A fellow blogger asked a question about the effects that alcoholism may have on her child. I can only relate what I experienced at an early age.
One of my earliest memories was of my father being brought home by the sheriff. He had been in a single car accident and broken his arm. There was no local hospital so the town doctor came to the house to set his arm. My father had been drinking and driving recklessly. I believe I knew at that moment that my dad had a problem, even though I was so young.
After that there were many other instances of his drinking. I felt each and every one and feared what would happen on his days off from work. It was as if a cloud hung over me. A cloud did hang over me, and it was called alcoholism. I wanted my father to be like how I saw other dads in the neighborhood--not angry, not morose, not slurring his words.
Although he was a functioning drinker and provided for us well, there was something about him that caused me to worry and made me ashamed. I became shy around others, minimized contact with him, wished that he would die, was ashamed to bring what friends I had home and developed a huge fear of failure by trying to be perfect.
I wanted order in my life. I thought that if I got great grades, made no trouble, and kept quiet around him that perhaps he would stop drinking. The tendrils of alcoholism had already wrapped around me as a child, shaping who I was to become later in life.
I wish that my mother had talked to me and explained what was going on. She was in denial about his problem. I think that if there had been one person I could have talked to about my fears, it would have helped. Instead, the fears were those I faced alone.
If you have a child who is around an alcoholic or addict, be assured that they do know something is "wrong". Talking to your child about alcoholism, offering reassurances, perhaps even counseling can help. Doing nothing and hoping that the elephant in the room is invisible is the worst thing and will hurt all involved.