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A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
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alcoholism

Family

What to do when you're the child of an alcoholic

My dad was an addict, and growing up with him taught me a lot.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

Ashley Tieperman and her father.


There was never just one moment in my family when we “found out" that my dad was an addict.

I think I always knew, but I never saw him actually drinking. Usually, he downed a fifth of vodka before he came home from work or hid tiny bottles in the garage and bathroom cabinets.


My name is Ashley, and I am the child of an addict. As a kid, I cried when our family dinner reservation shrunk from four to three after a man with glassy eyes stumbled through the door. I didn't guzzle the vodka, but I felt the heartbreak of missed birthdays. I feel like I should weigh 500 pounds from all the “I'm sorry" chocolate donuts. I had to grow up quicker, but it made me into the person I am today.

addiction, coping, 12 step programs, recovery

Me and my dad.

Photo with permission from writer Ashley Tieperman.

I spent many years shouting into journals about why this was happening to me. But this is the thing that no one will tell you about loving someone who has an addiction: it will force you to see the world through different eyes.

Here are some things I've learned:

1. When your family's yelling about burnt toast, they're probably also yelling about something else.

My family yelled about everything — and nothing — to avoid the messy stuff. We all handled my dad's addiction differently. My brother devoured sports. My mom took bubble baths. I slammed doors and slammed boyfriends for not understanding my family's secrets.

Regardless of the preferred coping mechanism, everyone feels pain differently.

2. Your "knight in shining armor" can't fix this.

Boyfriends became my great escape when I was young. But when I expected them to rescue me from the pain I grew up with, it never worked out. No matter how strapping they looked galloping in on those white horses, they couldn't save me or fix anything.

In the end, I realized that I had to find healing on my own before I could build a strong relationship.

3. “Don't tell anyone" is a normal phase.

When my dad punched holes in the wall, my mom covered them up with artwork. I wanted to rip the artwork down to expose all the holes, especially as a bratty teenager. But eventually I realized that it wasn't my choice. My parents had bills to pay and jobs to keep. I've learned it's common to cover up for dysfunction in your family, especially when it feels like the world expects perfection.

4. Friends probably won't get it, but you'll need them anyway.

Bulldozed by broken promises, I remember collapsing on a friend's couch from the crippling pain of unmet expectations. I hyperventilated. Things felt uncontrollable and hopeless. My friend rubbed my back and just listened.

These are the kinds of friends I will keep forever, the ones who crawled down into the dark places with me and didn't make me get back up until I was ready.

5. You can't fix addiction, but you can help.

When I was a teenager, I called a family meeting. I started by playing a Switchfoot song: “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?"

Let's skip to the punchline: It didn't work.

It wasn't just me. Nothing anyone did worked. My dad had to lose a lot — mostly himself — before he hit that place they call “rock bottom." And, in all honesty, I hate that label because “rock bottom" isn't just a one-and-done kind of place.

What can you do while you wait for someone to actually want to get help? Sometimes, you just wait. And you hope. And you pray. And you love. And you mostly just wait.

6. Recovery is awkward.

When a counselor gave me scripted lines to follow if my dad relapsed, I wanted to shred those “1-2-3 easy steps" into a million pieces.

For me, there was nothing easy about my dad's recovery. My whole family had to learn steps to a new dance when my dad went into recovery. The healing dance felt like shuffling and awkwardly stepping on toes. It was uncomfortable; new words, like trust and respect, take time to sink in. And that awkwardness is also OK.

7. I still can't talk about addiction in the past tense.

Nothing about an addict's life happens linearly. I learned that early on. My dad cycled through 12-step programs again and again, to the point where I just wanted to hurl whenever anyone tried to talk about it. And then we finally reached a point where it felt like recovery stuck.

But even now, I'll never say, “My dad used to deal with addiction." My whole family continues to wrestle with the highs and lows of life with an addict every single day.

8. Happy hours and wedding receptions aren't easy to attend.

My family will also probably never clink glasses of red wine or stock the fridge full of beer. I'm convinced happy hours and wedding receptions will get easier, but they might not. People get offended when my dad orders a Diet Coke instead of their fine whisky.

