Another Child Affected by Alcoholism

A Family in Crisis: A True Story

Girl Crying
All Members of the Family Are Affected. © Getty Images

Because of the insidious nature of alcoholism, alcoholics and even those around them sometimes do not notice that their behavior has slowly grown more extreme and unacceptable. The changes have been so gradual and subtle over the years, no one really noticed the drastic change.

But when the long-time alcoholic suddenly drops into the lives of people who are not used to such out-of-control behavior, the extremes are very noticeable -- and even frightening.

This is what happened when David, the alcoholic in our series on "A Family in Crisis," suddenly appeared again in the lives of his first wife Glenda and her eight-year-old daughter Susie.

For Glenda, David's behavior was not such a shock. After all, her most vivid memories of him are from the days when he was heavy into cocaine use and all the insanity it brought. In fact, now that David was "only drinking" she felt that he had changed significantly for the better.

But when Glenda got pregnant with Susie, she stopped all of her substance abuse immediately and has been clean and sober ever since. Although her marriage to Susie's father Greg was far from perfect, it did not contain the chaos and crises that substance abuse in a marriage can cause.

Growing Up 'Normal'

Therefore, Susie grew up in a more-or-less "normal" home. When David showed up in her life, it was a major culture shock. It frightened her and confused her, but more importantly it disrupted the quiet and peaceful life that she and her mom had been living since Glenda's divorce from Greg.

David is anything but quiet and peaceful; his behavior to Susie seemed very extreme. She was not used to hearing loud rock-and-roll music blasting late into the night or seeing people get up first thing in the morning and start drinking, or experiencing people constantly in a "party" state of mind.

Sudden Changes in Her Life

Most importantly, she was not used to sharing Glenda's attention.

With David in the house, she no longer felt that she was the most important person in her mom's life. She was not only not getting all of Glenda's attention, she was getting hardly any attention at all.

Distraught about all the sudden changes in her life, and many times afraid of David's extreme behaviors, she complained to her dad and her grandmother, both of whom became very concerned about David's presence in the household, and began putting pressure on Glenda to "do something" about the situation.

Escalating Problems

When Glenda called me, an old friend of both her and David, to come for a visit, it was the situation with Susie that mainly concerned her. The pressures were building on all sides and she was caught in the middle between wanting to renew her love affair with David, while at the same time knowing that it was having an effect on her daughter.

Shortly after I arrived for my visit, the situation escalated when Greg began to threaten to seek custody of Susie if David didn't leave at once and physically threatened David if he didn't leave.

Greg told this to Glenda, not David, and what Glenda wanted me to do was explain the situation to David. She was afraid to confront him herself.

Denial About Affecting Others

Naturally, when I did broach the subject with David, I was met with total denial. David is not in denial about the fact that he has a drinking problem, he is in denial that his problem affects everyone else in his life. As I tried to explain that his behavior was disrupting the lives of Glenda and especially Susie, I ran head on into his adamant denials.

He had an answer for each point I tried to make. There was nothing "wrong" with what he was doing. His behavior wasn't as extreme as it used to be, so he was doing a lot better. He wasn't as bad off as this friend or that friend, who had "real" problems. This went on for hours and I was getting nowhere.

He would "straighten things out" with Greg; they were old friends. After all, it was David who had introduced Greg to Glenda, he said. Glenda's mother couldn't possibly object to him being around, he said; she had always liked him and they got along fine.

Unexpected Intervention

Then as we were talking, Glenda's mom showed up unexpectedly and unannounced. She had found out Greg's plans to seek custody of Susie, and she was angry and upset. She stormed in and confronted David and wasted few words in doing so. She "took his inventory" from top to bottom and pulled no punches. It was brutal.

But Mary's sudden appearance and diatribe had a remarkable effect. It confirmed to David everything I had been trying to tell him. With Mary, who at one time really was very fond of David, and me, one of his oldest friends, telling him the very same things at the same time, obviously unrehearsed and unplanned, it somehow broke through all his denial.

After Mary left, humbled by his sudden awakening to the truth and no longer denying that his behavior was causing problems to Glenda and Susie, he agreed to move out of their home the next morning.

Mary's unplanned appearance at just the right time and place to break through years of David's denial may appear to some to be a simple coincidence that happened to work out for the best.

To me, it seemed like divine intervention.

The Final Chapter?

Previously in 'A Family in Crisis'

Part 1: A Family in Crisis
Part 2: An Alcoholic in Denial
Part 3: A Family Disease
Part 4: The Cycle of Violence
Part 5: The Cycle Continues
Part 6: Why Do They Stay?
Part 7: A Progressive Disease
Part 8: Passing It On

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