Friday, February 1, 2008

On-line Al-Anon Meeting on: On Children

The effects of children living with alcoholism is the subject of this weekend's On-line Al-Anon Meeting. If you have found this website you are invited to join us in a weekend long, Al-Anon Meeting. The on-line meeting starts Friday evening 2/1/08 and runs to Sunday 2/3/08 evening.

A Note: To view this post and the comments at the same time, click on the link here (click here) in order to get a better view.

This is where we start. To get us started here is from Ashley. Thank You Ashley.

Ashley; "On the topic of children, I found this reading in One Day at a Time (page 179). I don't have any of the alateen literature, but would love to hear from anyone who does.

"We who really try to use the Al-anon program have various reasons to be grateful as we see the results. This was one member's experience, which she told her friends at a meeting.

Her greatest difficulty concerned her children. "I never knew what to do about them when my husband came home drunk and disorderly. I felt they should be shielded from violence, yet overprotection wouldn't be good for them. I didn't want to influence them against their father; I knew he loved them, and they him."

"I found all the answers in Al-Anon. I made sensible explanations about their father's illness and found them naturally compassionate. I avoided scenes by not allowing my frustrations to erupt into anger. I tried hard to be consistent and fair to them. The results have been everything I hoped for, and I am so grateful to Al-Anon for this."

Today's Reminder
Our children are a first thing to consider first. Our attitude is the key to a successful family relationship -- and their normal growing up.

And above all, I never use the children as pawns in any conflicts. They respond so well to respect.

I've found that as I grow in Al-Anon recovery, my attitude towards my husband has changed significantly. Where before, our children would hear us arguing at all hours of the day or night, now they don't. They are happier, their parents are happier and all in all, their lives are much better.

One of the most difficult things that I had to accept is my own part in our arguments. Once I realized that my actions and reactions were a large part of our problems, I started to work on it. Things have improved tremendously in our household, which has only benefited the kids.

All that being said, my husband isn't violent when he drinks, he also doesn't drive so I've never really had to worry about either of those things. (He can get very angry when he drinks, but if I don't feed that by arguing back, it doesn't manifest).

I don't know if this helps anyone or not, but I can attest that my children are in a much better place mentally and spiritually since I started attending Al-Anon.

Please Comment to add your ideas on what has worked for you; what you may be feeling on this subject. Or if you have a burning concern please apply your posts here


Joe said...

Thank you Ashley ...

I met with my wife and a therapist today and tried to get agreement on how to get tutoring for our daughter.

I said turn left and of course she said turn right. My wife wants to teach her. But my wife's patience and her mind is not very clear. And it is difficult for my daughter to learn from her. I want to hire an outside tutoring organization or a sitter of some kind.

I have looked into whether the school will have a program.

It will take care of itself. I will work to find a program, and the right program will appear.

I am resolving to step away and take care of myself first - and that means remain calm. Second, peacefully, take my daughter off to learn to another place.

I resolve to make learning fun for her.

I think some how my daughter has now become the tug-of-war. I will look to myself to undo what ever part I have in that. I will not be righteous, although I don't think I have been - but I will assume I have been and work to undo it and be better for it. I will not give sour glances when I think she is drinking. I will be kind and gentle and smiling. I do this for me and for the joy it may bring my daughter so she knows me as a kind and gentle man and perhaps she will remember this model of a person to become.

I am also going to breath. BREATH. Fill up my diaphram/stomach with air. This will relieve the tension I am filled with.

I have a lot of work to do, don't I?

Peace to all tonight.

Anonymous said...

My husband is a recently recovering alcoholic, and while I haven't been to al anon, i find this blog site very useful (so I might even seek out an al anon meeting).
The difficulty I face is, while our home is a much happier environment, the kids have already been affected by the "alcoholic chaos" they have lived in all of their life up unitl a few monthss ago. My daughter always loved her father despite his behaviour, and has observed and commented on his improved appearance, demeanor and happiness since he has stopped drinking. I know she will eventually be fine.
It is my son that I worry about. He is older and attends school far away, he has not seen this "new person" his father has become. He still avoids coming home whenever he can. His pain and anger is overtly obvious to me, he is too angry to accept or even consider that he might need help. He stopped seeing the school counsellor because he felt "other kids needed his time more than he did." Thankfully he has no academic or social difficulties, but the hidden pain is so much worse as it is not obvious to those around him. He is 17, I fear too much damage has already been done, I worry that he will finish school and not come home again, and never see that we can be a "real family". I don't know how to help him (I barely know how to help myself), at the moment I just make sure I am always there on the phone or in person, just making sure we stay close.

Joe said...

Thank You Anonymous. I am learning not to "sacrafice me" for the "sake of others" - when I sacraficed it sounded heroic to me. Now I have learned that this MAY have been a little of guilt and not learning that it is ok to take care of myself.


