Social Question

JLeslie's avatar

Would you say something to the children of an alcoholic?

Asked by JLeslie (61075points) December 29th, 2018 from iPhone

Here are two scenarios.

I had neighbors who my husband and I loved. We became friends with them, and got to know their adult children. One day, I don’t remember the situation exactly, but I was talking careers and life with their daughter who was graduating and thinking of maybe doing a masters. We talked and at one point I mentioned briefly to start saving money young and I told her ”don’t ever drink.” Not a lecture, but I said it in passing, those three words, in a serious tone. She gave me a look, not angry, but like she knew I knew her parents drink too much. I also tied it into how expensive alcohol is.

Last night I went to a gathering for a dear friend since elementary school who just died. 51 years old, I’m pretty upset about it, she was an alcoholic for many years. I don’t know if she was dry the last 5 years, but she had been dry for at least a few years before that. My guess is she was still not drinking.

I was talking to one of her daughters who was excited to tell me about her major, shed very smart and likes college, and the other person in the conversation was her mom’s old college roommate. Her roommate starts talking about (with a smile) how my girlfriend could drink a six of beer, barely study, wake up the next morning and ace a test. WTF?! I was so mad. I wanted to say at minimum, “don’t ever drink,” to her daughter, but I couldn’t. Not then, her mom just died from liver disease and kidney failure. Her girlfriend was recalling memories with fondness.

Note that all of these children I’m sure have had some horrible times dealing with their alcoholic parents. It’s not like they don’t know alcohol can be bad, but they are from drinking extended families, and so also drinking is “normal” like brushing your teeth in the morning.

Do you ever make a point to say something to the children of alcoholics? Any warning?

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41 Answers

seawulf575's avatar

We have had dealings twice now with parents who were alcoholics. Now, the children we were dealing with were teens. Friends of our kids. The thing we did was to be there for them. When they wanted to get away, they could come to our house. No questions, no big discussions…just a safe haven to get away from their stress and worries. We didn’t talk much to them about their parents other than to say that if they ever needed to get away or to talk to someone about it, we were there. In both cases, the girls turned out great.
The children of alcoholics recognize the problems. They know what alcoholism has done to their family. Warning them about it really isn’t necessary. The other thing to consider is how you would come off. Pompous and arrogant? If you are saying something now, why didn’t you say something to the parents? That you are running down their parents (who they likely still love)? You could inadvertently shut down lines of communication. If you say anything, keep it extremely simple. For example, in conversation with one of the daughters whose parent had just died, if the topic of their parent that died comes up, saying that you wish you had pushed harder to stop their drinking might be appropriate. One sentence. It doesn’t come off as a lecture, but it sends the subtle message that alcoholism was the cause.

canidmajor's avatar

Unless you are the ACOA yourself, or have a sibling who is an alcoholic, or are in recovery yourself, or are very close to the person yourself and are part of a planned intervention, don’t say anything. Don’t think the kids don’t know how they’re parents were.

They will simply be annoyed.

JLeslie's avatar

@seawulf575 I am not talking about the parents, I’m talking about the children.

Many children of alcoholics never touch the stuff, but many of them become alcoholics themselves. All my friends who are alcoholics had an alcoholic parent or parents, and dealt with some horrible crap because of it. Also, I know a lot of people who have no idea there are people who don’t drink who aren’t alcoholics. They don’t even realize there are adults like that, because alcoholics surround themselves with alcoholics.

I didn’t say anything to my friend’s daughter, as I said above, because of the timing.

@canidmajor I am not talking about the parents. I never said anything about the parents, I never have. I tell ALL young people not to drink if I’m in a conversation with them about future and career and finances. It’s just when it’s a child of an alcoholic it can be more complicated if the young adult knows I know the parents.

Do you mean no matter how I might word it the person will take it as an attack on their parents?

canidmajor's avatar

I mean that telling people not to drink is a social sore spot and, unless it is part of the conversation that you also mention not to eat meals out, or impulse shop for clothes or electronics, it will just sound rude and judgmental.

