Feeling guilty but wanting to give up




My dad is currently in hospital with complications from his drinking, I knew that he was drinking again (he doesn’t live with us any more) and I hadn’t talked to him throughout the drinking phase. Now he’s in hospital we talk on the phone every day, and he’s pretty much in denial that his condition is to do with drinking, he just says that he is ill. I feel like every time we talk it’s all about him and he has just started being really aggressive on the phone, saying really mean things about me and my younger sister. I just don’t want to talk to him anymore at all, but I feel guilty because he is ill in hospital. Today I has decided to not answer the phone to him but then after 3 missed calls I answered in case there was something wrong, but he just wanted to talk. I know that his brain is messed up from the alcohol, he is quite confused and is really snappy and short with me. I want to cut him off completely but every time I try to I usually end up talking to him again when he ends up in hospital. There’s only so many more times I can do this, I’m torn between cutting him off completely and wanting to help him get better again even though that probably won’t ever happen. I also suffer badly with anxiety and depression and never get to put myself first in this situation, and my anxiety was triggered in the first place by an incident with my dad drinking. In some ways I can’t ever forgive him for what he has done but then I feel extremely guilty. I’m only 19 but my dad has relied on me so much in the last 5/6 years that I feel like I’m the adult and he is the child. I genuinely don’t know what to do anymore, I was crying today after getting off the phone with him because he said some really cruel things about my sister and I just don’t want to hear it anymore but I’m scared that something will happen and I will regret cutting him off (for context I did stop talking to him altogether for a year but he nearly died because of drinking and then I felt bad about it when he ended up in hospital for months) I know this is quite long but if anyone has cut off an alcoholic parent could you please tell me what is was like and how you coped with guilt xx

  • listener

    Hi there,

    It sounds like a really difficult position you're in; being worried about your father's condition whilst his behaviour is making you want to distance yourself. Caring for someone who has an addiction is very hard as it can sometimes feel you have no escape.

    The fact that you were able to identify the negative feelings you are left with after your phone calls is really good. You are doing nothing wrong by wishing to avoid feeling this way. Although it is sad that these feelings are caused by your dad while he also seems to be asking for your support, you should not be feeling guilty for wanting to protect yours and your sister's mental health.

    I think Nacoa's 'six Cs' are a great few points to keep in mind, to remind yourself that you are not responsible for your dad's condition and that you are entitled to take care of yourself:

    - I didn’t cause it
    - I can’t cure it
    - I can’t control it
    - I can take care of myself
    - I can communicate my feelings
    - I can make healthy choices

    I hope you find an approach that works for you. Take good care of yourself.

    • whatshesaid

      Thanks for your reply,

      I’m getting increasingly frustrated with the whole situation, I talked to my dad today and about 5 hours later he phoned again and I made the decision to ignore him. Over the next hour i had 17 missed calls and he had phoned my mum and both my sisters to check up on me. It’s so not normal and I don’t think I can carry on like this but at the same time I cant stop feeling guilty. I keep trying to remember that it’s not my fault and I can’t change his behaviour but it’s a really tough situation

      • blue96

        Hi whatshesaid,

        I can very much relate to how you're feeling, as I also had to assess whether or not maintaining a relationship with my alcoholic parent was healthy for my younger brother and I when I was in my late teens.

        After many months and years of trying to get my parent to see sense, we felt it was easier to distance ourselves and its been over 3 years now since we had any contact. This was after many attempts to persuade her to get help and eventually we couldn't take any more of the way she treated us and spoke to us, both when drunk and when sober.

        In our case, it was definitely the right decision but I would recommend making sure that you have really thought things through before you decide to cut ties, if you decide that its the right thing for you. Ultimately, it has to be your decision and centre around what is best for you and your sister. As listener said above, you have to look out for yourself and your own feelings (as well as those of your little sister) so don't feel guilty for that. You can always have to option to leave the door open should your Dad change his behaviour. Make this clear to your Dad and remind him how his actions make you both feel; it can be very liberating doing this and further reiterates that you then aren't in control of what your Dad chooses to do following this.

        Please remember that you aren't alone and that there are a lot of others in the NACOA community who empathise with how you're feeling. If you ever need to talk to someone, the NACOA helpline is a really great option for you!

        I really hope that things start to look up for both you and your sister very soon.

        Best wishes :)

        • uniquemind


          I am sorry you're going through this.

          The anger delivered could potentially be apart of the in denial behaviours he is experiencing and does not want to admit it. Also, could be a symptom of withdrawal he is in hospital. Although, you should not be experiencing name calling because of someone else's issues but is very common in addiction.

          I feel I can relate to most of this with wanting to cut off your parent but having a sense of guilt in doing so. I suppose you have to move forward and try not to feel guilty. But you know deep down inside you do still feel that way. Its a natural emotion to feel in terms of wanting to help but then becoming frustrated, you want to cut them off its the situation of distressing parent-child relationships.

