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February 24, 2021

Emotional baggage from a parent’s alcoholism can sometimes be a blessing in disguise

Baggage can sometimes get too heavy to carry alone. Image credit: Katy Warner, Flickr.

Confession time.

I carry around some heavy baggage.

But I don’t travel.

I have a few emotional suitcases stuffed with feelings about things that have happened to me, and unfortunately, lugging this crap around has had some negative effects on my behavior and attitudes.

I have issues.

You have issues.

We all have issues.

I’m well aware of the issues stuffed in my baggage, and for better or for worse, I claim them as my own. I don’t like them, but I have to admit they’re mine and do my best to work through them.

Despite my best efforts, there is one piece of baggage that still holds tremendous power of me. It’s a case crammed with the emotional debris of alcoholism.

I am the adult child of an alcoholic. My former stepfather was a passive-aggressive drunk who would verbally rip me to shreds when he was drinking.

Of course, everyone pretended his drinking was never a problem. He could handle his liquor, even when my 17-year-old self had to physically drag him home from a local bar. Drinking was such a non-issue that he brought beers to work in his lunch cooler. When perpetual six-packs became too expensive, he starting brewing his own.

To this day, the moment I notice alcohol or some other substance has changed a person’s behavior, I instantly feel angry, frustrated or scared. A physical burning sensation fills me from head to toe, and I shut down.

It doesn’t matter who’s overdone it – men, women, family members or friends. I become that 17-year-old girl with a nasty drunk dad again.

I hate it.

Sadly, my baggage still makes me judgmental and fearful, but there is a bright side. The same baggage has also protected me from becoming an alcoholic and made it possible for my children to grow up without the drama of an addicted parent.

Baggage can sometimes lead to blessings in disguise.

Maybe I’m ready to unstuff this one a little bit more.


2 Comments on Emotional baggage from a parent’s alcoholism can sometimes be a blessing in disguise

  1. My father would relate to you perfectly. He grew up with two alcoholic parents and told me many times he struggled to fall asleep to the lullaby of them beating the hell out of each other. He made a promise to himself that he would never become that type of parent, and he never did. The only time I’ve ever seen him drunk was when I was 31 and he and my mother had come to Poland for my wedding. And even then, it was a one-time affair.

  2. You hit the nail on the head! My dad was an alcoholic by way of vodka – anywhere from a pint a day to a fifth a day. His actions provided me with lots of baggage, but also with a strong resolve to never go down that road much less damage my children in that way. And yes, it has made me judgmental and fearful, but I accept and own that. One of the blessings has been the open honest conversations with my kids about alcoholism and family dynamics. You are right, blessings can come out of the baggage.

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