In honor of Children of Alcoholics Week, we have a guest post from Rita Malie, as well as an excerpt from her book, Supreme Sacrifice. A passionate advocate for children of alcoholics, she is also the award-winning author of Goodbye America. She lives with her family in Florida.
by Rita Malie
Denial is the greatest ally of an alcoholic, and the biggest enemy that circumvents healing in the family. As Dr. Phil McGraw repeats over and over on his daytime television show, ”You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.”
As long as families attach every label to alcoholism, instead of dealing with it as it is, change and healing can never occur. In my situation growing up with an alcoholic father, we were told “Daddy’s tired” or “Daddy’s sick.” It’s easier to pretend and not face the truth—it hurts too much. But what are the consequences when the secret is never revealed?
Janet Geringer Woititz, author of Adult Children of Alcoholics says, “Do not protect your children from knowing the ravages of alcoholism. To protect your children is to make them weak and confused.”
As an adult child of an alcoholic, I couldn’t agree more. The energy we spend denying the truth comes at a cost. It sucks time and energy away from spending time dealing with the problem, and giving the family the opportunity to begin the road to recovery.
Supreme Sacrifice is a story inspired by true events, a “semi-autobiography” of sorts. It’s my story, a journey from hopelessness and darkness to healing and self-discovery. It is told through the character of April Straka, a young woman brought to the depths of despair first by a father’s alcoholism, and then by his tragic and mysterious death.
The story begins in the 1960’s, when programs like AA, AlaNon, AlaTeen, ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) and EAP (Employee Assistance Programs) were in their infancy. Children like me had no one to turn to except for family. We couldn’t turn to our friends, because we didn’t want them to know. Alcoholism was our secret and our shame. However, as I learned, in order to heal the secrets must be exposed.
Alcoholism tends to run in families and children of alcoholics run a higher risk of developing alcoholism. They also tend to marry alcoholics themselves. These children need guidance and support to escape the cycle.
During Children of Alcoholics Week, I hope to deliver a message of support to families suffering from the effects of alcoholism. You are not alone, and you don’t have to hide. There are so many resources, support groups and “safe places” to share your story. Alcoholism doesn’t have to be a secret anymore.
From Supreme Sacrifice:
“Mom had a habit of challenging dad at his worst moments when he was drinking and impatient. Then they’d argue and he’d attack. The family worked hard at keeping his drinking a secret from the neighbors. The flowered wallpaper in the archway leading into the hall from the kitchen revealed an indelible dried bloodstain that was left untouched for years collecting dust. Daddy hit her on the head with a salt shaker. With blood running down her face, she ran to the neighbor’s for help. April heard her mother’s screams and the door slamming shut. The neighbors drove her mother to the hospital. April was upstairs bathing Junior. The police arrived when she was putting him to bed. They arrested her dad. He slept it off in jail and was released the next day. That bloodstain on the wall served to be a milestone in the Straka household. It symbolized the end of the family secret about Josef’s drinking that before this violent tirade was sacrosanct.”