          But also please take into account you cannot control someone's behaviour and addiction and you are not the cause of it either. Someone must want to help themselves on the road to recovery and change.

          I hope this helps.

          Best wishes to you and your sibling

        • whatshesaid

          Thanks for your reply:)

          I guess I know that I have to put myself first but I find it so hard. I just feel so guilty that I can’t follow through with distancing myself from my dad. I’m struggling so much with my own stress and mental health issues and with this on top of what I’m already going through it’s so tough. The worries and guilt and the drama all the time is getting to be too much. I’m going to have to think really seriously about cutting him off because I can’t see this getting any better.

    • mebbe

      My son is 54 and lives in NZ. I live in the UK. He is in hospital in Auckland for the second time being treated for alcoholism. He is a senior ER nurse and understand that he is slowly killing himself.
      I’m 77 and it’s extremely upsetting and I don’t know how to handle my desperate feelings. My days are eaten up with worry and sadness. My other son won’t talk to me. My daughter is a retired psychiatric nurse and tries to help.

  • pink flamingo

    Hi WhatSheSaid

    I'm so sorry to hear you are having such a difficult time.

    Having a alcohol dependant parent can be incredibly tough. I completely understand your conflicted feelings towards our dad and went through much the same at your age. People with alcohol problems often lash out and say cruel things. It can be difficult to look beyond these words, I used to remember back to better times instead and remind myself of that. I did stop seeing my dad for five years, when we reconnected (instigated by me) not much had changed for him but I felt in a better place to cope with his illness and the way it made him behave.

    The most important thing to remember is - as others have said - that you cannot control his behaviour, you are not responsible for it but you can take care of yourself. If you feel the best thing for you is to take yourself away from the situation (by not being in contact) then you should do so.

    Best wishes.

  • mack


    I am very recently bereaved, in fact Wednesday of last week my father who was addicted to alcohol, died in a house fire, that was started as a resulted of him falling asleep drunk and we think a cigarette started the fire. He was deeply reliant on alcohol, so much so he had to drink to prevent DTs... he would have been 75y old on Friday, he was a high functioning alcoholic until he returned to Ireland at the age of 60y old and thats when he resisted any urge. Life as a child was spent treading in eggshells, keeping secrets, wondering if it was normal .... and wishing .... wishing constantly that my dad could be different - because yes, minus the alcoholic behaviour and my dad was a sensitive, caring and generous soul. I am glad I have been able to distinguish his true nature and his alcoholic nature - which couldnt have been further apart.

    I give you this context, because even up to those dying moments, that childhood wish (which in some positive ways was hope and negative ways was a huge burden and responsibility) was with me until his dying moment - he was placed in a medical induced coma to ease his passing - and yet i was still thinking, maybe this time he will get help and I can enjoy him as the person i knew he was - I was not able to like the alcoholic version - in fact parts of me despised him and he disgusted me - I dont feel great saying that sort of thing about a human being and I dont think i would feel it about anyone other than my parent - but there you have it - that is the way i feel and felt.

    I spent the typical years well into my 30's trying to help him and help him understand that - he 'couldnt just give up' whenever he wanted. I only understood in my early 40's this was a futile endeavour - I was quite childlike in my outlook. My 40's came and i realised that there was a day went by that i didnt think about my dad - and i realised it was sucking the joy out of me........ so I adapted my behaviour - I was not part of his drunken conversations , I did not indulge his self pity, I in essence stoppped talking to him - but I did send him small food parcels, I did send him clothes, I was aware that he did have others who helped him, siblings and neighbours. I worked on not feeling guilty, I worked on accepting this was how I showed him I loved him, but that I could not condone his behaviour. I wrote hims some letters - just general chit chat - he didnt respond, he didnt contact me regularly - and when he did it was generally very morose conversation that I didnt engage with or i didnt answer the phone. The truth is he was having DTs, his mental health was not good. Of course I am devastated at his passing, of courseI cannot understand his compulsion to drink, but I do not blame him at all. I am aware he was hopeless and had no defence against alcohol, he had got to that stage he had to drink of else the DTs would have likely killed him. I am also aware that my wish can now die with him - and I can simply ac knowledge and accept that my parent was addicted to alcohol - but he was also much more than that and as much as I wont deny his alcoholism, I will not deny he was and had many great qualities - many i didnt experience when he was a child - many I didnt experience of him growing up, and many I did experience as he was my loving father.

    As many have said , (and I am still learning that through reading others experiences I can find my place and understanding in that alcoholic landscape) you do need to find your way of being able to deal with what life has handed you, a place that does not leave you with guilt or shame - you deserve that - you might make mistakes along this path, you might not always know what the 'right' thing to do is - and you know what thats ok - at least you are trying to figure things out - and you have my deepest respect and admiration for that.

    Be well and Be you


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