And if you say this to the children of alcoholics, no matter how removed from the parents you think the conversation is, you are talking about their parents.

flutherother's avatar

Drinking alcohol is a sensitive subject for the children of alcoholics. They probably understand the devastation alcohol can cause better than you do. Warning them about drinking is superfluous and perhaps might be seen as insulting, certainly insensitive, even if well meant. You can show concern in more subtle ways that bluntly saying “don’t ever drink”.

gondwanalon's avatar

My Father died from leukemia when I was 4. My Mother married 4 more times. All my step dads were alcoholics and they all died young. I’m 68 now and have never drank alcohol.

Of course I recommend to all young people who ask me for advice to lay off the alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Young adults who are prone to drink are irritated by your arrogance. Those who are NOT prone to drink don’t want to hear it because they don’t need some old busy body telling them what to do!!! Your advice is WASTED at best & should be kept to yourself. I understand that you mean it from a good place in your heart; but young people don’t understand that just yet…they have to learn things the hard way!!!

Children of alcoholics are particularly vulnerable to your comments. They know first hand what living with an alcoholic is like. Still they loved their alcoholic parents & don’t want anyone saying anything bad about them…even IF they are thinking it themselves. The guy I dated all through high school had a chronic alcoholic for a dad. Dad abused the wife & ALL 4 kids. They ALL hated him with a passion!!! The oldest son won’t let alcohol pass his lips. The youngest is strictly a social drinker. The middle son is a chronic alcoholic. Now that dad has been dead for over 50 years, they will ALL knock your block off for badmouthing their dad!!! They ALL grew up in the same situation; yet, each chose a different path when it came to drinking.

The young adults who grew up with alcoholic parents are well aware that there are people out there who don’t drink. They have friends who don’t drink & who have parents who don’t drink. They don’t want you pointing out to them that they grew up in a disfunctional household although they know it is true!!!

I don’t think that there’s a good time to tell anyone not to drink because I don’t see it as any of your business. Even more, saying something at the funeral is just plain tacky!!!

KNOWITALL's avatar

No, if they are children of alcoholics they usually see stuff their whole lives that should deter them. I know I did.

Some are just like their parents, some choose to do the opposite, but they know.

Jeruba's avatar

That would be like seeing me limping with a cane and remarking, “You should get that fixed.” Right, thank you for noticing.

I would mind my own business, as I would wish others to do for me; but if I were to say any word, it would be “Alateen.”

KNOWITALL's avatar

@seawulf Just read your comment and want to say thank you for that. My friends families helped save me. When mom had ragers, I left. When drunks I didnt know were staying the night, I left. Being a safe space and not ragging on my moms bad choices was exactly what I needed. Plus seeing a normal household was very stabilizing, showed me I could choose a different life as an adult.

Unofficial_Member's avatar

In the first scenario, it’s likely that she has realized that you suddenly turn in to someone who patronize her. She can easily think that “alcohol is expensive” comment is a makeshift excuse intended to lessen the outcome giving her the harsh information. Let’s be real, how much beer and vodka cost in general? Pretty affordable, I think. Be a supportive friend that only act as a bystander (unless you’re asked for help), don’t act like her parents.

In the second scenario, it’s most likely that this person who spoke of such a thing only did that for the sake of making funny reminsching of the departed, which is very commonly done to help cheer up those who are still stricken with sorrow after the funeral. I won’t interject myself in the situation by being serious and sound like I’ll be patronizing this girl in the wrong moment, she’s probably still grieving from her loss and that won’t help very much. Trust this girl and tell her that she’s a smart person who knows what’s best for herself. Just because she heard someone making claim/light joke about something doesn’t mean that she’ll blindly follow it. There are always more than one ways to convey an advice/life lesson to someone, sometimes it’s not even as necessary as we think to do so.