Skip said...

How do you not sacrifice yourself and yet still take care of your children when you live with an alcholic?
If any-one knows how to do that I would love to learn.

nanceelee said...

Hello, I feel a little out of place here this weekend, as I haven't been married to an alcoholic, but I grew up with one.

I know that the effects of growing up with a sober/weak dad and a drunk/abusive dad who eventually committed suicide later in life. These effects are with me to this day. I have been able to recognize that what I thought I knew about myself from that time isn't what was real about me. It took a lot of time for me to find Al-Anon and the people there that have taught me differently about who I am, and who I always was underneath the disease. I am forever grateful.

It must be a day to day tightrope walk finding balance with yourselves and protecting your children. It must be very difficult to find peace walking a tightrope. Thinking back, I wish my mom had been a stronger advocate for us, but she was weak when he was drunk, the martyr when he was sober. She is the martyr to this day, and it effects the relationship she has with her children tremendously. Keeping secrets was key in my family, although there really were no secrets. The big secret was the five of us...invisible children.

In any family, with addiction or just other "normal" challenges, children will be influenced with the stress of each family dynamic. Some families have more than others. We can't protect children perfectly. I would have liked someone (my mom) to tell me once in a while that I was ok. This disease wasn't my fault. (children will ALWAYS internalize and own fault) If she had told me these things, and also told me that I must be strong, loving a fair despite the disease...I could have used much of my energy being strong and fair. Instead I used that energy trying to be perfect, so that things would change and be ok. It was never my place to make things ok.

Love your kids. Keep them as safe as possible. Tell them they matter and this is not their fault. If they learn compassion and patience from you in the situation, while also learning from you that this isn't "normal", it's "disease", perhaps they can actually grow and find better for themselves as they become independent.

I know it's hard. We were made perfectly, but we are not expected to be perfect.


Joe said...

To Parents - there are Al-Ateen books and Al-Ateen meetings for children

One book is called "Al-Ateen One Day at a Time." I saw this book and read a short passage. It explained to the reader "why mom had to do certain things"... If I recall it was why mom had to be the tough one and why she may have "yelled" sometimes.

The other book is called "Alateen - Hope for Children of Alcoholics"


skip said...

Thanks Nanceelee,
I actually told my son that his dad's drinking was not his fault for the first time before this week.
i don't know why it hadn't occured to me to say this directly to him before.
It was one of your previous entries that prompted me to do this. So thank you.

Rebecca said...

Hello everyone my name is Rebecca and I am a grateful member of alanon.

@ anonymous-
For your son I would suggest that living the program will give him an idea of what alanon or alateen could do in his life. A daily reader might also be something that you could give him. Remember it is attraction rather than promotion.

@ Skip-
When it comes to the alanon in the relationship with children, especially young children sometimes we do a bit of sacrificing ourselves for their safety, happiness and well being. But children understand the idea that sometimes YOU have to do something to take care of yourself and are often willing to take a part in that. It is all about choices for me and explaining to the children that we all have to make choices and support one another as much as we can.

I cannot tell you all enough about the alateen literature. It is an excellent resource. My very favorite thing is that it drops the point right out at you-very simply-so much less complicated than the adults try to make it.

Another good book that is actually alanon lit is FROM SURVIVAL TO RECOVERY..........

It is a collection of pieces written by adult children of alcoholics. (it has a subtitle but for the life of me I cant remember it.)

Thanks for all the sharing. Thanks Joe for setting us up again this week

Anonymous said...

Hi, everyone, I'm Catherine.

Thanks Joe for this weekend's topic. I'm really looking forward to reading all the posts.

For me, my kids were the reason I began attending AlAnon meetings. I want to protect them, but I also want to teach them. I want to be an example. I watched the way my mother and grandmother responded to family problems (mental illness and addiction). Tussling, nagging, pretending everything was fantastic. They spent so much energy slapping smiles on their faces and building the facades of "good" families that they both were both exhausted and unravelled. Paralyzed, I guess. And sad.

Skip, Rebecca, I hear you both. I would love to promise my children that I "got their back" no matter what. It hurts that I can't make that promise.

I'm new to all this and thankfully the kids are very small, too. Thanks.

Joe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe said...

Hello this is Joe

I do think it is critical not to hide "it" from the child.

Here are some things that I have learned are important to do and not to do. I have learned these points from Al-Anon, therapists, my wife's Family Night at her outpatient clinic (which is run like an Al-Anon meeting but the therapists tell you what is to e expected and acceptable behavior from the Alcoholic), and several books. I say all this to add credibility to what the following points are for they are not just opinions. I don’t want to mess with “my opinion” when it comes to your children. So here are things I have learned;

1. By all means, as early as possible, as soon as the child understands that there is something wrong, tell them what they are sensing is correct. If you say "No, daddy or mommy has nothing wrong with them [i.e. you're just imagining this] then they start to not trust their feelings, not trust you, and feel like they are going crazy.

