Is it possible that a parent was an alcoholic and you never knew?





I’m in my forties now and have always been triggered by drunk people and stories of overdoses etc. We grew up extremely religious and warned of all the evils, I was told that my paternal grandfather was an alcoholic so he never touched drink. We never had alcohol in the house. My mother was always judgemental of people suspecting they were alcoholics. I discovered a few years back that she had boxes of codeine in her bedside table drawer and apparently on them every day but she denied this. She has migraines every month usually and needs it dark etc then. I have no recollection of ever seeing her drunk or high or anything unusual. She was always an emotionally distant, harsh and cold person. Her mother was raised in a nunnery and she had had a hard life herself. I’ve been in therapy for years now and always felt something of the puzzle is missing and so have all my siblings thinking we’ve all been sexually abused. Not many of us remember anything really. Is it possible a parent can be an alcoholic or drug user without anyone knowing for THAT long?

I would love to hear anything that could help if you’re willing to share. I’m really trying to get answers for myself and my family, a lot of us are doing a lot of inner work and growing. It would also help me understand my parent better and knowing what to say/do and what not to.

Thank you!

  • listener

    Hi Sally123,

    Thank you for reaching out on here - it takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to share. I really hope it helps.

    I'm sorry to hear how hard your childhood was and the questions you have surrounding this. Growing up in an environment that was cold and harsh has understandably had a big impact on you and it must be hard feeling like something is missing. Not remembering parts of childhood can be a way your mind protects you from painful experiences.

    Unfortunately I personally can't answer whether it's possible that a parent can have an addiction to alcohol or drugs without anyone knowing or suspecting. Certainly there are lots of people who function to a degree where others don't suspect there's a problem. Secrecy is also a very common issue in addiction, with many people going to great lengths to hide the problem. I hope you're able to find some answers somehow.

    I hope tharapy is helping you to understand your experiences and feelings more. Do you have support around you at the moment?

    Keep reaching out when you need to talk and I hope others' thoughts and experiences may help in some way too.

    Take good care

  • uniquemind


    I'm sorry you're going through this.

    Having missing pieces of your childhood could indicate you have supressed the memories to protect your own wellbeing. This is a common coping mechanism within childhood experiences which have been traumatic. My degree is based on mental health practice and neuroscience and this is very common amongst individuals who have experienced trauma. I have also worked with individuals and also personally know individuals who have experienced sexual abuse and they have not remembered. Until something had triggered their memory and slowly they remember what had happened to them many years later.

    Growing up in a religious environment must be difficult but the indication that substance misuse would have been extremely hidden could be the case. I have also known parents to hide their substance misuse difficulties without their children knowing, Although they have been more functioning addicts.

    Trying to piece your emotions and memories together can be very challenging. I have also experienced adversity in my childhood and really think self reflection and memory thought can help a huge amount. Although therapy can also be supportive in supporting you make sense of things on a deeper level.

    I hope this helps,

    Please look after yourself

    best wishes

  • gandalff

    Hi, Sally123.
    I recently joined this site and immediately noticed your post.
    I became an alcoholic when I was 21, I lost everything, my wife, children and home.
    I spent about 9-years living rough on the streets, lost count of hospital admissions.
    It took a near-death experience for me to even think about quitting the drink.
    I had just been taken off life-support for alcohol poisoning and was on the ward waiting for the Doctor to come and discharge me from the hospital. Anyway, the Consultant came and sat by me on the chair. He said "you can leave anytime you want, but I promise you, if you come into the hospital again in the mess you were in just now, we won't be able to save you, as your internal organs are in a terrible state". This shook me up obviously, I asked him if he would admit me to the ADFER unit in the hospital, (addiction department for experimental research), he said I was too heavily addicted to alcohol for the unit to be able to help me.
    To cut a very long story short, the Consultant sent me to a rehabilitation centre 200 miles away, I was admitted to this centre on 3-September-1983. After 8 months of mental torture (dt's, hallucinations etc) I was finally discharged a sober guy. I re-married not long after and now have two children as well, they are now 36 and 34-years old, I haven't touched a drink since 3-September/83. I don't think they know I was an alcoholic in my younger years, I'm 69 now btw. Neither my wife nor I have ever mentioned it. When my Son got married, he did ask me why I wasn't drinking at the reception. I said I can't stand the taste of alcohol at all. I am hoping that was enough for him to just forget about why I wasn't drinking. I am certainly not proud of how I used to be, in fact I am deeply ashamed of myself.
    In the early months of my sobriety I though, "let's give AA a try" What a joke, the two guys who were supposedly in charge were drinking in the pub next door after the meeting.
    Gandalff. 👍‍

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