How do I overcome the pain of my childhood?


Further Reading

Dear Stanton

I would firstly like to thank you for taking the time to read my letter as I am aware that doing so would take much time out of your busy schedule. I am a 17 year old female and I grew up with an alcoholic father. He would often drink vast amounts of alcohol, sometimes for days on end and while under the influence would yell and scream and do hurtful and embarrassing things, such as killing our dog, one time physically abusing all three of us children, not just with his hands but with other object (brooms), setting fire to a gallon drum outside of our house and other various things.

We never treated it as a big deal, we always thought it could be worse and that our dad wasn’t one of those bad fathers. Although when he was sober he wasn’t the greatest dad either, he never paid us much attention or did fatherly things with us, we always knew (from him telling us) that we weren’t very wanted. My mother was a good mom, very caring except  for the fact that she kept us there, which I’ve always held that against her. I want to know what kind of psychological damage this could have done to me and my brother and sister (both younger). I find myself a very confused person with no direction, I’m very hard to please and feel like I’m living a lie all the time. I constantly manipulate my words and feelings to get people to say and do what I want them to. I currently have a boy friend who I love very much but I feel like I’m ruining our relationship with my weird ways. My younger sister is getting into a lot of trouble at school and fear that it could get worse.

Please tell me what’s wrong with us?

From Anonymous

P.S. My father has since got better with his drinking because he has endured 4 heart attacks but the pain remains.

Dear An,

You have already told me “what’s wrong with you.” You had a horrible childhood and you responded to it as any human being would.

I know your pain has been great. But you and your sister are young, and can take charge of your lives.

You have a boyfriend who you say loves you – that is a wonderful thing to start. You also are already identifying some of what is wrong in your life. Obviously, you developed “skills” to deal with your father’s attacks, and you are using these same skills to try to get love and otherwise get through life. You tell people lies or whatever you think they want to hear in order to have them love you, and give you what you need.

Some people will recommend that you go to a Children of Alcoholics’ group. Or you could enter therapy. You should explore these to see if they can help you. But just your realizing what has happened to you and how it has affected you is a beginning for making sense of your life, for working to better your relationship with your boyfriend, and for helping your sister and brother. You can also try to find counseling for your sister. But do you ever talk to her about the experiences you had with your father, and how it has affected you? This could be very helpful to both of you, and you can support one another. And, of course, you should try to talk to your boyfriend about your background, and about your worries that it is affecting your relationship. He should understand that your concern about these things shows how much you care for him.

Good luck. You have a long life ahead of you and you can change what is hurting you.


Stanton Peele

Stanton Peele , recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts by The Fix, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

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