This is a terrible feeling for an adult, and you know what I mean – can you imagine what it is like for a child?

2. If they want to talk to someone about it, try to be there for them. Start thinking about someone who they can talk to that might understand. I would recommend a professional who KNOWS alcoholism issues. NOT every therapist understands this issue. But many do and in fact are therapists because of this issue in their home. So, interview them before hand. Also, don’t expect Aunt Sally to understand and be a counselor. Last, don’t allow anyone to BASH the alcoholic. It serves no purpose. It will make the child start acting out toward the alcoholic and act out to try to change him or her. Remember – you did not cause it, you cannot cure it, you cannot change it. This is the mantra you have to repeat to your children and to yourself.

3. If they want to tell their counselor at school, allow them. My wife told my daughter (10 years old) that if she told the school counselor, the Dept of Health would take her away from mommy and daddy. I heard that one day from my daughter, and I was very pissed off. In fact the counselor’s at the program at my wife's clinic were very pissed off too. And I mean very. They said by all means let the child tell the counselor at school!!!!

4. Make sure that you tell them over and over, that they (the children) are not to blame. They will take on feelings of guilt that some how they caused it. Repeat this often. Remember the mantra above in #2.

And tell them that mommy and daddy love them a lot and often. These are times when you need a hug, but children need a hug and loving touching from their mom's.

5. Pay attention to them when they talk. Allow them to feel like they are significant. Because they are significant. They will feel "small" and "insignificant" because of the amount of attention they see being paid to the alcoholic.

6. Never say, "Now look what you have done! You've gotten daddy in a bad mood." Or, "Don't get daddy mad." Or, "If I didn't have you kids ..." Words like these heap blame on the child and the child carries this guilt and blame all thru their adult lives.

7. Get them out of the house when possible, to a safe place if the parent is raging. This way they do not see or hear the anger and violence. Everyone needs to get out of the house, especially when it is cold – winter/snowed in and when it is hot. Go to the mall for the day and look around. Go to the library. Spend a few hours out and about. A change of scenery is good for all.

8. When the child says, "I worry about daddy when he is drinking." Find out what they are worried about. Ask, "How do you mean honey?" Note “How” not “What.” The word “How” substituted for "What" and "Why" may feel awkward, but the word is less judgmental, and allows more conversation. This is a therapist and consulting “tool” that allows a deeper conversation to take place.

9. If the child says, "I worry about dad's drinking." and basically he or she is just worried, explain; "This is a disease, an addiction, like how you love chocolate except 1,000 times worse. And it affects his or her brain. But remember this, we cannot fix it. You nor I can fix it. Daddy has to fix it himself. And remember, that it's daddy's and then mommy's responsibility to be the one concerned about it."

Alleviate that burden from the child that makes them want to help fix it, thereby making them little co-dependents and big co-dependents later in life.

10. Around 10, 11, 12 or so, children can go to Al-Ateen meetings. I have yet to do this with my daughter, so if someone can post something about Al-Ateen meetings I would be greatly appreciative.

11. On this one I have mixed emotions; "I want to tell my best friend at school daddy." I said, "No, honey she is too young and she may not understand." Well my daughter did anyway. She came to my office one day and said I need to tell you a secret. She sat in my lap and started crying. "I told 'ABC' about mommy. I am sorry daddy." I squeezed her tight in a big hug, and said, "It was just too hard to hold in wasn't it?" She said, "Yes daddy, she's my best friend (“bff” I think is her exact quote = “best friend forever”). I said, "It's ok. But just her ok?" And I said "I love her." I played a game with her when she was 1 or 2 years old, holding out my hands/arms little by little after asking this question, “How much does daddy love you?" Anyway I stretched out my arms wide and said, "Remember I always love you this much." She remembers this and it was one of the best things I ever did.

12. Make sure there is some structure in the house:
- no matter what we eat at (6PM etc)
- School homework is from (4 -4:30 or 4 to 5:30 etc)
- Bed by (8:30 , 9PM etc)
- Up by 7AM etc
- Tell me where you are going and how I can reach you.
- You have to be home by XX. Not one minute after.
- When you punish, before you send the child to the Gulag (prison) for 50 years, make sure you explain if they don't do "X" then "Y" occurs (loss of TV for 2 days etc), Explain first the boundary and if the boundary is broken, make sure you ENFORCE the consequences.

13. Never allow criticism of the child like; "You are dumb, stupid, can't play baseball, are hideous, etc." From anyone and especially your qualifier. Explain to the alcoholic the next day and ask them to apologize. If the Alcoholic doesn't make sure that you set a boundary with him or her.

14. Don't nag your kids. When you find yourself doing this, you have not set the boundary up with consequences. Say something once, may be twice and then stop. Put a consequence in place.

