I think growing up with an alcoholic father has completely screwed up my life




I am 44 year old man who grew up with an alcoholic father. I left home when I was 22.

I am dealing with issues of low self-worth, anger and sadness which I think are due to being brought up with an alcoholic father.

I cannot process my emotions and it is taking its toll on my relationship with my partner and my seven-year-old daughter. I think all my relationships have ended because I cannot process my emotions. I don’t want to feel like this anymore and I don’t know how to make it stop. It’s ruining my life and the lives of those around me.

I’ve had six spells of therapy and I’m not sure if it has ever helped. It doesn’t feel like it has. I started CBT last week and that has made things worse.

If you can, please help or give me some guidance on how to make these feelings go away.

  • listener

    I’m so sorry to hear about the feelings you’re struggling with at the moment. And sorry too for your younger self who had to carry so much of this. It’s great that you’ve done so much therapy and are continuing to try. You’re doing all the right things even if you can't see that right now.
    You mentioned wanting these feelings to go away – it can be hard to get feelings to go away completely. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t find ways to heal and hold those feelings in a healthy way, one that doesn’t cause you more hurt. You deserve a chance to heal.
    Sometimes with therapy things can feel worse before they feel better, it’s important to try and keep that in mind. That being said occasionally it can be a case of the wrong kind of therapy or even the wrong match of therapist for you. Would you feel able to talk to your therapist about how you feel it’s making things worse? Having clear communication with our therapists can help to reassure or even just get to the bottom of an issue more quickly. If it’s a case of worse before better then you can work on that together and if not perhaps they could suggest a different therapist or therapy more tailored for you.
    What is your communication like with your partner? Do they know about your childhood and are you able to talk calmly together about the difficulties in your relationship? I hope if so that these conversations are able to be non-judgemental on both ends – although this can be hard at first to find.
    Being around others who understand can help, have you heard of AlAnon? Or do you have friends that you feel you can be truly open and safe with? Reaching out to Nacoa can offer that safe space too if you haven’t already.
    Again, you’re doing the right things and I hope you can be proud of yourself for reaching out. It can be hard to be kind to ourselves, more so when we maybe haven’t received that kindness in childhood. Sometimes the language we use for ourselves can offer more harm than good. Ruining is such a heavy word and puts so much weight on your shoulders. Even if you feel it to be true it often doesn’t leave space to recognise the good you are offering and can dismiss the good you can still offer. I can hear how hard you are trying and I hope that in that trying there is self-compassion too.
    With kind wishes,

    • mike4044

      My partner and I have separated. This, I believe, is in no small part due to the damage from my father's drinking during my childhood. What I've found is that I have major trust issues, am controlling and cannot give or receive love. I feel rejected, abandoned and unlovable because I'm such a heap of garbage. I've wasted my life, and I would like not to waste whatever life I have left, but I don't have the first idea how to do that. I feel like I've reached the end of the road.

  • acaukpi

    I had very much the same issues, relationship issues, low self-worth, fear, self doubt, unexpressed grief and anger etc.
    I also grew up with an alcoholic father and never really understood how it had impacted my life many years after he died.
    I have had years of alcohol and drug addiction myself with some years of sobriety, abstinence and recovery in the past. It wasn't until I was introduced to Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families (ACA/ACOA) that I was able to understand how my Father's alcoholism and emotional absence had affected me as a child and continued to affect me as an adult. I am also fortunate to have been introduced to Recovering Couples Anonymous which helps me and my partner so much.
    I'm happy to share more information on both of the above if you thought it might be helpful. (and it's appropriate to these notice boards - admin?)

  • williamste

    Hi mike4044,

    I am so sorry to hear that you continue to be impacted by your Dad's drinking after so long. So often the impact of having a alcoholic parent only properly hits after years or even decades - so rest assured that what you are feeling is natural, and you are certainly not alone in how you feel. It took me until I was 30 to come to terms with the effect of my Mum's drinking on me - just as an example.

    Much of the advice that has already been given is spot on. For me - and I know this sounds twee - but having a partner who I can talk to about this stuff is so helpful. It is not just cathartic when I'm feeling frustrated, but it also helps me to understand how I'm feeling and really process it. So I would really think about speaking to someone you trust regularly and at length about how you feel.

    I have also done counselling and - like you - haven't found it all that useful. However, I also went to my GP who gave me some medication that made a difference. Medication isn't the way to deal with the root causes of parental alcoholism, but it can really help to improve how you feel, so have a think about reaching out to the doctor.

    I hope that this is in some way useful. Very best wishes for your journey ahead.

  • mike4044

    Thank you all, for your responses. I so sorry to learn of your experiences. I want you to know that it means so much that people have taken the time to respond to me. I have drawn strength from what you have posted.

    In a nutshell, the realisation of the effect of my father's alcoholism has turned my life upside down. I can see how the behaviours learnt in childhood to survive have had a toxic effect on my adult life, and, in particular, my intimate relationships. I really want to change to live a different life. Wish me luck.

  • gashimogo

    Hi, thanks for sharing all your experiences. There can be many consequences of having alcoholic parents, and I can feel all of what you say.
    My parents were not alcoholics, but my best friends were. I could see from my side how it affected his life, his choices, and his relationship with his partners. I was so sorry to see that he cannot control his anger issues sometimes, even though it was his dream to create a healthy family and have kids that would be happy. He tries really hard to fight his issues with a psychologist and a special social support group online(https://www.theluckiestclub.com/join-community).
    I try to help him as much as possible and take care of his kids while he is away.

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