Adult Children of Alcoholic...does your childhood effect your career?

Nurses General Nursing

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  • by JVRB4
    Specializes in med surg.

I am an adult child of an alcoholic father. My mother never drank at all but was always stressed trying to "fix" everything.

I guess my family line up was something like this: Dad-usually drunk, rarely spent time with me/us but when he was sober he was great very loving, kind, giving etc.

Mom- stressed, very loving and would do anything for us, No sacrifice was too big for her kids (she is still that way), she worked ALL the time either at a job or at home

My Brother- he worked hard as a kid then during the high school years he stayed in trouble (grades, staying out late etc), then he went to college for automechanics and went to work, he has always spoken his mind and did what he wanted regardless of how it may effect other people including mom

Me- INVISIBLE, Very quiet, always tried to stay out of trouble, very shy, I tried to be whatever everyone needed me to be. I never wanted to cause any problems for anyone especially mom. Always want everyone to like me and be viewed in a positive way. Hate confrontation, try to always keep peace regardless of how I may really feel about something. I always thought that if I was "good enough" "perfect" enough then dad wouldn't want to drink, then mom wouldn't be so stressed and we would be a happy family. No matter how hard I tried the good things I did were rarely noticed amidst the chaos of work, drinking and covering for dad, and then dealing with my brother during high school. I was quiet, stayed out of the way and was pretty much self sufficient (cooked, cleaned, did laundry etc since I was 8yo)

Now as an adult I find that things really aren't that different. My dad passed away a few years ago. My mom is still amazing, my brother lives 2 miles from me and we are very close. I am still very shy, quiet and still try to be whatever I need to be to make everyone happy. I hate confrontation and almost always back down in a disagreement. I always end up feeling like I am in some way the one who is wrong.

Now that I am an RN I find that it has effected that aspect of my life also. In school I felt like either I wasn't good enough or if I did do really well then it must have been an easy test or whatever. Even graduating with honors was not "good enough" for me. In my mind that just meant it was a larger fluke. During my short time on the floor before I gave up on myself and quit I felt like I should know everything I needed too already and I shouldn't make mistakes. Of course its fine for others to make mistakes and not know everything but for me thats failure because I am letting someone down. It's like I have one set of rules/expectations for myself and another for everyone else. I don't trust my own judgement/knowledge and ALWAYS feel others are better. Does any of this make sense to anyone? Are there any other ACOA's out there who find they feel the same way? How do/did you make it as a new RN when you feel/felt this way? I have been out of school since May 08, worked for 2 and a half months and quit (read post "Lost, Afraid....in First year after license for back story). Anyone else in similar situation and do you think your childhood has effected your ability to trust yourself as a nurse?

Trauma Columnist

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN

88 Articles; 21,247 Posts

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU.

I think a retrospective look at your childhood is in order but what your childhood WAS isn't what you are NOW. Sometimes its best just to move on from a sad time and focus on the more positive aspects of life.

morte, LPN, LVN

7,015 Posts

you need therapy.....i know. and its ok to be ticked off at your mom, she did after all, stay with the drunk.and expose you to all the crap....your brother probably realizes this, and that is why he cuts her no slack. alanon might help, even though the drunk is dead.....you need to take care of yourself. now.

Specializes in Geriatris.

I'm sorry you have so much going through your mind and tough situation. My Dad too has an alcohol problem but it is not affecting his behavior just his liver, 1-2 drinks a night. At time it was worse but I was a pretty oblivious kid. I do feel the same need to please people and know everything. I used to be really stressed and high strung but in the past few years I have realized it doesn't help. I had to read a book in college called "7 habits of highly sucessful people." It has this thing about prioritzing, what's immediate and important, what's just immediate, what's important but not time sensitive and so on. You shouldn't be expected to know everything and it is good that you know you don't to me. Being able to find out is important. I feel childhood does have a impact on adulthood but like anything we can overcome it. Also another book is, "bad childhood, good life" haven't read it yet but some one said it was great. Wish you the best in dealing.

Muffy5

53 Posts

Specializes in Acute rehab, LTC, Community Health.

I have often wondered this. I was standing in a group of 5 fellow nursing students, who happen to be women, and we began to discuss our past. We discovered that 4 out of 5 of us had fathers who were in prison, drug addicted and not there to help raise us.

I too, as you stated always doubt myself, even though I know I have gotten where I am, pretty much completely on my own, being the child of two chemical dependent, 16 year old parents...

What ever the reason is that I am a nurse today, that is what I want to be, and I feel I am meant to be, and if this is the same for you and my other friends, that's the best we can do!:heartbeat:nurse:

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

i think, whether one's childhood is r/t alcoholism or some other dysfunction/trauma, it is ultimately our responsiblity to work through the resultant pain.

it is not sufficient to only acknowledge what happened and 'this is the way i am because of this'...

which is where you are now.

it will ultimately be up to you to change these insecurities into strengths.

whether it is therapy, al-anon, self-will, you need support in taking this much-needed journey.

otherwise, i truly doubt you would choose to go through life remaining afraid and feeling devalued.

i strongly recommend counselling op....

and i hate that you think so little of yourself.

you are worthy, valuable and sensitive.

give yourself a much-needed break.

make friends with yourself.

if you really work at this, you will find there is much to love.

go forward in nursing, and know you are not alone.

most of us do feel downright incapable when we start nursing.

give yourself time and due respect.

and of course, come/stay here on an's.

there are sooo many who can/will support you.

you sound like a delightful person.

and i look forward to hearing more from you.:icon_hug:

leslie

Specializes in chemical dependency detox/psych.

