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Being a grownup is pretty great, and it's closer than it seems. My life has more or less gotten better every year past 14, and I am not unique in this. If they're not abusive (drunks I have known range widely in temperament, and you don't say if these folks split a sixpack after dinner and veg out or start breaking tequila bottles over each others heads on slow tuesday afternoons), just self absorbed and not especially helpful, I vote you use the time to cultivate what you'll need to be independent as quickly as possible. The more autonomy you can provide for yourself, the easier it will be to get out if you must with minimal damage, and the faster you won't have to ask them for anything the better.

Old enough to work? Find work. Take paychecks to the bank and the account is in your name only. If you're worried about your folks and your money, pick a bank they don't use. You don't have to be 18. Live in a place with no good public transit? Get a car, or at least a bike. You can't work? Get involved in something that keeps you out of the house a lot. Clubs, sports, volunteer gigs, a regular chair at the library, whatever. Just be scarce.

Longer term, try to go to a college that will give you good scholarship if college is in the cards for you. Failing good scholarships, go to a state school that you can afford working summers and part time if you must. This may mean picking one in a cheaper city; your call if you think you need a particular program. If you are not majoring in something with well paying entry level jobs, don't take on student debt of any significance. $600/month to Sallie Mae is the difference between your own apartment and your mom's basement when you graduate.

When your parents aren't reliable, you must be able to rely on yourself, and have friends good enough to support you in the pinches some folks count on family to take care of. This means making an effort to learn how to be a good friend and how to recognize good friends.

Find something she is passionate about and channel her energies into that! For example, sports, art, writing, crafts, baking, volunteer work, playing a musical instrument, etc. Once she pours her energy into something like that, and starts seeing results, then she should get active in a community around it. For example, start going to readings and submit her work to journals, or join a a craft team, start an etsy shop, and start selling her stuff. I say tap into the creative stuff, and if she isn't a creative person, explore ways to help others that will help her build community in her life.

p.s. What an awesome "weekly" feature! Sure to help many, but I think I like it because I like giving advice ;-)

Shelley! Sossy! Thank you so much for adding your input! :)

I worry about the "taking it out on the siblings" part too. The absolute agony and powerless feeling of that. As a teacher, my immediate instinct is to advise her to call social services on her own parents. I wonder how young the siblings are. BRAVA to no drugs or drinking--please include no promiscuity in that if you can help it. YES to talking to ANY and EVERY trusted adult. YES to you healthy passions/avocations. YES to journals, art, getting out of the house (take the siblings?) Think of free resources if you live near them: parks, museums, libraries. Pray in whatever way is real or right or comfortable for you. Consider Ala-Teen or Al-Anon. Be aware that you will come out on the other side of this and won't have to be with them forever. Know now that this will effect your relationships with others---watch out, in a self-loving way---for choosing partners later who mimic the destructive behavior of your current guardians. You don't have to do that if you can work through the fear, anger and sadness in other ways. You can use this to develop deeeep compassion and grace. It hurts like hell--but you can use it. Bless You right down to your toes. <3

I'm surprised Alanon hasn't been mentioned. The group is a great resource for tween and teens and even adults. Alateen, an off-shoot, has resources that are specifically designed to help the adolescent cope with the alcoholism without falling into enabling or codependency. And they have printed resources that don't cost a lot but can help facilitate exploring feelings (everything from guilt (that again?!?!) to anger to shame) through journaling, etc.

And never ever underestimate the value of knowing that you are not alone. Merely hearing stories shared, even when the details differ, makes it easier to deal with things. There is something incredibly empowering about community.

PS: You know, back in the day when I actually had more than one person reading my blog, I would do a weekly (or semi-weekly) "ask Satia anything" post. I figured people would ask me about myself or my life but instead I got requests for advice on all sorts of things. It was odd but fun for me to ponder the question and come up with advice I could share. I also invited my readers to chime in with advice of their own. (I am chuckling at the thought that I could try to resurrect this and what my one reader would inevitably end up asking.)

Okay. Sorry. I had another thought.

What about memoirs by adult children of alcoholics and/or recovering alcoholics? It seems an obvious thing to do, make a list of memoirs for M to read.

Mary Karr has written more than one.
Augusten Burroughs
Jeanette Walls
Smashed by . . . I forget whom and it is too pre-coffee early for me to pull the name out of my foggy head.
Another Night in Suck Town by Nick Flynn is about generational addiction so might be a good one as well.

Assuming M understands that addiction is addiction is addiction, Beautiful Boy by David Sheff would be a good choice because it's about a father dealing with his son's addiction and then there's the son's memoir Teak by Nic Sheff. Reading them together is especially insightful.

But it's so important to read something hopeful, even when it is brutally honest. And above all else, avoid books that presume to change the addict. It is frightening how many boos purport to help the reader "cure" or "change" the behavior of the addict which, as we all know, is an exercise in futility.

Oh . . . did you know Rob has quit smoking cigarettes?

Crap. I really should drink coffee before I start commenting and just end up rambling my morning away.

I just escaped a similar situation this year, when my long awaited 18th birthday came to pass. Having said that the most important things that I have done during my years as a minor under two alcoholic parents and the best advice that i can give is to be honest about your situation with all of the people that you trust. I know a lot more people reached out to help me when they knew what I was going through and I don't know what I would have done without this support team, to advise me, encourage me, and to be my shoulder to cry on.

Asking around for advice is also a good step to take, I know that I asked Janice for some advice back in the day, and it was helpful to say the least.
Thanks Janice!!!

You also need to be able to express every feeling that you have, as your feelings are probably not understood or cared about in your home and once you find the group of people to support you you will certainly be better off.

Sometimes, or most of the time you will feel alone in your situation, but I promise you, you aren't, I would definitely try alateen/alanon as these meetings are a great way to find friendly and useful support.

Most importantly, you will feel that the weight of the world is on your shoulders where you come from, so don't forget to have fun every once and a while you are only a teenager after all, go bowling, or go to see a movie or try an activity that you haven't gotten to do in a while or that you have always wanted to do.

And always remember that you are in no way responsible for your parents or whatever they are into doing. It's not your fault.

I can sure relate to wanting to get out of a nightmarish home life. Making goals and sticking to them helped me, because then I could see an end in sight. I knew that education was my ticket to an independent life. I took as many classes as I could, including in the summer and graduated a year early. In my spare time, I worked my ass off and stuck all the money in the bank. When I wasn't working at the mall, I babysat. I was able to buy myself a car at 18, which went a long way towards my independence.
Counting also helped. I kept a countdown calendar for the days until graduation day (aka move away and never look back day). This was great because there was always one less day than yesterday when I woke up in the morning.
As others have said, talk to an adult- teacher, counselor, clergy, friend's parent etc.

I would like to say this.. Youa re my hero.. I mean when I read your book I felt alive and ingaged in it.. I love reading all kinds of books.. Im olny 13 and ive rea dabout 4 thousand books and let me say this.. your book was my favorite. everything about it was heart warming and amazing and it made me relazie how hard you had it.. I know how it is to.. Janice you are amazing and and a wonderfull role model for young girls and teens... Thank you For writing this amazing book girlbomb and I cant wait for the next one!

Candice rose

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