Were you always hoping your alcoholic parent would choose you?

daughter of an alcoholic father

When you were a child, were you always hoping your alcoholic parent would choose you? I know the feeling!

As a child of an alcoholic it can be really hard to understand why your parent isn’t showing you love, support and making you feel you’re the best person in their world.

I knew something wasn’t right because I didn’t think I’d done anything wrong yet my Dad seemed forever disappointed and angry at me.  I spent years hoping he’d see me, want to spend time with me and realise how amazing I was.

Conditional Love

As I write this, I’m not sure I was amazing as a child, but even if I wasn’t from my understanding now as an adult, your parent should love you unconditionally.

I had no idea what “unconditionally” was. Surely if I was acting naughty and not being a nice person, that gave them reason to not love me? If I was good, well behaved and did what they asked and in the way they wanted it then that deserved love. My concept of love from both my alcoholic father and my sober/non-alcoholic mother was a bit skewed, but that’s not surprising.

Healthy Relationships

This is not how a healthy relationship looks, so I’ve learnt! Love should be unconditional, that means you love someone whether they behave badly or not. That’s not to say you condone their behaviour, and that they can’t do anything bad or wrong. It’s separating the behaviour from the person, which I have to say I found really hard to do as an adult.

Healthy Relationships - child of an alcoholic - jo huey

It took me ages to figure out that even nice/good people make mistakes, do/say and behave in an unhealthy way. That doesn’t mean they are “bad” people. It means they’ve maybe made a poor decision/choice. That can be based on a whole host of things, trauma, beliefs and values, the list goes on.

The Power of The Alcohol

If you’re a child of an alcoholic, it’s really hard to make sense of why your parent is choosing to pick up the bottle and focus on their drinking than spend time with you. The impact alcohol has on someone that’s dependant is vast .There is no way you can know and understand that as a child. 

Since my Dad passed away I’ve learnt so much about alcohol, now realising that once physically dependant it’s very hard to stop. It’s the physical dependence that makes it unbearable for the drinker. The sweats, shakes, hallucinations it causes if they stop are hard to cope with. As I’ve said in previous posts, the drinker isn’t choosing between alcohol and their family, they choose between pain and no pain. 

Physical symptoms of alcohol misuse


After years of drinking, even the drinking doesn’t want to do it anymore. They’re usually sick and tired of being sick. Often noticing a lot of health affects because of their abuse. But the physical dependence keeps them hooked.

Now I’ve had time to overcome the trauma of my past (after years of therapy, self-help books, courses and reflection) I can have compassion and empathy and understand what happened. I do believe this is near impossible when you’re in the midst of the drama and living with an active drinker. 

What I Missed Out On

My Dad was very absent from my life and I really missed him, no matter how scared of him I was. He was my Dad and I longed for his love, acceptance and support.

He died 2 months before my 21st birthday and I miss him to this day. I miss the idea of what he could have been. Without the drink he was a kind, funny and caring man. The drink turned him into someone else. He behaved appallingly and as I child I had no control over it.

I missed one to one time together, someone to say I could do, have and achieve anything I wanted to in life. A Dad to protect me in a loving not controlling way. A Dad that would look out for me as I grew up, encouraging me to take risks and go for what I wanted in life. Not to listen to the negative comments of others but to love myself and know I am a good person. 

What’s next for you?

Maybe this is all idealistic but that’s what I would have liked, now I know what a healthy relationship looks like. It wasn’t meant to be, I’ve learnt alot along the way, but would I have changed things if I could have? YES I WOULD!!!

Living with an alcoholic parent in my opinion is indescribable. Words don’t seem to explain how traumatic and truly life changing it is. However, you can overcome this and learn to take back the life you lost. You can start to rebuild your life. Gain the things you lost, discover the areas of yourself that are hidden. Your life is worth that, you’re worth that. 

If you look at the big picture of the changes you want, it can seem overwhelming and paralyse you into taking any positive steps forward. Simply look at one thing you can do, find out, discover, learn about that will start to move you in the right direction. 

Make sure it’s small enough that you’ll do it, if there’s resistance (e.g. you get distracted, prioritise something else, don’t do it) then you probably need to break it down even more or reassess if that is really what you want.  Naturally there will be some fears, that’s OK it’s something new, that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. 

In the meantime, you aren’t alone and there are a bunch of us that are working on ourselves too. You can join us in the closed Facebook group called “Change Your Mind”. Click here to go to the page and I’ll approve you once you get there. 

I hope you found this supportive, insightful and helpful.

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