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This is Ben park with a program in the series coming of age about American youth today how to holism is come to be an increasing problem in our time. A problem for many people the alcoholic himself his employer his wife and his children. On this program a 14 year old girl relates her experience as the child of an alcoholic. At the end of the program there's a brief commentary by a psychotherapist Mr. Maurice Russell holiday protein. And do you have brothers and sisters. I have a little brother who is five years how old. Work very well in school in the ninth grade PE first grade of high school. What about your outside activities. Well I go to the Al-Anon meetings in the AL team meetings. A lot of hobbyists like horseback riding in the summertime with fishing and swimming. I'm not sure that that everyone is familiar with what I want. What is it. It is a group
for relatives a problem drinkers the wives and husbands or. And I want a daughter who doesn't feel place and who is not a teenager any longer. What's our teen teen is for the teenagers problem drinkers. I see. How did you get interested in these activities. Well I was about four years ago. I was a little over four years now that my mother attended her first Al-Anon meeting. And I was so interested in it. And at that time I was only 10. And she couldn't answer my questions so she took me with her to the next meeting. I have been going since then four years now. I see. And is your father in AA. Yes he's an he's been around for about 12 years. You say he's been around a minute he was around. This is the way he puts it because he even though he has been in 12 years he hasn't
been sober for a long period of time for a few years so I guess some men wait. He's been sober for. A couple of months now about four months or so. What are your earliest memories of the family situation. Oh I remember it as being quite bad even though I was young I still remember arguments and fights and I remember the attempts of suicide. I witnessed two or three of those I think was three attempts of suicide. You say you witnessed and you were there. Yes I one of the times he tried to hang himself from the stairs. You have a time of tragedy jump out the window. And the third time was with a knife. How old were you. About eight. Up until that time I hadn't been aware of the drinking I hadn't bothered to take notice. But then after that time I became greatly disturbed
and it showed with my school marks they went down. And. I was very nervous and quite upset. I would just be thanking about the fight some and become quite worried. I'm thinking of what will happen when I go home and will he come home drinking tonight and will be and he seems. Did this have any effect on your friendships. Yes at times I shied away from having friends home. In what other ways did this affect you. If somebody looked at me cross-eyed I would become very annoyed and very violent I would get very angry. Why was that. Because I was so upset and thinking of what had happened that took some sort of effect on me. Did you feel that people were critical of you or something. I thought that the reason my father drank and the fights that we had was because of me.
I even tried to run away once. I was already I had my things packed. And I went down and just as I got into the doorway of the living room I was surprised to see my father there and he asked me if I was going any place as if I was going out for a salad or to the candy store or something. And I just broke down and cried because I just didn't know what to say to him. I was so shocked that he was sitting there. So we sat down and we had a long talk and the whole thing was forgotten. How did you feel toward your father. Well when he was drinking I hated him. And when he wasn't drinking I loved him. How does it feel to have you. He left me at at all time. And still does. Did you tell him we were going to run away. I don't recall exactly what I said but I did say that conditions at home were so bad and. And I felt that I was to blame and
that's why I wanted to go away. Why did you feel you were to blame I really don't know. I've I thought that it was because of some things that I did or the way I acted. For me coming. Was the reason. For his drinking. Did either of your parents ever say or do anything that would have indicated something like this to you. You know I don't think so they never mentioned anything they never included me in the problem. What is the basic purpose. To try and. Card. With our cells. And the alcoholic problem. As it relates to you. Yes. The reason we go there is because of us selves. I know what kind of insight you get from these meetings. Well I remember when I went to my first meeting as young as I was I didn't talk
and my mother didn't talk but we sat at the meetings and we listened and they had different speakers there. I didn't understand too much but afterwards this one woman who was my mother's sponsor and who was my sponsor. Took me on the side and she said to me and very nice way. This problem is not your problem and there's nothing you can do about it just stop your father's drinking. So why try. And I didn't know at that time but I was taking the first step. From that night on I forgot about my father's drinking completely as it relates to me. And. I. Took it upon myself to say that it was his problem and not mine. What do you feel your problem is. I think I have a problem anymore. I did have one
but my problem was stop thinking of myself. But after coming into the meetings and taking my own inventory I realized that. I was wrapped up in self-pity and I didn't think of anyone else except myself. And I learned that. I should take the days one day at a time live 24 hours. And stop thinking so much about. Me thinking of just what was going to happen to me now thinking of how my mother would feel or how my father feels. Did you ever have the fear that you yourself would become an alcoholic. Oh yes. And this came at one of the meetings when I when I heard this mentioned and it wasn't mentioned and in a way to tell somebody. But I was young at the time and I was greatly disturbed by that.
