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Robbed of Childhood

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To the editors:

I read Rose Marion's article "First Person: Just Say No?" [August 7] with a sense of familiar horror. I too grew up in a dysfunctional family with a grandiose, alcoholic father and a cooperating, depressed mother. I too am aware from painful personal experience of the hypocritical American blind eye toward the cruel social effects of alcohol abuse. Some 55 to 70 percent of adult children of alcoholics become alcoholics, and many of us, seeking the familiar, marry alcoholics or other dysfunctional personalities.

It is a pity that as teenagers, Marion and her brother were not able to participate in Alateen, the arm of AA for teenagers in alcoholic homes. A close friend of mine, the daughter and wife of alcoholics, has just had the courage to take her own troubled 13-year-old daughter to Alateen to help her daughter avoid the serious problems my friend experienced growing up.

It is too late for Marion's brother, but I urge her to help herself by attending ACOA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) family group meetings (929-4581). Also an offshoot of AA, ACOA was founded in only 1982, and already there are over 100 groups meeting in the Chicago area alone. I myself have been in therapy for over six years and, though I feel I had made great strides, unimagined vistas of support and understanding opened up for me when I began going to ACOA as well. It is a far warmer and more real family than mine was. I have begun to feel feelings and dream dreams I didn't even know I could when I was living by the values of a tense, unpredictable alcoholic home.

We are all angry like Marion--naturally. We were robbed of a childhood. But my therapist says I'm less angry nowadays, and it is bliss to have friends with whom I can be myself. None of us will tell you that going to mass will fix your family. You will get to know yourself, and us, and coming out of the isolation of the shame-based alcoholic family system will raise your confidence and self-esteem.

I hate to sound like a commercial. I still get angry, and things are still not OK between me and my family of origin, and feeling new feelings and truly getting to know myself also means that I've cried and have learned some pretty hard-to-take things about myself. But that's life, I'm finding out. And, yes, it is worth it.

name withheld

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