15. Make the consequence fit the crime. No TV for a month cannot be enforced. You lose credibility and you will not be perceived as real or meaning what you say.

16. Tell them a secret; "Johnny, you are a good boy, and you are growing up to be smart, and nice looking. I sense you are going to be doing great things when you get older."

17. Be positive. "You are doing great!" "Wow, look at this grade!" "You look pretty especially today with that dress." We all need compliments. ALL of US! But especially children.

18. Don't punish the child when you are angry at the alcoholic. You will project the anger on an innocent.

In the Alcoholic home;
- There is a self-questioning about a sense of worth from all participants. Try to eliminate this with your children. Build up their self-esteem - not tear it down. They get enough of that with peers.
- a lot of rules get broken, set up boundaries and enforce them.
- Be positive.
- Allow them a place to find that is safe from the craziness - away or a separate part of the house.

I hope this helps

Anonymous said...

Thank you Ashley for picking this topic.

Thank you Joe, Skip, Nanceelee, Catherine, Rebecca, and everyone else! This website is really great. It has given me hope and courage.

I really like these ideas - I have not thought about some of these things. I am too busy taking care of the alcoholic in my life.

I also never thought of telling my children that they were not at fault.

God Bless

Kim said...

I am so thankful to have found this site. I appreciate all the comments and it is helpful to understand that I am not alone.

Ashley said...

Thank you everyone for your comments. There is a wealth of information here that I'll have to process a little bit at a time. One of the most helpful (and difficult) parts of Al-anon (both online and meetings) is hearing from Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA). Helpful, because I learn what not to do, or what to do to help my children. Difficult because I hate that my children are growing up with this.

I've had to learn that I need to be the responsible parent in the household. If my kids need help studying for their spelling tests, I need to make the time to study with them. If they have an event at school, I need to make the time to be there. I need to take the time to talk to them, and make sure they understand what's going on (& that it's not their fault - Thanks Nanceelee).

Do I like that I have to do all this, heck no. I wish more than anything that I had a partner who could shoulder part of the burden of child-rearing, but I don't. Or rather, I do, but not a reliable one. My husband is a great father when he's sober - the problem is I can't rely on him being sober. So, I need to be flexible for our kids.... not for him, but for them. Over the course of the 10 years we've been together, my focus gradually shifted from my life and our kids to completely on him. My attitude was totally dependent on whether or not he was drinking. If he was happy, I was happy, if he was sad/depressed/angry, I was the same. I didn't own my own emotions. At my first Al-anon meeting, a very wise woman said "I refuse to self destruct over someone else's behavior". I remind myself of that every day. And every day, little by little, I'm rediscovering myself. How does this relate to my kids? They finally have a mom who pays attention to them. A mom who's not angry all the time. It's kind of nice. The great part is I'm learning this now while they're still young (6 and 7). But the bottom line is, it doesn't matter when you "get it". Your kids could be 30 or 40 years old and you making a change in your life and attitude will still benefit them.

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone,

Sorry I missed the online meeting this week, very busy weekend, and, I don't have any children, so I can't share on something I have never experienced. I can say that I know how difficult it must be, and give all of you huge kudos for taking the necessary steps to change the legacy, and provide stable environments for your children.

My confusion this weekend, is that I am free of the alcoholic spouse, can't seem to be with the person I really want to spend time with, and spent time this weekend with a great person, but could not be there "mentally" the way I should be.

Seems I can't get this one particular person off my mind.

In trying to fill my weekend with activities that keep me focused, and balanced, all of the following bounced around in my head, all of these I battle on a daily basis, and hope that all of you might have some insight on how you take on such thoughts.

1 Waiting


3. Stalled

4. Stuck

5. Imprisoned

6. Handcuffed

7. Confused

8. Second Guessing

9. Judgemental

10. Self Worth

I could really use some words of wisdom this morning......

Peace this Monday to you all.


marie said...

Hi All,
KevinB I often feel so many of these words you've mentioned especially since I've moved out of my home because of my alcoholic husband. I feel my whole life is on hold waiting and I'm not quite sure what I'm waiting for??? Am I waiting to see if he doesn't drink for X amount of time will I go back and then as I think about it why would I? Why do I have to live this life of the constant black cloud looming over my head will he drink? Well who cares if he does or doesn't I need to be OK with myself and that is what I am trying to work on. I truly hope that I can just keep moving forward and never look back because in my heart I know we all just need to move on and find our true happiness that is not determined by someone else. God Bless you KevinB on this Monday evening!!

Anonymous said...


I am vey appreciative of your kind words, and your thoughts.

Thank You!


Anonymous said...

I have read the posts on Children, but I have not necessarily read what age you feel it is appropriate to tell the children about the parent's disease, or advice on what to say. My kids are 9,8 and 6.