For those that might say, "It was your childhood. That's over and you need to focus on the present....." If you experienced that type of childhood and that's how you've coped, my hat is off to you. However, not everyone has the same psychological make-up and deals with past-trauma as successfully. (My :twocents:)

Have you tried going to therapy or a support group? It's good that you've realized how your past has affected you, but as Leslie pointed out, you have work to do, as just acknowledging that there's a problem is only the first step.

:icon_hug:

JVRB4

43 Posts

Specializes in med surg.

First of all my dad was not "the drunk" as so eloquently put. He was an alcoholic which we all as nurses know is a disease and that did greatly effect our family and my view of many things but he was a Good man with a big problem. He was the kind of man who would take the coat off his back and give it to the homeless man on the street with no questions asked. He tried to quit many times but the addiction was stronger than he was. He died in a rehab center trying yet again to stop. He also spent the last 3 years of his life volunteering in a soup kitchen 3 days a wk. So he was FAR MORE than "the drunk".

Second my mother is an amazing woman who has worked hard her entire life. She was and is a good mother. When she met my dad and they married he did not drink. He started drinking years after they married and immediately after my grandfathers death. Marriage vows include "till death do us part", that doesn't mean till I get tired of you or you don't behave the way you should or you have a problem I don't want to deal with. She tried to stay with him and help him to get better. She wanted a happy family and she knew the man she married was in there somewhere. She also wanted us to have our father. She felt that a father who was sober 1-3 days a wk was better than no father at all.

As far as "moving on", I agree that was the past and this is now. I didn't mean for my post to sound like an excuse or whatever I just wondered if others having come from similar backgrounds had experienced the same issues as adults. Besides I think we are all in a way products of our experiences. To simply say that was then and this is now so move on leaves far too much out. Things in your past no matter who you are or what those things may be are what helps to create and mold you into the person you are and who you will become. Yes you can "overcome" bad things but that doesn't mean they don't still in some way effect you.

I attended alateen when I was growing up. I have considered formal counseling and maybe I will one day. I am working on self-esteem and will continue to work on it. Again I was interested in hearing if there were others out there who had come from similar backgrounds and if they felt it had an impact on their nursing careers and how they viewed themselves in thier jobs.

I certainly hope we all remember to be respectful and sensitive when discussing issues such as alcoholism etc with our pts/pts families or anyone else. People with problems such as alcoholism are still human beings who deserve love and compassion and so are their family members who stand by them and try to help them (not talking about enabling them). After all you can still love the person even if you don't like the behavior.

Specializes in M/S, MICU, CVICU, SICU, ER, Trauma, NICU.

I hope you get the help you need so that you will be able to have peace in your life. Good luck to you.

oramar

5,758 Posts

Why do we get this question periodically, each time it is rephrased a bit but always comes up. Do they teach this in one of the psych classes in nursing school now, is that why it keeps coming up? The person who posted this tell a touching story but we do hear about "nurses with alcoholic parent" again and again. Quite a few threads on it. The first few I answered seriously but I am done talking about it.

MedSurgeMess

985 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, ICU, educator.

JVRB4-I grew up in the same kind of household, only had a younger sister instead. Dad was violent, whether drunk or sober, and Mom is a nurse, and was usually more interested in her career than protecting me and my sister. Mom left when I was 16, sister 15. Dad quit drinking and joined AA at that point, sent me and my sister to AlAnon and counseling. He just died this past October, and it has left me with a whirlwind of emotions. While who you were then is not necessarily who you are now, it shapes you, adds to your dimensions as a human. It's like any other experience. If you feel like it is making a negative impact, then I urge you to go seek help. As another child of alcoholism, I know exactly how it is. May the angels keep you under their wings.

morte, LPN, LVN

7,015 Posts

First of all my dad was not "the drunk" as so eloquently put. He was an alcoholic which we all as nurses know is a disease and that did greatly effect our family and my view of many things but he was a Good man with a big problem. He was the kind of man who would take the coat off his back and give it to the homeless man on the street with no questions asked. He tried to quit many times but the addiction was stronger than he was. He died in a rehab center trying yet again to stop. He also spent the last 3 years of his life volunteering in a soup kitchen 3 days a wk. So he was FAR MORE than "the drunk".

Second my mother is an amazing woman who has worked hard her entire life. She was and is a good mother. When she met my dad and they married he did not drink. He started drinking years after they married and immediately after my grandfathers death. Marriage vows include "till death do us part", that doesn't mean till I get tired of you or you don't behave the way you should or you have a problem I don't want to deal with. She tried to stay with him and help him to get better. She wanted a happy family and she knew the man she married was in there somewhere. She also wanted us to have our father. She felt that a father who was sober 1-3 days a wk was better than no father at all.

As far as "moving on", I agree that was the past and this is now. I didn't mean for my post to sound like an excuse or whatever I just wondered if others having come from similar backgrounds had experienced the same issues as adults. Besides I think we are all in a way products of our experiences. To simply say that was then and this is now so move on leaves far too much out. Things in your past no matter who you are or what those things may be are what helps to create and mold you into the person you are and who you will become. Yes you can "overcome" bad things but that doesn't mean they don't still in some way effect you.

I attended alateen when I was growing up. I have considered formal counseling and maybe I will one day. I am working on self-esteem and will continue to work on it. Again I was interested in hearing if there were others out there who had come from similar backgrounds and if they felt it had an impact on their nursing careers and how they viewed themselves in thier jobs.

I certainly hope we all remember to be respectful and sensitive when discussing issues such as alcoholism etc with our pts/pts families or anyone else. People with problems such as alcoholism are still human beings who deserve love and compassion and so are their family members who stand by them and try to help them (not talking about enabling them). After all you can still love the person even if you don't like the behavior.

ah, you can get angry, that is good......now use that and realize where it comes from and should be aimed at .....not me.....

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