Plus, there's the paranoia factor. Surrounded by flowing liquor, I hate watching my dad crawl out of his skin, tempted to look “normal" and tackle small talk with people we barely know. I've learned that this fear will probably last for a while, and it's because I care.

9. If you close your eyes, the world doesn't just “get prettier."

With constant fear of the unknown, sometimes our world is not a pretty place. I remember watching the breaking news on 9/11 and feeling the terror of the planes crashing into the Twin Towers as if I was there.

My dad numbed the anxiety of these dark days with vodka, but this didn't paint a prettier world for him when he woke up the next day. I've dealt with the fear of the unknown with the help of boys, booze, and bad dancing on pool tables. Life hurts for everyone, and I think we all have to decide how we're going to handle the darkness.

10. Rip off the sign on your back that reads: “KICK ME. MY LIFE SUCKS."

Sometimes I look in the mirror and I see only my broken journey. In some twisted way, I'm comforted by the dysfunction because it's kept me company for so long. It's easy to let the shadow of my family's past follow me around and choose to drown in the darkness.

But every day, I'm learning to turn on the light. I have to write the next chapter in my recovery story, but I can't climb that mountain with all this crap weighing me down.

11. It's OK to forgive, too.

Some people have given me sucky advice about how I should write an anthem on daddy bashing, or how to hit the delete button on the things that shaped my story.

Instead, my dad and I are both learning to celebrate the little things, like the day that he could change my flat tire. On that day, I didn't have to wonder if he was too drunk to come help me.

I can't forget all the dark nights of my childhood.

But I've learned that for my own well-being, I can't harbor bitterness until I explode.

Instead, I can love my dad, day by day, and learn to trust in the New Dad — the one with clearer eyes and a full heart. The one who rescues me when I call.


This article was written by Ashley Tieperman and originally appeared on 04.27.16

via caitlinfladger / Instagram

Over the past decade or so "mommy wine" culture has blown up thanks to social media and family lifestyle bloggers. These days, mothers who sip wine to cope with the stress of parenting are celebrated instead of chastised.

You can see it everywhere from wine cups that say "mommy fuel" and films that celebrate mothers who imbibe such as 2016's "Bad Moms."


One of the reasons that drinking wine is socially acceptable for parents is that it's viewed as a classier drink than say, vodka or tequila. The same can be said for dads who drink craft beer instead of having a glass of Jack Daniels or knocking back a six-pack of Coors Light while watching the kids.

But if wine is okay for mothers, why isn't marijuana?

RELATED: The story behind this viral photo shows why mom-shaming needs to stop

Caitlin Fladager, a 25-year-old social media influencer and mother-of-two, is earning praise from fellow mothers on Instagram by taking a bold stance on a taboo topic. She believes that marijuana should be just as acceptable for mothers as a glass of wine.

Fladager lives in British Columbia, Canada where marijuana is legal for recreational use.

She promoted the idea in an Instagram post where she posed sparking a doobie by a letter board that reads: "Mom truth: Weed should be just as acceptable as a glass of wine."

View this post on Instagram
Yes, I have two kids. Yes, I smoke weed daily. ⁣ ⁣ It's so funny to my how frowned upon marijuana is. No one looks twice when a mom says she enjoys “mom juice" aka wine, after her kids are in bed. But when a mom says she smokes weed, it's a huge shock. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I talk about this to bring awareness. I feel as not enough people talk about this. Marijuana has helped me so much, especially when it comes to being a mom. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ I have never been the most patient with my two kids. Weed makes me a better mom, as I get a good night sleep after I smoke. I wake up well rested, and with a more clear mind. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's okay to smoke weed after your kids go to bed. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's okay to smoke it to help with anxiety. Mine has been SO much better since I started smoking. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's okay to smoke it to gain weight. I've always been dangerously underweight. Now, I am at the healthiest weight I have ever been in my life. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's okay to smoke it, to help you get off medication. I was able to completely stop my anti depressants because smoking helped me so much. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's okay to smoke instead of drink. I used to have a problem with drinking, and my behaviour that came along with that. Weed has helped me to stop drinking so much, and to be honest, I much prefer smoking over drinking. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ Marijuana is my glass of wine. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's my can of beer. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ It's my relaxation time. ⁣⁣ ⁣⁣ You can still be a kick ass mom, and smoke weed.
A post shared by Caitlin Fladager (@caitlinfladager) on Nov 11, 2019 at 6:15pm PST

The photo came with a comment where she further explained her thoughts.

