Harriet Rose’s Five Most Important Lessons Learned from Growing Up with Alcoholic Parents
Her home was falling apart, physically and emotionally. Here's how she survived.
Harriet Rose didn't see her parents drinking alcohol. Her mother drank in the bathroom and her father drank when she was asleep. But Harriet and her siblings felt the ramifications of their parents' alcoholism.
Harriet came home in the afternoons from school to a mother lying on the couch in a stupor. At night she tucked herself in without a bedtime story or a goodnight kiss from her parents. In addition to the emotional neglect, her parents started spending more money on alcohol than on the basic food needs of the family. Her parents eventually stopped purchasing clothing for her and her siblings They began to let their house fall into disrepair, not even fixing the home after a fire had caused severe damage.
Her home was falling apart, physically and emotionally. Harriet knew she wanted to create a different life. With grit, perseverance, and the help of a few angels along the way, Harriet managed to create a meaningful and happy life for herself.
Here are the top five lessons she learned from growing up with two alcoholic parents.
Find the Angels in Your Life
“Cultivating healthy relationships with responsible, trustworthy adults, such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or teacher is essential," Harriet said. "These kinds of people turn out to be angels in your life."
For Harriet, her grandmother was a beacon of strength.
Cultivating healthy relationships with responsible, trustworthy adults is essential.
"It is also important to choose your friends wisely and to realize that you are not alone. God gives us challenges we can overcome. Even though there are times that are filled with darkness, you need to believe that He has your back.”
Knowledge is Power
Harriet’s grandmother always stressed the importance of education. “No one can ever take away what you put in your mind. It’s your ticket to success.”
Harriet was always a good student and found the determination to work even harder due to her family situation. She graduated high school as valedictorian and attended one of the top schools in the nation.
In college, her father lost his job and circumstances became even worse. When she realized she had no one to rely on but herself she felt both terrified and liberated.
Overnight, she had to start paying college tuition. She secured a work-study program to pay for college and had to be very disciplined with her finances. Her hard work paid off as many doors opened after graduating.
Fake It Until You Make It
Harriet walked out of the house each morning and consciously left her problems at the door. She put a smile on her face and put on a great act, never confiding in a soul. This enabled her to socialize and have friends. She was captain of her cheerleading squad and a leader in the classroom. Appearing happy and confident helped her feel that way internally.
“There is nothing wrong with faking it," she explained, "if you know you're headed in the right direction. Eventually you're no longer faking; it becomes real."
Learn from the Mistakes of Others
“It’s not just important to learn from your own mistakes," Harriet advised, "but also from the mistakes of others. We can learn how not to behave from others. Every experience has a value because there is something to learn from everyone.
"If you don’t want to end up like your substance-abusing parents, do everything in your power to steer clear from drinking or using drugs. Choose your friends who are like minded and stay away from those who would lead you astray. And don't be too proud to get help. That's not a weakness; it's courageous. And seek it before it is too late."
Design Your Life
Harriet’s turning point came while at a babysitting job. She picked up a publication called “True Grit” which shared stories of resilience. Reading this and other self-help books gave her hope. She realized she could do something different than her parents and take responsibility for her own life.
I felt empowered and decided that I was not going to be a victim of my circumstances.
“I felt empowered and decided that I was not going to be a victim of my circumstances. I was going to design my own life. That experience released my shackles.”
She urges others to know that one’s situation does not have to define who you are and what you are capable of. She believes you can take control of your destiny.
She envisioned her optimal life and then proceeded to set short-term and long-term goals to get there. “Your parents' choices do not define you. Decide who you want to be and rise above their choices. It's not easy, but with clarity, passion and hard work, it's doable.”