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Have An Abusive, Alcoholic Father

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I am a 16YO girl. I have an abusive alcoholic father. Every time he gets drunk, I have to put up with the hits, and put downs. My mother does nothing because she never gets hit. I can't even talk to my dad about this, because even when he's sober, I still get abused. I have become severely depressed because of this, and knowing that I can't do much about it is killing me inside. I wish I could get help, but because I can't talk to my dad, it's not an option. The extreme strange part of this is that he acts like we're best friends, buying me nice things and making me nice dinners. I don't understand how one person can be so two faced. Please help! Signed, Abusive Child Needs Help
Signed: Have An Abusive, Alcoholic Father

Dear Have An Abusive, Alcoholic Father,


TeenHealthFX can appreciate that having your father be nice to you one moment, and then abusive in other can feel to you as though he is being “two-faced.” But FX would like you to think about it another way. Each one of us has different parts to us. People are not all good or all bad, all kind or all mean, all loving or all hurtful – we all have different parts. Some of those parts are stronger than others, and some people may have more of one part than another person may have. So your father is not going to be all one thing – all abusive or all loving to you. There is a part of him that cares about you and wants to buy you nice things and make you nice dinners. But there is also another part of him that is dealing with a serious drinking problem, and yet another that is full of rage. On different days, or even different times of the same day, you may encounter different parts of him.

What FX understands is that these different parts of your father are very difficult for you to deal with. Seeing him switch from one way of relating to you to another can be very confusing, and the unpredictability of it can also be anxiety-provoking and extremely unsettling. And the side of him that has a drinking problem and that is so angry must be painful and frustrating for you because these parts of him end up being hurtful to you – physically and emotionally. It certainly would be nice for you, your father, and everyone in your family if he could deal with his drinking and his anger so they do not affect him and everyone else so much, and so the part of him that does care about you has more room to show itself.

FX realizes how frustrating it must feel for you that you cannot talk about these problems with your father in a way that brings about positive change. It sounds like his drinking problem and anger problem are so powerful that your talking to him on your own is just not enough to illicit change. And what is also hard for you is that your mother, for whatever issues she is dealing with, is not in an emotional place to be able to take him on about his behaviors or do what she has to in order to protect you from his anger and abuse. It certainly does leave you in a difficult, frustrating and perhaps even painful position. However, FX would like to stress that it does not mean you are completely without options. You may not be able to change your mother or father, but that does not mean you “have” to endure his abuse and that there is nothing you can do. What is in your power and control is to tell a trusted adult outside of your home what is going on so that someone can intervene on your behalf. You can speak to a school social worker or psychologist, your guidance counselor, your principal, or a trusted teacher. If you feel comfortable enough with your primary care physician, you can certainly discuss this with him/her as well. If your father is abusing you and you are unable to talk to him about this (which is often the case in situations like these), and your mother is not in a place to be helpful to you, then it is critical that someone outside of your home get involved to ensure your physical and emotional well-being. Depending on the situation, the person you talk to may speak directly to your parents or they may contact child protective services to evaluate the situation. While it can easily feel scary for children and teens to reveal these kinds of family dynamics to people outside of the home, it is often what is necessary for the abuse to come to an end.

Trusted adults can evaluate whether you are safe to be in the home, in some cases can mandate treatment for your father and mother, and can also set up counseling for you so that you can have someone there for you to provide you with guidance and support as you work through all the feelings that have grown inside you over time because of what you have dealt with at home.


FX knows you are in pain from dealing with all of this and hopes that you will reach out to a trusted adult soon so that you can get help in dealing with this very difficult situation.


Helpful resources:

·         Al-Anon/Alateen Hotline, 1-800-344-2666,   8am-6pm EST. Help for young people who are the relatives and friends of problem drinkers.


·         If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.


·         You can call child protective services yourself to report the physical abuse occurring at home. In New Jersey you would call DYFS at 1-800-NJ-ABUSE. You can also call the Child Abuse Hotline at 1-877-792-8610. This hotline is to report physical or sexual abuse for people living in or outside of New Jersey, and is available 24 hours a day, 7days a week.

Signed: TeenHealthFX