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Dealing with a difficult parent.


LoveSoDeep

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I know no one is perfect and I do love my parents but my father is starting to be almost unbearable to be around.

 

He was an alcoholic when I was was a child but hasn't had a drink in 25 years. I have always remembered that he had very little patience, a short temper and a tendency to be very negative. It seems to have gotten worse over the past 5-7 years or so. He lost his job and had really rough time...had to use much of his retirement savings to get along, my mom has worked 2 jobs and he has job now that he really doesn't like... so I know his self esteem took a big hit.

 

His negativity is off the charts to the point where my poor mother can hardy stand him most of the time. A couple examples:

 

1. he has hearing aids and is very touchy about his hearing. If he can't hear and you get even the slightest bit annoyed at repeating something he flies off the handle and usually leaves in the middle whatever is going on a movie, dinner..whatever.

2. Football - I have almost resolved to never watch a game with him again. He loves the sport but the second something goes wrong he acts out. Last week on vacation watching the game in a bar his team threw and interception and he pounded the table so loudly I thought it might break and small children accross the room were scared. This was after the had to plead with him to stay and watch with us as a family b/c he was upset that he couldn't hear well in the loud bar...but we were in a foreign country so the play by play was in a language he didn't understand anyway so it shouldn't matter. Still his negativity took over...although his team was WAY ahead he began spouting off about how the game was over and they were a bunch of losers and throwing in several curse words here and there (remember there are children around). My sister leaves at this point. Then after a few more bad plays he throws one final hissy-fit and leaves. My mother has to leave and go after him so that he doesn't break something in the hotel room or get mad at her for not coming after him. He chooses to alienate his family over a game and it infuriates us all.

3. Temper in general - he is so touchy you never know when he's going to blow up. At the airport after a bit of a fight about borrowing my cell charger (it was packed away so I simply asked if he really needed his phone as we would be on the plane soon anyway...his response is to use guilt and act like a child saying I'm right he doesn't need it he's an a** for asking if he could borrow tiny little thing...blah blah blah so dig through my bag to find it and I give it to him) he sits by himself sulking for a while playing with his phone as it charges then asks my mother if she is hungry...she is not she has been feeling ill all day but says he should eat...he then pouts and acts like child and he says he won't eat either. Of course half the problem is that he is in fact hungry so we insist he goes to get food and we will watch his phone. A young girl comes over and plugs in her phone with his and when he comes back there is still plenty of room for him to sit and eat but he barely even tries to sit down then storms off saying he's just in everyone's way. He come back and gives my mom a part of his sandwich...which although she is sick she eats so that he doesn't get mad again.

 

I just don't know what to do. We can't talk to him about it. Every time he starts with this behavior if we point it out and ask him to please tone it down it just gets worse. His actions are unacceptable...he has to know this and they are forcing away his children. The worst part is if we pull away my mother is left to deal with him alone, which isn't fair to her.

 

My main question does this sound like it could be anxiety or depression or some other problem caused by his years of alcoholism...or just the last few hard years that maybe medication could help? I've told my mother to ask one of their friends to say something to him and suggest counseling as I know if my mother says anything it will just start a fight and she doesn't need another fight...but I don't think she ever took that advice or it didn't work. I almost feel like I should say I won't come over anymore until he does something...but I really don't know what he will do if I do that. It's almost funny I feel like he's a child not my parent.

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I feel for you, this is a horrible situation to be in. My father was also an alcoholic, who also quit, who also has/had anger management issues. I can't say our situations are the same, your father very well may have a chemical imbalance or emotional issues, but I do know that alcoholics stop "maturing" at the point of heavy consumption and resume once they have quit for awhile. He could of not learned the proper coping skills we all acquire when we mature and now has a hard time trying to learn them, I do not know. A doctor or therapist may be able to help him, if he is willing to try.

I can tell you what we did in our family to ensite some change, it may not be helpful for you or something you want to do, but your story compelled me to share a bit.

