Monday, September 28, 2009

There is something that bothers me

On Friday, I received an email from a member in Al-Anon. It included a letter from his 10 year old daughter to the mother who has had a difficult time staying sober. The man wrote that he wanted to share what the daughter had written to the mother who is currently in rehab.

I don't feel good about posting large excerpts from her letter. But in the letter, the daughter said that her dad had told her that her mom was going to kill herself. She explains that it felt "like a bomb hit her heart". She goes on to write that she has spent months wondering where her mother is, wondering why her mom stole from her, and why her mom can't stay sober.

The daughter writes that she can't relate to anyone at school because she can't tell anyone how she feels. She can't forgive her mother for the lies, lies to her and to her father. She writes of her sadness that she doesn't have a mom who can brush her hair.

Her admonition in the letter is that the behavior around alcohol makes her father sad. He cries at times. The child asks, "Do you want to do this to your husband? What happened to the person you were?"

Finally, the letter ends with the daughter expressing love for her mom, but that she doesn't want to communicate anymore if alcohol is chosen over her and her father.

This is obviously a letter filled with pain. The picture that I got from this is one in which the daughter is angry, sad, and disturbed. I wrote back to the husband who I know from meetings. I wrote that it seems that the daughter would benefit from working with an Alateen sponsor. There is an informative pamphlet for Alateen - I think it is "If your parents drink too much?"

What I find really sad is that the daughter feels that she needs to be a buffer between the mom and dad. This is so typical of a child trapped in an alcoholic/dysfunctional home. Somehow, the child needs help to see that her mother has a miserable disease that no one can control or cure, except for her.

I decided that I would keep the family in a special spot in my God box. It takes time to believe in the first three steps but a keen awareness of the presence of a Higher Power helps me to get through the tough stuff. Sometimes He just lets things stew - then He steps in and cleans house.

I think that there were a couple of things besides the pain that bothered me. The first was that I don't know how wise it is for the 10 year old to be told that her mother tried to kill herself. There are just some things that seem too harsh to reveal. Maybe that is just my fear surfacing, but it felt as if the child was a pawn in the family duel.

I also have come to realize that I had to quit blaming the alcoholic for everything. That's where Alateen would have helped me so many years ago. I'm hoping that somehow this family will begin to heal.


  1. That's so sad, Syd. I hope they will heal and find some peace as well.



  2. That is such a sad post, sad picture, sad letter, sad everything. I pray the child, and thousands of others like her, get what they need to lift their burden a bit. We see the adult faces of children like this at Alanon every meeting.

  3. That's awful on so many levels. It sounds as if the Father is using the daughter as a confidant and friend. I find that creepy.
    I hope that the father is telling her that this behavior from her mother has nothing to do with her (the girl) what so ever.
    For me, I always told my children that their father loved them and that alot of his sadness and lies was because he was ashamed he could not seem to be the father they needed or the one he wanted to be. Of course, I had no way of knowing if that was the right thing to do, but it felt right for me and my family.

  4. this photo tells all. It is so sad., my cheeks were being washed with the tears flowing my eyes reading this. One part where she misses her mom combing her hair, not being able to have friends at school. This is toomuch for a 10 year old to carry, the burden is to great. I do not agree the father should have told her that her mom is going to kill herself. I think that was his way of getting out his anger , not so good way to explain her mom's disease to the child. I hope she finds help so needed. someone that could be as understanding as YOU

    We wish and pray for all 3 of them.

    I love your God box!!

  5. Very sad post Syd. I work in the court system and see young kids in the middle of divorce all the time, especially when addiction is involved. It is a terrible place for a child to be, feeling so responsible and abandoned at the same time. I pray she gets the help she needs to ensure her future is a more positive place to be.

  6. Syd, This hits me close. I lost my mother at 8 years young. Had people made me and my 10 siblings aware that alcohol was controlling my father's behaviour, maybe we could have done something. Maybe not. But I always, I mean always, feel it's better to be brutal honest but appropriate for the age of the person you are speaking to.

    I think it's quite appropriate to say to a child, "honey, I have fear that the alcohol will kill your mommy". Not just blurt out she will die. Be gentle, but be honest.

    At 8 years young I know the turmoil in my parents marriage. I knew how it affected me when my father showed up at my school with his hand looking like it went through a meat slicer (otherwise known as mom) and how he stood and lied to me at such a young age about what happened. Truth would've sufficed and probably would've helped me on in years. Instead, there are still parts of my past i'm trying to make peace with.

    Gentle but honest. Always.