Yes, I have two kids. Yes, I smoke weed daily. ⁣

⁣It's so funny to my how frowned upon marijuana is. No one looks twice when a mom says she enjoys "mom juice" aka wine, after her kids are in bed. But when a mom says she smokes weed, it's a huge shock. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣I talk about this to bring awareness. I feel as not enough people talk about this. Marijuana has helped me so much, especially when it comes to being a mom. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣I have never been the most patient with my two kids. Weed makes me a better mom, as I get a good night sleep after I smoke. I wake up well rested, and with a more clear mind. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's okay to smoke weed after your kids go to bed. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's okay to smoke it to help with anxiety. Mine has been SO much better since I started smoking. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's okay to smoke it to gain weight. I've always been dangerously underweight. Now, I am at the healthiest weight I have ever been in my life. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's okay to smoke it, to help you get off medication. I was able to completely stop my anti depressants because smoking helped me so much. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's okay to smoke instead of drink. I used to have a problem with drinking, and my behaviour that came along with that. Weed has helped me to stop drinking so much, and to be honest, I much prefer smoking over drinking. ⁣⁣
⁣⁣Marijuana is my glass of wine. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's my can of beer. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣It's my relaxation time. ⁣⁣

⁣⁣You can still be a kick ass mom, and smoke weed.

Fladger decided to come out in support of mothers who smoke pot after discussing the topic with other parents.

"I talk about my smoking openly and I recommend it when someone mentions they're stressed," she told Yahoo Lifestyle. "Younger parents usually have no problem with it, but some tell me that I have a drug problem and that marijuana is a gateway drug."

Fladger became a regular pot smoker after trying various antidepressants and mood stabilizers to treat her anxiety before realizing that marijuana worked best. She smokes it on a regular basis but never in front of her children.

"I don't get behind the wheel after I smoke," Fladager tells Yahoo Lifestyle, "and I'm not zoned out on the couch with snacks, either."

RELATED: Exhausted mom posts letter begging husband for help and every parent should read it

Her post inspired passionate and overwhelmingly positive responses on Instagram.



Being intoxicated around children is never a good idea. But for mothers who'd like to catch a buzz and relax after their kids go to sleep, marijuana is healthier than wine.

Alcohol is much more addictive than marijuana and more deadly as well. In 2014, alcohol accounted for around 90,000 deaths. Meanwhile, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana accounted for zero.

In the end, being a parent is stressful and we shouldn't judge mothers who take a glass of wine or a hit of weed to unwind after a tough day of parenting. The real focus should be making sure that parents do so with the safety of their children and themselves as their top priority.

More

Read one woman's heartfelt letter to her father, an addict, on Father's Day.

I never thought I’d get a wedding dance with my alcoholic father. But after more than 20 years, I’m letting myself dream.

True
Fathers Everywhere

Dear Dad,

Lately, I’ve felt like Katherine Heigl in "27 Dresses" — closets overflowing with bridesmaids dresses, and weddings every month.

But as I stand next to my best friends at their weddings, I’m rarely watching the bride. Instead, I love to watch the father of the bride walk his little girl down the aisle to give her away.


Honestly, Dad, for so many years I wasn’t sure we would ever have that moment together.

Growing up as the daughter of an addict, I felt too afraid to invite you to big events because I thought you’d show up three sheets to the wind and forget the alphabet.

Me and my dad. All photos here from me, used with permission.