I was about 12 when things were getting really bad, and my siblings and I rallied and cornered my mother and told her enough was enough. He is our Dad and we love him, but we don't want him to live here anymore. We told her how we felt, how we were hurting, how it hurts us to watch her hurt, it was nothing but pain. I learned at school about things like "rock bottom" and "tough love" from the school councillor and I was convinced this was the way to go. I think the power of 3 young children bravely stating what she herself knew was enough for her to make that move. They separated and he was not allowed to live with us anymore. He continued to drink for another few years, she faced the pain of knowing that losing her was not enough to make him quit. Eventually he did quit though, and we supported him as best we could. I went to his meetings and anniversaries at AA until he felt he didn't need to go anymore, and he got his life back on track. He got out of bankruptcy, started dating, etc. However him quitting did not change our relationship too much, because he still had a hair-trigger temper that set off over the smallest thing. He still alienated himself from his kids by behaving this way, we were scared and angry at him. I started to self-mutilate to deal with the pain as a young teenager, and around 17 I showed him the scars of what I had done and told him squarely I hurt myself to deal with the pain he caused. I believe this shook him a bit, enough so that he toned it down a bit. I realized at that moment that like the alcohol, he needed to be held accountable for his behaviour. Whenever he said or did something that really hurt me, I let him know, and over time the reactions became less and less aggressive. Alcoholics, rageaholics, there isn't too much of a difference its how they handle emotion. I held my ground and made it known that I won't put up with it and I will physically leave if I have to, to protect myself. I would tell him I love him and want him to be there for me, like my friends Dad's. At every turn, I dealt with his anger by displaying my love and sadness. Now he is a different man then he used to be, the father he was supposed to be. I like to think that by his family holding him accountable and not allowing him to steamroll over them, it helped him to learn how to deal with his emotions in a way that is not hurting anyone.

I hope you can find some resolution with your situation, because as much as you are all unhappy he is just as unhappy, and is probably ashamed with himself at some level. I think he wants to be the man you all want him to be, deep down inside.

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Thanks TattyK.

 

That's interesting about alcoholics stopping from maturing while they are drinking it makes sense. Accept he stopped drinking 25 years ago. And we have been dealing with this and trying to make things better ever since. He is nearly 60 and the father of 4 adult children all over age 29....so we're well past the age that we can force him to move out and my mother cannot support herself so I know she wouldn't consider that an option. All of us children have expressed to him what he has done to hurt us and the only thing that does is make him feel like a failure as a father which only makes things worse. I am sure that he is ashamed of himself on many levels and this is only adding to the problem the only thing we want form him is to let go of the negativity. He is forever jumping tot he worst possible conclusion....the boarding passes aren't printed so of course they will miss their flight and get stuck in a foreign country...we read the itinerary wrong and are late for a tour bus so of course we have missed it and will not get another bus and will have spent lots of money for nothing....in reality the boarding passes are easily printed at the next airline counter and the tour bus was actually later than we were. All his worrying and fussing is almost always for nothing.

 

Strangely he seems to admire me for being so calm and as he calls me "unflappable" but he can't seem to channel this energy himself. At the slightest upset doomsday begins for him. Is this a symptom or sign of depression or some anxiety disorder?

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He may of stopped drinking 25 years ago, but if he has made no effort to gain any coping skills they are not going to just come to him naturally. He may just be stuck, in a way, in patterns that he long ago acquired and has no tools to change them. When all of this was going on, I didn't learn many social skills with my peers because of the isolation at home and constant moving. When I was a young adult, I had to engage in therapy in order to learn some of these social skills I use now, and coping skills as well. If I had not taken this step, I don't believe I would be where I am today. It doesn't really matter how old you are, sometimes you just miss some crucial steps and get stuck in a cycle you can't get out of if you don't know how.

It sounds like he definitely has some emotional issues, anxiety maybe. Is he open to medical intervention, whether therapy or a family physician? Its not like its going to hurt him, and if it can help him he will feel better about himself.

The best thing you can do is express yourself honestly to him and help him in whatever direction he chooses so long as its healthy. Your mother is probably suffering on some level as well, I would look into therapy for her as well if she is willing. She might need a friendly shoulder to lean on that isn't her children, because no mother wants to emotionally burden their children. Sometimes having one partner become stronger and happier will have a positive effect on the other, and once again it wouldn't hurt her.

I would also say to not forget about you, make sure you take care of yourself as well, the worry and tension and hostility in these situations can ware on a person.

I wish you the best.

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I feel my mom does a lot of these little things at times but she hasnt been an alcoholic. It is funny because we just dont get where it comes from or how to handle it sometimes but the laughing just flips her over the edge, lol. Its truly having to do with learning to cope with how you feel. If something cant be changed its no reason to fly off into a tantrum. It does take professional help though since he's been doing it for so long. Just dont lose your patience as well!

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I think it might also have something to do with control. I feel like it is much worse when it is something he has no control over...like traffic, a football game, or the crowd at the airport....Funny thing is that the one thing he can control - his own actions - he chooses to let go out of control. You'd think he would be more proud of himself if he actually controlled his temper.

 

I told my mother recently that I just don't understand b/c usually people do things like this b/c they get something from it....like small children who act out for attention even negative attention. However he is not getting anything out of his actions. It blows my mind and infuriates me all at the same time.

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