Having just been listening to Woman’s Hour, and then searched for information and found the NACOA website, I send these few paragraphs in case they might echo other people’s experience. As you can see from what I’ve written, the ‘after-effects’ of growing up with an alcoholic parent are many and affect more than just the ‘adult child’ who grew up in that environment!
My husband’s father was an alcoholic. Although my husband is in his 60s now, I have really only become aware recently that quite a few of his problematic behaviour patterns are probably to do with his experiences as the child and teenager of an (violent) alcoholic father. And watching, or listening to, his mother being assaulted by her husband, his father, from a very early age. Not to mention serious social isolation at times and discovering that no other adult was able or willing to acknowledge the fact that Tom’s (not my husband’s real name) family was dysfunctional and to then do something about it. He learnt early that they were on their own, there was no-one to protect him or his Mum.
Although Tom is very successful in his field, is not an alcoholic (nor are any of our children), is very responsible, has been (and is still) a very good father to his children, has been (mostly) a good partner to me – there are, and have always been, problems. Mostly it’s his need for control, his workaholic ‘nature’, his, sometimes almost pathological, need to anticipate outcomes / the future, his tendency to disproportionate anger and his verbal and psychological aggression (with physical aggression strictly under control but the threat of it is very often ‘in the air’).
Tom has never had any counselling or therapy and still finds it almost impossible to talk about parts of his childhood and what he, his younger siblings and mother experienced. Since we met before his parents died, I did experience the family dysfunction myself for a few years and I found it devastating and very frightening – even though by then I was a (young) independent adult and so was Tom. So it’s not that we can’t talk about it but there are many ‘no go’ areas – and also, as I mentioned above, the on-going behavioural issues that Tom has that I’m finding increasingly hard to tolerate and which he finds very difficult to acknowledge.
So far, the only ‘help’ that anyone has had, has been me going to see a therapist! Which has indeed helped me but has not, on the whole, made much difference to Tom, though it must be said that he does not think he needs any help! Perhaps 2017 will be different.