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How Alcohol Impacts Family Dynamics and Relationships

I could write a book about this subject because unfortunately I had first hand experience of how alcohol can destroy a family. When someone is reliant on alcohol it is all consuming, there is no amount of talking, fighting, manipulation or begging that will stop someone from drinking. But, as a family we try in vein because doing nothing just seems irresponsible and passive. So there is a constant loop of behaving in a certain manner to control someones drinking and the the fall out when we realise that despite they drank anyway.

I learned this at 4 years old and I played the game for another 9 years before my dad decided to get sober. I took his lack of desire to get sober as his lack of love for me. I didnt realise that now but I am very aware of it now. I felt totally rejected by him in every way. The anxiety and pain I dealt with as a child has never left me. I spent years adapting my behaviour as a child to placate my father until I had no idea who I was. The only thing I learned was I was "not enough" and that anxiety was my default position.

My dad died 2 years ago and our relationship was completey fractured despite many failed attempts to smooth over the cracks.There was always part of me that wanted an apology, a profession of love or just something that showed me he knew the impact his behaviour had on me. Throughout it all I always held onto early moments (before alcohol came into play) where he would take me bramble picking to make jam, drive me fast in his MG or just make me feel safe when he held my hand. I wanted to get rid of alcohol and get back to that life, why didn't he want that too? Instead he became the nightmare a source of danger and uncertainty at every turn. Everything hinged on his mood on any given day.

The truth is he was lost in his own story, he had no real desire to face his demons and change his life. He was a victim.

I can't tell you how badly his alcoholism impacted my family, I can only say he didn't just detroy himself he destroyed everything we could have been. His violence ruined my mothers belief in men, his aggression made me scared to sleep, his rage frightened me and my brother so that we were scared to behave as normal children would and his manipulation made me believe it was all my fault.

I knew when I would have children I would never put them through the torture I experienced. That was easy to say before I developed a relationship with alcohol myself and I then used it to numb pain, calm anxiety (that would keep me up all night) and give me a sense of confidence that I never had.

When I met my future husband I already was drinking to excess. I didn't drink every day but when I did drink it was to oblivion. I couldn't face a social situation without drinking. I never had sex without having drank. I needed alcohol to make me feel something different.I was constantly filled with guilt and disgust at some of my behaviours. I was stuck in a rut and I was not making progress in life or my career.

When I got engaged I knew that if children were on the horizon, I had to stop drinking. I have my dad to be thankful for that utter determination because I knew I would never have children who were scared of me, had to adapt their behaviour to keep me happy or pretend not to notice I was slurring my words or acting strangely.

I was not an alcoholic but if you had left me for another year I'm certain thats where I was heading. And my childrens experience of me would have been a very different one.

My children have grown up not having to edit their behaviour according to my drinking, they've not had to be in a car where I've been under the influence and they've not had to listen to drunken babbling. Life as a single parent has brought its own challenges and I can't imagine how I would have coped with hangovers, blackouts, bad decisions and chronic anxiety on top.

All I can say is I was born 42 years ago with lots of potential. I was happy and secure. I had a very vivid imagination and used to play for hours with my dolls and watching reruns of Annie. I wouldn't change a thing that has happened along the way (as I wouldnt be where I a now) but that little girl deserved to have a happy childhood without the destruction of alcohol. She deserved not to have to second guess herself constantly, she deserved not to have to pretened her dad was sober when we both knew he was drunk, she deserved not to have to get in a car where he had a bottle of whiskey under the seat and she deserved to feel safe.

That experience with my father undoubtedly changed my life and my personality even more so than being sexually abused by my grandfather. A person who should have be my caregiver became my source of pain. It has never left me, I have worked on it and I am at peace with it but do not underestimate the impact your drinking has on your children. Children learn who we are very quickly and when we veer from the norm they are hypersensitive. Your children love and need the real you. You may be using alcohol to escape right now but there is a better way. It is better to slay the dragon and become your own hero, and in turn your childs hero. All that child wants to know is that they can trust and believe in you, they are safe and you are consistent.

Commit to taking a break from alcohol, commit to learning why you are leaning on external substances to change the way you feel. As I already said life can throw curveballs but we need to be in a place where we can adapt and learn from those experiences and not just go to ground. Your family need you and I would encourage you to invest he time and money invested in the externals (including alcohol andnight outs) and pour that into yourself. Work with a coach, work on yourself, change the trajectory of your life and your family with you,


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