    I feel YOUR pain in this post. Loving hugs. Tammy

  7. I know that had it been me as the parent, it would appear that I am still trying to use manipulation to "guilt" the drinker into quitting by having my child write a letter that seems to include some pretty grown up language. That is how I read this. And you are takes honesty, time and sometimes stewing in pain before we are ready. I will keep them in my GodBox as well.


  8. I feel much sorrow for all involved in this situation. I hate this thing. It is the most treatable fatal illness on the planet and, well...

    Anyway, I don't want to judge anyone around this since I'm not there and I've made my share of mistakes. I see kids of all ages act better and with more maturity than their parents but we all know that there is a price that seems completely unreasonable.

    I'm not God.

    Thank you for sharing this and best of wishes around showing up for this family as an example of the possibility of recovery - for all of them.

    Blessings and aloha.

  9. i know this little girl, she is my "A". only my "A" didn't have a father in her life, she had my mom and dad.
    i don't know what my parents told her when i was gone or when i would bring strange men home, but i know today she still feels the pain, distrust, fear, loneliness and anger that she did when she was 7 years old.
    we tried nara-teen and ala- teen but she would not even try.
    i know she is angry with her higher power and won't accept that my mother is gone. she won't accept death at all, last year she lost 3 class mates and would not go to one funeral and they were friends.
    weather he is using that letter and the child as a go between or not, if the child feels like this is what she wants to say to her mother, then it needs to be read to her mother.
    my "A" assumed the role of grown up a long time ago and still to this day is very much a child beyond her years.
    so this is sad and true and all i can do now is hope to not make the same mistake with my new babies. as i have a mirror image of what they will hurt like if i ever break this bond of trust i have with them. great and powerful post.

  10. God be with them.

    At 7 I already had a great deal of awareness about the reality of drinking and where it had begun to take my family. I don't think my parents could have sheltered me from the realities of alcoholism and the destruction that takes place.

    My step kids also know, as many do, the experience of a mom who can't stop and who instead spends her life in blame and erratic mood swings, in self-destructive behavior. They know the experience of a dad who separated himself from his family as he moved into self-destruction, and they now have the experience of a real relationship with a dad who is trying to live the principles in his life.

    Their mom is still seeking medical solutions and has so many health issues.. they have all struggled so much. Sadly those who work the program barely make a dent, happily that dent is a big one to each of us who keeps taking one sand dollar at a time and throws it back into the ocean ... We do make a difference for each person we touch, we support, we work with and love through the steps and program.

    And though the family devastation lives on through generations we see that we can make a difference, and that somehow arrests the dis-ease in us.

    God be with those who still struggle and suffer this dis-ease this horrible disease that robs people of the selfless knowing of a loving Father and Friend, of a Power to rise above the devastation and to find the Light in all situations!

  11. I'm with you Syd. That sounds like a damaging truth that was told to the daughter. Also, I agree that Alateen would be very helpful.

    It breaks my heart seeing how completely alcoholism has the power to destroy all that is good in the alcoholic and those around them.
    Thank God for Al-Anon and Alateen that can halt the destruction and bring healing.


  12. Oh God, Syd, this just breaks my heart. I will keep this family in my prayers.

    I'm with you. I don't think it was wise to tell the daughter about the mom trying to kill herself. That was unnecessary.

  13. Not knowing the realtionship between the mom and dad, it's hard to say what to do here. I think the mom NEEDS to know the pain she has caused her daughter. We become so self-absorbed in our own web of pain and self-pity, that we loose sight of the pain we are causing others by our drinking. Maybe not that letter, but something that expresses her feelings (not her dads) Very sad family story.

  14. Ah Syd you must know this hits close to my heart here...I am glad you posted this today.

    My oldest wont go to alateen - but has his own therapist he sees every week now - and we have our family meetings once a week to stay current with each other...

    The good news is that as we grow - we learn, but a program to teach her now would be so beneficial.

  15. Sounds like the dad needs to stick with Alanon. The letter started out OK. Everybody should be able to express how they feel. That seems to be the last thing stoned people care about. But, then it ended with the 10-year old declaring that she didn't want to see her mother if her mother didn't comply with the 10-year old's wish. We all can guess that won't happen. So, what's next for the little girl? She can't very well pack her bags. It's like a good idea gone bad.

  16. AA mtgs we often conclude by praying for "children caught in the crossfire". Your posting was an all too graphic example of WHO those children are.

  17. I think the family-mother, father, and daughter-all need counseling/therapy. I agree there are some grown up thoughts here, I really have to wonder if she came up with it all on her own.