And when I was going home in the car with my mother. She knew I was quiet and family came out and I said well I've become an alcoholic. And I. Was I was very disturbed over it. Because sometimes I do become depressed. Once in a very great while I think everybody does it sometimes. And it's my mother who's always saying. That. Alcoholism is not hereditary and truth. Absolutely right. It isn't hereditary. And because of this I don't have any fears of becoming a. What has your father about. Trying really to stay sober. You are taking any medicine as you are going to an alcoholic clinic. I don't think he has ever taken Antabuse or any of these. Medicines. Because he doesn't believe in taking them. Billy isn't working it out on his own which I agree with. I like that
way too. Instead of being doped up with medicine but he has been in many different hospitals. And many different clinics. And over the summer. He was in the hospital. But for something I was an alcoholic and he said this is the first time I've ever walked into a hospital or any other time he was carried in on a stretcher. You say even stretch your hair at different times he would be. In a taxi maybe a taxi driver would take him to a hospital if they saw that he was. Deathly ill and didn't have any money or such. They were taken to a hospital. Or the police if they saw that he was that he would be taken to a hospital then. Or at home. If. He became very sick. Over it. More than we would call a doctor. What's the longest he's been in the hospital.
Maybe a couple weeks. I'm. Sure. Has he ever gone into an alcoholic clinic or a hospital voluntarily. You know I think each time that. He was taken in he was carried and. And he was drunk at at the time. What's his attitude Africans out. I think at. One time used to feel ashamed. Because my mother and I would go to meet him. And I don't think he does feel ashamed anymore. What kind of family background of your father come from. A broken home. And many sisters and brothers. What happened to live with relatives. I know he stayed with his. Mother. And the children stay with the mother.
I don't know if that had anything to do with his drinking. Maybe it did but. It's surprising that many people who had a wonderful childhood become alcoholics it's very surprising. When many people think of people drinking and alcoholics I think of those on the Bowery. And it isn't true at all. I think they'd be very shocked to know of some of the people who are alcoholics. Some people don't admit that they're alcoholics. And so they cannot be called alcoholics they're only alcoholics when they admit it to themselves and to the people I know. I can tell you now that my father is an alcoholic. Only since he's admitted it. Has your father ever had difficulty because of drunken driving. No nothing very severe. Now he's been picked up for. Driving while he was drinking. I was going to ask you about that. You say driving while drinking has even picked up for drunkenness generally.
Are often. But nothing very severe just because you know it's because of. His influence of alcohol at the time. What has happened was he had to spend some time in jail as a result of that over. Time. What's the longest time. I don't know maybe overnight or something like that. Just. For the evening. I imagine it's been fine. Those are pretty stiff fines. To staff. When you know that you could have been picked up by the police or that make you feel funny at the time I was young so I didn't realize that. The only time I saw a policeman there was because of. Taking him to the hospital. Have the police been fairly understanding about his alcoholism. I don't think they were too understanding they didn't understand the problem.
