Dear Annie: I’m a 16-year-old high-school sophomore. I’m a straight-A student, the president of my school’s National Honor Society chapter and a soccer player, and I help teach Sunday school at my church. My parents and I live in a big house in a nice neighborhood. By all outside appearances, my life is great. But I’m holding in a secret, and it’s constantly got my stomach in knots: My father is an alcoholic.
Every weekend, my dad gets drunk and does embarrassing things. If we try to go out to dinner, it ends in a big scene, with him upset about something or other. Often he gets really mean to my mom when he’s drunk, calling her nasty names. I try to stay out of the way and hide in my room and listen to music.
My mom has instilled this sense of shame in me about it, so we keep it a secret. Even my closest friends don’t know. Recently, I made the mistake of having friends over for a sleepover. The girls were all downstairs watching a movie, and I went upstairs to get some blankets. I found my dad passed out in the hallway. I heard the girls coming upstairs to see what was taking me so long, and I had to make up an excuse to get them to stay away until I could wake my dad up and get him to go to bed.
I am so tired of feeling so nervous all the time and not knowing what I’m going to find when I get home. My dad manages to hold down a job that pays well. When he’s drunk and I tell him I wish he’d stop, he tells me how he works a job he hates just to support me and buy me nice things, adding that he’s allowed to do what he wants in his free time.
I guess I’m writing to you because there’s no one else I can talk to about this. My mom doesn’t even want to talk about it when I bring it up. It’s really starting to get to me, and I’ve been crying myself to sleep at night. How can I get my dad to stop? — Sick and Afraid
Dear Sick and Afraid: There is nothing that you can do to get your dad to stop drinking. That is not your burden to bear, even if you’d like to bear it. He must come to the decision to get sober on his own, and I hope that one day he does.
But you can help yourself today by attending an Alateen meeting. There you’ll be able to hear the stories of other teens who know exactly what you’re going through, and you’ll be provided tools for dealing with the anxiety that comes from living with a problem drinker. Find a meeting in your area at http://al-anon.org. (Select “Find a Meeting” and then “Find an Alateen meeting” from the menu.)
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