other hand, goes to the extreme, and he is bond determined to have the perfect relationship with his girlfriend, let alone with his life.

It is shameful that I thought differently, but Im proud to know the difference today...

The traits of children with alcoholics in the same house, is way more severe than
one would think.

When my xah was in rehab they gave us a list of each childs role in an alcoholic home
Funny, weird & strange & scarey...My 2 kids fit them to a T
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Old 07-21-2011, 11:22 AM
  # 20 (permalink)  
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Neither of my parents were alcoholics.
That said, my father did used to keep a six pack of beer on the lower shelf of the fridge, hidden in the back, wedged behind the vegetable drawer. He'd bring it out when he would have a friend from work visit, if they wanted to have a drink, and they'd each have one.
He stopped keeping beer in the house once he decided I was old enough to know what it was, but I already knew it was there, and I remember this very clearly to this very day, right down to the Yuengling eagle logo, and the shape and color of the bottle.
Alcohol never negatively impacted my childhood, so it's not even a trauma memory. This is just a childhood memory, filed away next to the stories my father used to make up at bedtime with all of us camping out on the thick green carpet that was my bedroom floor, and the memories of watching my father stack the deck when playing Christmas Candylane so that my sister would win (because she'd throw a full temper tantrum if she lots).
If I remember my father's mild drinking habit from when I was younger, imagine what someone living with an active alcoholic can register.

Granted, I didn't know all the side effects from beer, I didn't know what alcohol was, I didn't know how bad it tasted, I didn't know a lot of things - but I knew it was called beer, and it was only for Daddy and his friends.
As a child, I understood the basic differences between beer (adult drink, I could never have any, for any reason), root beer/birch beer (my favorite soda, only one big glass or two little ones, and only on special occasions), and milk (can drink as much as I want as long as there's enough left for breakfast tomorrow morning).



Kids are frequently underestimated. I was a lot smarter than I looked, and I remember things that my parents claim I was too young to remember.
And while neither of my parents were alcoholics, my family was absolutely dysfunctional, and I remember way too much of that. About half my memories of my mother are trauma memories, which are much sharper and have much more of an impact on my life. That said, I can understand how maybe not knowing of the alcohol consumption doesn't mean they don't know something is wrong.
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