If I know someone is alcoholic I won’t force them to stop, that’ll produce hatred from them. I’ll tell them to be a responsible alcoholic (it’s good to drink, but in moderation) and that they owe other people and themselves the safety that they deserve (by not driving and being violence under influence). I’ll also tell them that it’s much better to become a fancy-alcoholics and choose something that is alcoholic and beneficial at the same time such as wine. Wine has many benefits, not to mention that being very experienced in the way and taste of wine will make someone appear as a sophisticated, wine sommelier kind of person.

janbb's avatar

When all of Fluther is giving the same advice, it’s time to listen.

seawulf575's avatar

@JLeslie I understand you are talking about the children. Reread my answer…it is all about dealing with the kids.

raum's avatar

They grew up with it. They understand the devastation firsthand. There’s no need to state the obvious.

The path they choose won’t be affected by an offhand comment by an acquaintance. If you want to be supportive, be there for them without the judgement. Especially during such a vulnerable time.

JLeslie's avatar

I appreciate everyone’s answers.

I still feel like most of you didn’t read in my Q that I said nothing in any way about the alcoholism last night. I think everyone there knew she died from her alcoholism, I certainly wasn’t going to say anything to even touch on the topic at a gathering to honor her. I wrote up my memories of her for her children, the fun times we had, stories her children had never heard from when she was a young girl and teen. I loved her. I’m not judging her, I’m very sad for her. I’m very sad that I’ve lost her.

After reading the answers, I do understand more how children of alcoholics will respond, how they will feel, it’s very helpful.

However, I have to say that in my lifetime random adults with more experience than me have sometimes said things to me that might have rubbed me the wrong way or felt judgmental or hurtful or like worthless advice, but later I saw they knew what they were talking about and it was helpful.

I don’t just tell people not to drink out if the blue everywhere I go. Like I said, it’s usually when someone brings up the topic with me. They see me not drinking and ask why. Or, if it’s someone very young, they might see my Porsche and say they want one, and I tell them don’t be in a rush, save, live below your means, wait until you can really afford it, don’t buy Starbucks, don’t pay for manicures, don’t drink don’t smoke.

@Unofficial_Member I completely disagree with your statement about the cost of alcohol. A beer is easily $6 at a restaurant and a mixed drink $7—$14. It’s wildly expensive over time if you drink regularly. It easily doubles a bill at a restaurant. Even only drinking at home adds up fast. If you make plenty of money then fine, but most young people don’t, and so then they are never saving. They never get ahead of the curve. I once asked a Q about how much jellies spend on alcohol in a year. It’s in the thousands, especially over years. People spend their money how they like though. I probably spend on things others wouldn’t. My point is only to be aware of how it does add up and make your decision.

@KNOWITALL Did you have people around you who didn’t drink when you were growing up?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Yes. My grandmother, one uncle, church family. And my friends parents, of course.

canidmajor's avatar

Good grief, @JLeslie, your entire Q was about children of alcoholics. Both examples in your details are about children of alcoholics.
If you mention alcohol to a child of an alcoholic it isn’t taken independently of the context of an alcoholic parent.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I just have come across so many people who are surprised some people don’t drink. Or, who assume people who don’t drink are alcoholics. I’m not assuming every child of alcoholic parents doesn’t have non-drinkers around them, but it seems to me common that people (in general) think adults drink, and if they don’t it’s for a reason. Like, maybe your reason is because your parents were alcoholics. I’m not trying to assume it’s your only reason.

JLeslie's avatar

@canidmajor Well, my first response to you was I say it to ALL young people when the topic comes up about alcohol or saving money and planning for the future. ALL. Just like I tell ALL young people don’t spend $3 on coffee and $60 on a mani-pedi. I have no idea if some of these people drink or not or if their parents do or if they drink caffeine, they might be no mood altering Mormons for all I know. It’s just said as part of the conversation, I’ve said the same things on Q’s on fluther.

I’ve maybe said it to a handful of people in my 30 years of adulthood. It’s not a regular thing. Gawd.

I flipping thanked all the jellies here for all their answers. She has been my friend for 40 years, I have always supported her, now have a little fucking sympathy for my grieving and ease up.