In that moment when everyone stands on their tiptoes to catch a glimpse of the bride and her father, I used to hold my breath and sometimes turn away.

Like turning my head when a nurse draws blood, I couldn’t stomach watching their pure joy. I guess it’s pretty textbook “Alcoholic Father,” but I pictured you divorced and passed out on a couch in some crappy apartment with an address I would refuse to write on an invitation. In my imagination, I would resort to walking myself down the aisle. Alone.

Now that you’re sober, I like to watch those dads walk their daughters down the aisle because I know we will have our moment.

I know you’ll be there. I cry when I watch my friends dance with their “Daddy” in the father-daughter dance, but mostly I smile with the excited kind of butterflies. I can’t wait for our dance.

For so long, I never let myself dream of you sober on my wedding day, but now I can give myself permission.

You’ll hold me close and whisper something in my ear like, “You’ll always be my little girl” before we swallow those lumps and embrace the ugly cry.

You’ll lift my lacy white veil from my face and kiss me goodbye. We will dance to our song, "Butterfly Kisses," and I’ll get to remind you of how proud I am — how proud I am that all of you will be there to give me away on my big day.

I know it’s usually the father saying to his daughter, “I’m so proud of who you’ve become.”

But, on Father’s Day this year, and at my wedding someday, I’ll say it to you: Dad, I’m so proud of the man you’ve become. You’ve devoted your entire life to recovery. You fought to keep your family. You showed us the strength and determination we knew you had buried inside of you.

Please forgive me for taking a while to learn how to trust you again.

I’ve never known this kind of love that drives out fear. For a lot of years, I couldn’t come to you for advice or help, and it might take some time to accept this joy that steals my heart away.

Every night, I pray that your sobriety will stick around. I know it’s an ongoing journey that we’ll both keep stumbling down. There are a lot of people out there who are going through the same struggle.

Let’s show the people still stuck in the darkest pits of addiction that there’s actually hope for a beautiful future. We know it isn’t easy, but it’s possible.

There’s something else I want to say, before the day is done: I’m sorry, Dad.

I’m sorry for all the years that I wished Mom would just sign those divorce papers. I even wrote a book called “Closing the Door.” But I just didn’t see any way out.

It felt like life played some kind of sick "Groundhog Day" joke where we kept waking up to the same dark day over and over again. I forgot how to breathe.

Somehow, we all stuck together as a family and learned, eventually, how to set a dinner table for four.

So when the time comes for you to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day, I’m thankful you’ll get to sit with Mom in the front row.

You’ve taught me what true love looks like, fighting through all the fumbling and touchdown moments of marriage.

You’ve shown me exactly what it means to uphold your wedding vows: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

I vow to keep learning to love you through the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful moments of being your daughter. And I can’t wait for that DJ to announce: “Please turn your attention to the center of the dance floor. The bride and her father will now have their special dance.”

Love always,

Ashley

More

9 more things people don't tell you about loving an alcoholic.

We're all in this fight together. You are not alone.

It seems like almost everyone has had some experience navigating the complicated waters of loving an addict.

Previously, I shared my story about growing up with an alcoholic parent. I confessed that I grew up as a child of an addict, and I shared a lot of honest and raw details about my life.


Me and my dad.

And when we shared the story with Upworthy readers, my inbox flooded with messages of people saying, “Me too.”

I couldn’t believe how many people related to my story. It’s like we gave people permission to start talking about secrets they’ve held in for years.

So I reached out to the daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and people who boldly shared their stories with me. I asked these people to share their truths — mostly unspoken before now — and to tell their stories about loving an addict.

Here's what they told me:

1. “I always felt [like] finding love outside my home would fix what was broken inside of it ... and it never did.”

Samantha told me about the time her mom tried to put a ponytail in her hair when she was in fifth grade. But her mom was too hungover to make it work. On that day, Samantha decided she didn’t need her mom anymore, and she clung to this mentality until she was 19 years old.

Instead, Samantha turned to friends and boyfriends to try to fix her broken idea of home. But they could never replace the love she needed from her mom. Samantha’s mom eventually decided to get help, but Samantha had to work through a lot of the anger she harbored toward her mom too.

