Feeling left behind in life




I am 22 years of age and have always lived with my mum and dad. My dad has been an alcoholic ever since I could remember. I don’t have many happy memories from my childhood. The majority of my memories are consumed by him aggressively shouting with my mum, verbally abusing her, punching walls, him getting so angry and aggressive that his face becomes red with anger and his mouth froathing. My dad is one of those dads who stick around while I was growing up and still is around but was never actually present. He never treated me like a kid and always tried to force things on me, activities that i didn’t want to participate in etc. As a kid growing up, I was always hopeful that one day our relationship might change and we might become a normal dad and daughter like I would see my other friends with their dads, hanging out, bonding. My dad’s idea of bonding is going down to the local pub together for mum and I (both non drinkers btw) to watch him get pissed drunk, to the point where he slurs his words, can’t walk straight, throws up while attempting to flirt with girls half his age. Anyway, his behaviour and the circumstances and environment I grew up in had a significant and devastating impact on me. Something which I didn’t realise up until the last two years or so. Because of him, I passed up the opportunity to move out and move to university due to the fears and worries I had for my mum’s safety and wellbeing (both physically and emotionally), I struggled with getting a job for 15 months (fortunately I am doing an apprenticeship now) and I have watched all of my childhood friends who I went to school with grow up, move out, go to university, make friends for life, have boyfriends and watched them build up their lives and move on while I feel like I am stuck in an infinite loop where every day is the same. I didn’t get to experience any of those normal things and I honestly feel like it’s too late for me now. I am trying my best and my hardest to concentrate on myself, on my goals, my work and my mum who fortunately is the opposite of my dad in every way possible however that doesn’t mean that I am happy. No where near actually. I feel really isolated and incredibly lonely and abnormal. I feel like some of my best years have gotten snatched away from me all because of my dad and his addiction and narcissistic, toxic, abusive behaviour. No one knows the reality of my life apart from mum and some people here at nacoa and that’s exhausting. The fact that I have to “hide” things and my real thoughts and feelings every day and carry on and pretend that everything is okay when it isn’t, it’s so draining and hard. Sometimes, I get to the point where I just want to pack a bag and leave in the middle of the night. It’s not realistic so I don’t do it obviously but the temptation is there. Along with some other dark thoughts like who would even miss me if I was gone or does anybody truly love and care about me etc. fortunately these fade as well within time but the fact that they are there in the first place, is what makes me feel even more abnormal about myself. The last couple of years have been extremely tough with mum and I having had to temporarily move out and away from dad due to his aggressive nature, only for him to manipulate us back into living with him again. Truthfully mum and I don’t have the ability and the resources to be able to live independently on our own, away from him but I so wish we could because I feel like until I stay here, no matter how hard I try and work on things and no matter what I do, it won’t help. I will always have this emptiness inside me because this is not where I belong. Here. With him. I should be like my other friends. Living life with a supportive, loving boyfriend or with great, supportive friends or even on my own (but I love my mum too much to leave her!). It’s just not fair. I truly feel like I am so far behind in every aspect of my life and the worst part is, that no one seems to understand or relate. Not unless they have grown up or experienced a similar situation. That’s why I don’t open up to people about it because I have tried to in the past and the person who I thought was my close friend at the time, pretended to be understanding and super sweet and supportive and then later on, when we had an argument, threw it back into my face and said “I feel like you’re being a bit over sensitive and crazy and feel like you are blaming me for everything that’s going wrong in your life” like thanks for that. Just what I needed to hear from my only friend who I poured my heart and soul out to. Just because her life is stable in every way possible so based on that terrible experience, i have stopped trying to open up to people who I know for a fact won’t understand what I am talking about. Growing up with my dad has had so many consequences on my health and wellbeing. It’s lead to severe anxiety which I continue to battle every day with the majority of people in my life telling me to get a grip and to get my sh** together. It’s lead to depression where some days all I want to do is just stay in bed, not get dressed, sleep and forget that I even exist in this world. It’s also led to me possibly having Bordeline personality disorder which is something I am in the middle of receiving a possible diagnosis for. It’s also just led to severe physical and emotional intimacy issues. I want to be able to get close to people but it feels like I’m almost paralysed by fear most of the time.

  • listener

    Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I hope you can feel some community here as I am sure there are others who will relate.

    It’s completely understandable that your dad’s behaviour would have such a huge and lasting impact on you. Have you seen the publication ‘Family Illness’? It looks at some of the ways families adapt to dysfunction.

    Growing up and living as a COA can be so isolating and lonely, it’s strange how many of us report those two themes. I always think it’s a combination of the stigma and the ‘don’t trust don't feel don’t talk’ therefore we don’t hear from others who understand and find those who have grown up similarly to us. You’re not alone. 1 in 5 children in classrooms are growing up with parental alcoholism today. There’s so many of us out there. And so many who will relate to parts of your story.

    I really relate to what you say about having to hide parts of your life and feelings and the reality of how exhausting that can be. Particularly as it builds over time. That’s where, if you can, it’s so good to find pockets or communities of people who get it and who you can practice not hiding around.

    I’m glad to hear you’re getting help for your anxiety, possible BPD and depression. You’re not abnormal for having dark thoughts sometimes, there’s huge courage in admitting that and seeking help where you can.

    I hope you hear from some other voices here over the next few days. There’s also ACA and AlAnon if you ever wanted to more support outside of Nacoa, they even offer peer support groups.

    If you have some time and find the format helpful it may be worth looking at some of Nacoa’s youtube videos too. There is something so powerful sometimes in hearing the physical voices of others.

    Do continue to reach out on the message boards and thank you again for your honesty in sharing how you’re feeling lately.
    Best Wishes,

  • liam

    Thank you for taking the time to share your experience.

    I can identify with what you describe about needing to hide your real thoughts and feelings and think this is a common struggle for children of alcoholics. Growing up in an alcoholic environment often means keeping secrets from those outside the home, so the pattern of drinking isn't broken.

    Nacoa's 'Alcohol - The Family Illness' literature explains this well:

    'People with drink problems organise their lives around alcohol and family life becomes organised around the alcohol-dependent family member, in an attempt to keep problems hidden from the outside world, resulting in family adaptation, creating an environment constructed around the unspoken family rules:
    - Don’t talk
    - Don’t trust
    - Don’t feel'

    The last of these bullet points feels particularly relevant to your experience. In trying to survive in an alcoholic environment, our own thoughts and feelings are often repressed, which makes it difficult to even understand them, let alone articulate them to others.

    It sounds like the last couple of years have been particularly challenging for you and it's completely understandable that you think about leaving your current home set-up. I completely understand that you love your mum and don't want to leave her, but I wonder if there's a middle ground between staying and leaving. Is there any possibility you could break up the week somehow? Maybe staying with a friend or relative once a week or once a fortnight?

    Take care, and have a good rest of the week.

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