Fine if you think never mention alcohol to the child of an alcoholic, but also I’d say never encourage them to think drinking to excess is funny. That’s what rubbed me the wrong way. Why was alcohol mentioned at all?! And why mentioned like it was funny and amazing she could drink like a fish and still take an exam the next day. That’s what rubbed me the wrong way. Her daughter and I ignored it and moved the conversation forward. Her daughter was happily telling me about her class work and her own thing.

@LadyMarissa I said NOTHING about alcohol last night at the gathering for her, it was her college friend. I think it was insensitive for her to bring up that story about her in front of her daughter. It isn’t funny or lighthearted. My girlfriend was horrible when she was drink. I spent a night with her throwing up all over, literally, a hotel room we shared. She was out of control, and my guess is her daughters know very well. She lost custody of them for a time. I don’t remember if I mentioned that already. I have been her friend throughout.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I dont drink much because of several reasons, and I dont really enjoy being around very drunk people. Much of it is because drunks get loud, crazy and do bad things then blame the alcohol. I dont like the spins or sickness.

Most often now, in my 40’s, I am DD. And I’m good with that. If I indulge, its a beeror glass of wine, or good Irish whiskey. I just dont care for the taste often. I am definately not an alcoholic, and very few people know how much disdain I have for drunks. It should be compassion, I’m sure, but theres too much fear of the out of control people for me. I’ve seen way too much too young. Society does not acknowledge the horrors enough imo.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie And I also always vote yes for additional OT for checkpoints on holidays, too.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Welcome. If you want to help the kids, help the parents see what they put the kids through.

mazingerz88's avatar

After reading the OP’s post…wtf, say something to these kids, please.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL In the case of my girlfriend who died, the kids are both in college and doing well (barring the possible emotional crash I think they will go through once their mother’s passing really starts to set in). Their dad was always around, but not extremely interested in having to take care of them once he divorced their mom. Actually, before the divorce he didn’t really help much with the children, but he is still their dad of course, and I know he loves them and I’m sure he’s worried about them now that their mom died. He said to me, “I think the girls are still in some shock and denial.” From what I know he is a casual drinker, I don’t think he is an alcoholic. Not that I know of anyway.

I felt like the girls were very happy to hear the stories about their mom, and especially one of them was very happy telling my husband and I about her studies, and my husband made some career suggestions that she had thought of already and she seemed to really like that. Neither of her parents had experience in her interests, but my husband knew quite a bit, and so the conversation was great and she was enthusiastic.

I friended them on Facebook and told them we only live a couple of hours away they can always call us if they need anything.

canidmajor's avatar

Oh, I get it. So the entire focus of children of alcoholics in the Q was an aside.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

@KNOWITALL…I am so sorry for what you went through. (((Hugs))).

Unofficial_Member's avatar

I don’t know alcoholic drink could cost like that in US, @JLeslie . Where Iive (and before alcoholic drinks got banned here), you can easily buy alcohol in convenience stores for affordable prices. We’re talking about some common, premium brand of beer/vodka here, not the fancy ones that you can order/custom made in a restaurant/bar. The cost can eventually accumulate if you drink non stop or become addicted and keep buying but from what I’ve seen in general people who buy these drinks have good self-control and financial consciousness. Our country also have our own version of popular alcohol, it’s called Tuak. Funny enough it’s not banned here due to its status as our country’s traditional heritage beverage. In the end you can always have excuses to drink alcohol despite law forbid it.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

To answer the question, I would not take it upon myself to comnent to other people’s children about the dangers of their parent’s bad habits be it drinking, smoking, overeating or what ever, unless they asked me. That was terribly presumptuous, insensitive and unwelcome, I’m sure.

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Pinguidchance's avatar

No. But I do wonder if there’s a moderator award for 10 in a row.

seawulf575's avatar

@Pinguidchance I don’t think so, but someone already got it if there is. There have been a couple of threads where the moderators were fed up, I think.

KNOWITALL's avatar

And this is in Social. Surprising. Many of us stopped flagging posts long ago.

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