Today, Samantha said: “I’ve since turned my relationship with my mom into something worth holding onto.”

2. “I’m still stuck in the ‘Don’t tell anyone’ phase.”

One reader, who asked to remain anonymous, said her family is still in the phase where they hide the dark secrets in their home. She said there’s only one place where she can talk about the truth: her diary.

As a "highly functional drunk,” her dad has held the same job for more than 45 years without anyone knowing his struggles. The disease has also been passed down, and now her siblings are racking up violations for driving while intoxicated. She desperately wants to understand how alcohol has so much power and control over her family.

3. Some people don't make it out of addiction.

I can’t give credit to just one person for sharing this devastating story because so many people shared this with me. I heard about many parents who battled for years with alcoholism and never recovered, leaving behind sons and daughters. It isn’t fair, that’s for sure.

Many of these courageous people are now trying to forgive their parents, even after they've passed away. These children are walking their own paths of recovery.

4. “I went to prison because of my addiction.”

Summer is an addict who is proud to share that she is now in recovery. At the age of 27, Summer went to prison for two and a half years after more than a decade of battling addiction. Once released, a caring probation officer helped her enter a treatment program.


Summer as a child. She started struggling with addiction when she was 14. Photo used with permission.

“I still have fears and doubts that I can make it through recovery and not relapse,” said Summer. “It’s a lifelong process that I’m learning each day.”

Summer is now a working mother, also studying to be a substance abuse counselor. New friends in recovery became family too, helping Summer find a new way of life. “They loved me until I learned to love myself.”

5. “I’m afraid that I’ll become an alcoholic and ruin my kids’ lives.”

As a 10-year-old little girl, Melissa thought her parents' drinking was all her fault. Then, she became a parent herself and felt all of the “what ifs” piling on.

Melissa said she often asks herself: “What if I drink? What if I can't control it? What if I end up making my kids feel like I used to?”

For Melissa, this is an ongoing battle. She has found support through therapy, which is helping her realize she isn’t to blame for her parents’ behaviors.

6. “My dad was an abusive alcoholic for years and it's still difficult.”

Rachel and her dad. Photo used with permission.

After years of living with an abusive alcoholic father, Rachel was left burdened with many issues. She told me she wants to find the words to explain how she feels after all these years, but it’s a struggle every day.

7. “My family’s recovery feels far away.”

“My mom is an alcoholic, but sadly is a long way from any sort of recovery,” said Dave.

Dave has loved his mother through all the difficult steps, like visiting many counselors and therapists for help. And as of today, as with many people I heard from, he says nothing has worked. He’s still waiting for the day when his mom will find her way to sobriety.

8. “I’m getting ready to marry into a family with addiction that keeps repeating itself through many generations, and it’s scary.”

Grace’s fiancé’s family struggles with generations of addiction. Her fiancé’s mother grew up with a violent alcoholic father, and Grace has had a hard time accepting how she can still love a man after he’s caused so much pain.

The disease has now been passed down to her fiancé’s immediate siblings. Grace said she’s still trying to grasp the depths of the impacts on a family for so many generations.

“We just have to try our best and accept that people will make mistakes,” said Grace.

9. “I became the recipient of my dad’s rage. For years, I felt like I was always walking on eggshells.”

Ashley’s father made numbing his pain a priority, causing Ashley to view the world through a very dark, untrusting lens. And now, although Ashley’s father has been in recovery for 10 years, she has had to come face-to-face with her own lifelong journey toward recovery too.


Ashley and her dad. Photo provided by Ashley, used with permission.

“I have to work a strong recovery program of my own so I do not continue to pass on the dysfunction and trauma to future generations of my family.”

Ashley recognizes that she learned to cope in dysfunctional ways, as she desperately fought for years for the love and approval of her father. But she says she’s bouncing back, learning to set boundaries and gain back her confidence.

The next time you think you’re alone in learning to love an addict, think again.

We’re all in this fight together. You are not alone.