We were a family of 5 kids, me being the first born. The youngest, my only sister, is 16 years younger than I. At the time of my growing alcohol, smoking and love addictions, I was 23-26 and my sister was just a child at 7-10. The brother next to me was away (college and military), leaving two other brothers, ages 15-18 and 12-15, at home. So, they had a youngster and two teenage boys, plus me, at home. Both my parents worked full time in demanding, professional careers.
I don't know if this is a factor or not... My biological dad was killed in a car accident when I was 5. My step dad and mom married when I was 7. So the siblings at home were my step sister and brothers. I didn't think of them that way; nor do I think I was ever any less family to my step dad for not being his own biological offspring.
My mom was more of a disciplinarian in our family than Dad, who I remember as being more easy-going. My brothers did not smoke or drink at that time. My dad smoked when he was in college, but quit when I was about 10. Mom never smoked. While I was living at home, neither Mom or Dad drank, except on special occasions, when they would have a bottle of wine at dinner. I do not have any knowledge of alcohol problems in my grandparent's generation, but my Mom's only brother, a WWII veteran, was said to be an alcoholic. My parents always seemed to have a stable, loving marriage.
In 1965-8, while living at home, working and attending graduate school, I began drinking regularly with co-workers after work. Once or twice a week, we closed the bars at 1 AM. Sometimes we continued to drink at a co-worker's apartment after that. Once in a while we started drinking during our lunch hour and never made it back to work. I was having occasional blackouts where I would continue to talk, walk and drive but without any conscious memory whatsoever. I smoked... 2 or 3 packs per day. I was having a bit of a romance with a married co-worker.
I did not smoke or drink at home. However, I came home drunk, sometimes while my parents were still up, slurring my words and stumbling to bed. And, of course I must have smelled like a smokestack. How could they NOT notice?
Sadly, my dad died 4 years ago. I can not ask him about those years now. Nor can I ask my mom, as her memory is nearly gone. The only thing I know is that maybe 5 or 6 years ago, Mom said that they had worried about me and my drinking a lot back in the 60s. I wish I had asked her what reasons they might have had for not talking to me about it then.
Ten possible reasons why my parents didn't talk to me about my addictions while I was living at home:
- They didn't know what to say.
- They felt more comfortable by pretending everything was OK.
- They thought drinking and smoking was just something college-aged kids did, more or less normal.
- They knew I was holding my full-time job and getting good grades in graduate school. So they figured my drinking was a minor problem that didn't affect my work or education.
- They had their own careers and three young kids to manage. So they didn't have remaining energy to deal with me.
- I was an adult, over 21. Maybe they didn't think they had the right any longer, as parents, to correct or discipline their adult offspring.
- My behaviors at home must have seemed decent, normal and in character to them. Therefore, they may not have realized the extent of my drinking and smoking away from home.
- They didn't know about addiction, thinking (as I did until recently) that addicts were homeless, street people who drank every day until they passed out. So they may have seen my drinking as a passing issue of a young adult of the times.
- My mother had to hide cookies. I would find them and eat many of them over a period of days. She must have known somebody was taking them, because she would always hide them in ever more clever places. She never said anything or asked who was "stealing" the cookies. Could she have suspected my brothers?
- Maybe to talk to me would be to admit "publicly" that they had somehow failed as parents.
I forgive my parents. I open my heart in understanding and forgiveness to them for not talking with me about my actions and to myself for my behaviors during those years.