I guess as we didn't understand it as I said I was young so I don't remember things. Does he ever talk to you about his alcoholic problem. Guess where he takes me to a meeting. And. We talk about. Different things in the age of the clubs than. At the first six months that we were going to our man he was against it completely. I gather he feels differently about it now. I am. Now is quite a. Boost. I anxious to see us. Attend the meetings. And. He's found that because of it we have grown up. And become much more adult. And. My mother has grown up. Before our non my mother when I would go into a rage would start screaming. I. Would become paranoid with his actions. And then when he tried committing suicide he would have an audience. We have been trying to
stop it. And when we know he was going out the door and maybe going out to get that drink we'd stand in front of the door and these things were ridiculous. But ACTA coming into our anon remember how to act now. And when my father comes home drunk I just walk out of the room. And don't pay any attention to him and just let him go about his own life. Does this bother him. I think at first it did because he enjoyed his audience and all of a sudden he didn't have one. And. The past three years he hasn't. Tried any nonsense or. Tried to commit suicide over that stage. Do you think you really would have gone through with it. Now. I. Think you would have. Majority of them as I've. Seen and I've heard. When they have an audience they try to do anything without an audience Wow. The night that he tried to hang himself my mother and I just
walked right past him. Went upstairs to bed. Sure enough he followed us up. It isn't a game anymore. Grace what is breaking. Well and there are you do you think a drink quite a lot you'd get on a Thai horse and pack all those things and he said well I'm going. Sometimes to stay upright away a few days. And sometimes they come back the same night. And the other times he would stay away it was beef before we were on our own. And after we were in town on my own he. He came back because he knew that it didn't have any effect on us. You go out the door you stay at the door. And we didn't. Care. We didn't show him that we cared. Well do you care. If he goes out the door. I think I do care. Because I. Don't like to see him. Walk off from home. But.
I don't show it. I try not to show it. And it works out much better this way. And you are great because you cursed. Him. I don't know why he drinks. What kind of problems the people at the meetings talk about what do they say. When. Many of the. People come to. The first. Their first impression their first thought. Is how can I. Stop the alcoholic I'm drinking. And after their first meeting they realize that it's not up to them to stop any party. Especially their alcoholic from drinking. Well so that's the problem it's out by the first meeting whether they continue to come. Because Appa first meeting their first meeting we stressed that it is a program for yourself not for the alcoholic. And we stress at our meetings for emotional detachment from alcoholism.
In other words detaching us out from. The alcoholic drinking and the alcoholic. During the time that they are drinking. He learned this much if your first meeting. Why do you continue to go. Because. I find that I still need the program and I still keep growing in the program no matter how many years I've been in. Makes you feel a little better attending meetings that's why I know a bit. I enjoy coming to the meetings. Because when I go and I hear people speak I feel how lucky I am to be in this long. And. Think how minor My problem is to some of the other problems that exist. I was out for three weeks because of illness. And I really didn't miss one meeting and when I came back. It wasn't because my motional detachment. From the alcoholic was just that I'd like to save all the people there again and. Enjoy
listening to the different things being mentioned over again. Do you have a lot of meetings you sell. Well if I see someone here for the first time who need some help. I'm always willing to add a little piece of advice. And. When I see a person come here. Who. Is coming because of their. Alcoholic spouse. And has children who are in their teens will I jump right to it. And mention that our teen band. Did you ever think of bring your children to the meetings and you'll be surprised. Most. People are afraid to tell their teenagers and I think. They're afraid to. Mention that their father or mother if you know I think that's the worst thing you could do because a girl ready. To listen and learn. And have a problem and you see that they're depressed and. Their marks are failing. Then. I see no reason they're not mentioning something to them My brother is only five years
old and will be 6. Next month. He knows. That his father drinks. And he always says to my father get sick from whiskey. And yet he doesn't have this understanding but his son isn't old enough even if he's eight. And he does comprehend very well. He may be taken to meetings. Do most teenagers with alcohol have problems. Yes. I think so. More sour than the than the. Spouse of the alcoholic. Very definitely because. Majority of them are young and confused and they don't understand anything at all. So it was quite difficult for them. Your mother took you to your first meeting when you were 10. Yes. What had you and your mother said about it prior to that. She didn't say anything. She couldn't say anything. And. She too wondered why he was always drinking so much. And it was
wonderful when the two of us continue going together because. Time we were. Coming apart. We worked together. And then after going to our now we attended our. And we became very close and now we're more like sisters. And we confide in each other and we have a long discussion. How do you feel about bringing friends to the house. And I don't mind bringing them to the house. My father enjoys company and I enjoy. Having company in parties think I have a steady boyfriend. You know. He's in the Air Force. Casually but nothing have a year. It doesn't. It isn't his past time. What do you feel about your boyfriend's drinking. A hard question I think most of the fellows I know don't drink. And. If I see one who does drink too much.