    It sounds like more than Alateen is needed, at least therapy in addition to Alateen.

  18. I agree that the father should not have given such details to a young child. It was the first thing that hit me in attempting to stand in the child's shoes. The other thing was the dad allowing the child to see him "cry all the time". My dad had the disease and my mom told every discretion to us. She also cried in front of us a great seal blaming it on my dad. It's a double wound to the child. They don't feel secure with either parent. I've been there.

    Al-Anon would help the child.

  19. Thank you for this all-too-often-type story, Syd.

    It is SO sad.

    Peace (for the 10-year-old, especially.)

  20. I'm an AA, not an Alanon, but my family had dark secrets. Doors were slammed. Ferocity ruled. Parents would whip the tar out of us for the slightest things.
    I still don't know why I was chosen to be the black sheep. Therapy has helped.
    I threatened to run away all the time and did later in my teen years. I used drugs and drank, tried to off myself. Everyone threw up their hands and said Chris was a bad seed. No one but the One knew I was sexually abused in secret, and the shame this brought me.
    My hope is counseling for the child, extensive, down and dirty coumseling alone and with dad.
    And of course intervention by our Higher Power.

  21. Wow. I hope they begin to heal too. Only ten years old and all that heavy stuff to endure.

  22. Thanks Syd for this post. My mother would share inappropriate problems with me at a young age, I was robbed of my childhood. One favorite of my mothers was I am only staying with your father because of you children. I felt horrible for her and wanted to make up for all his alcoholic misgivings. What I am trying to say is I feel her father is sharing way too much with a young one...robbing her of a youthful way in the world. She should be thinking of stickers and colors not suicide and drinking.
    I will think of them tonight and send kind thoughts to the family.

  23. Alcoholism really is a family illness isn't it? I look back on my own family chaos and trauma with so much more compassion nmow I understand the madness.

  24. this breaks my heart... i hope she gets a chance. to heal herself. and that the family, too, get the same chance.

  25. WOW. There is NOTHING for me that hits harder than when reading/seeing/observing children in the diseased life.

    Since I am an ACOA, this post rang especially true to me.

    Right now this child doesn't understand that she can be separate from all of this because right now, she cannot, so you can see she is developing classic "i live in an addiction home behavior".

    The entire family can benefit from therapeutic intervention. I hope that they will ALL seek professional help, and help via a program.

    Please friends, don't damage our babies. They need gentleness in life, REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS. How is this reasonable to place such burden on a small child? I understand she may "seem mature", but that isn't so. She is trying to act like an adult because of the DISEASE. SHE REALLY WANTS PROTECTION from this pain.

    God, give this family...this FATHER...YOUR WISDOM.

  26. That whole thing just sounds so sick to me. I think they all need a lot of help. Being an alcoholic, I feel really horribly sorry for the drunk - wrong as she may be... she will be blamed forever more for every single thing. It is terrible abuse of the daughter for the father to encourage this.

  27. I pray that this girl finds the help she needs... so sad

  28. nah. that disclosure was not 'skilful'
    to say the least
    sounds like the dad isnt handling it all very well. he needs to find a better person to confide in before he decides on such a course of action.

    yeah alateen would help her. teaching her to pray would too. a simple non-judgmental 'god', nothing heavily doctrinal. that would be too complicated.

    has she got any sane in laws? a nice granny? auntie? If there is just ONE, thats a start. or else a sane neighbor/ friend of the family. perhaps a sane teacher?

    teaching her to write like she did in that letter is also very useful. the parent should keep her creative writing in a safe place so she still has em when she grows up.

    not having a mother to brush her hair, is typical 'motherless daughters' speech.
    there is a good book but she is too young to read it now.
    basically she needs surrogate healthy 'mothers' to relate to. if she finds em in al ateen then fair enough. but they coud just as easily be a teacher or female friend of the family.

    i hope she gets the help she needs. she needs to see that it is not her fault and she cannot 'fix' her parents. and that there are alternative 'good' women out there who will do their best to help her.

  29. This post has opened up my feelings once again....I have been told by a court that I can't tell my children about their father's addictions. But on the other hand an addiction counsellor says they should know so that they can understand why he behaves the way he does. It's such a hard and emotive subject, I struggle with understanding but children. It's hard to know whats for the best.

  30. As a parent even with my alcoholism, I found it important to shield and protect my daughter. I agree this bothered me too. The little girl is getting buffered between the two people in life she needs.

    The adults are old enough to find a way to heal...the child...should be allowed her childhood. There is time enough in life to learn the fallings of her parents later in life. (Hugs)Indigo


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