Then I kind of. Stay away. I shy away because. I don't want to get myself out. As a relationship between your father and your mother. Since she's joined all of us definitely before I am out of the home life was completely wrong and everybody went their separate ways. There was no unity. Now. Where our family again we go out as a family. We entertain as a family. And most of the things we do are as a family. Are there many arguments. To hype and say. With a family of four that I think there are quite a lot of argument. Things that come up. But for these past few years recent years. I think there have been most arguments than ever because we've all come to understand each other. Changes. I mean coming of age we invited the comments of Mr. Maurice Russell a
psychotherapist and lecturer in psychotherapy at Hunter College in New York. This interview certainly impressed me very much as the kind of thing. That we need to hear and know more about. Alcoholism is talked about widely as a national problem. And although this is said over and over I think the full impact of the alcoholic parent. Can never really be understood until one has experienced it rather directly as this young woman is. As far as the impaired act of the alcoholic parent in any family. There are many many problems that are certainly raised. Above all we know generally that children have a need for controls and limits to be set for them
when they are exposed to a parent who obviously has no control. This raises a tremendous amount of anxiety in the youngster because if the parent is not able to control himself How then can the child possibly ever hope to cope with the various impulses that she might be feeling. It's also interesting that this teenage girl describes her initial reaction when she did not know exactly what was going on in the family. It certainly was aware of the fact that there was some kind of hidden problem. This is. Extremely upsetting for children when there are so-called ghosts in the closet which they feel around them and yet they cannot identify or
understand. It is almost automatic that the child feels that he or she has contributed in some way to what is going on. And above all I guess I was concerned about what appeared to be her overreaction to the problem in terms of an excessive kind of detachment and intellectual which would make one suspect that there is almost a counter reaction to feeling. One wonders how much she can identify with feelings. For example in labeling the father's various suicide attempts purely and simply as dramatic efforts and needing an audience one would wonder if this is not somewhat oversimplified and if. This is nonetheless true. There certainly are other factors and he's really trying to show something he's
feeling pretty intensely and I think that a pat answer like this is not enough. The question of the constant attendance at meetings certainly has helped this youngster in many ways I feel that she's gained a great deal. On the other hand one would wonder how long should she attend and how much part of her life should become. It is fascinating to hear her comment that she actually misses the meetings when she is absent for illness. And certainly the larger question is what would happen if her father ever should stop drinking altogether. What would this do to the youngster as well as her mother. And then of course in a broader sense and I suppose this is mainly psychologically speaking I would wonder what would this kind of life experience do in terms of how she perceives men which she perceive them
as. Perhaps weaker than women as needing an unusual amount of understanding accept and even if you will. Tolerance is a thought likely that people in this kind of situation situation that she's in might even help to create the problem in someone else by unconsciously wishing for it to be there. Well I think you get a clue when she talks about her current boyfriend and already you see she is questioning whether or not his drinking is within the limits and is obviously raising some question in her own mind as to how she is going to handle this. We don't have enough evidence of course to support whether or not he is drinking excessively. But at the same time one would wonder whether or not she deliberately selected
a boy who might conceivably have a drinking problem. Or if not as you suggest with her preoccupation with affairs maybe in some way encouraging him in Him why do you suppose that she's so Pat about all this. Well my impression would be that this is a kind of defense and this is what's bothering me so much you say. It's as though somewhere this has answered a number of things for her and she is that hearing to this rather closely. And I would question any kind of stereotyped response to any kind of human problem. Next week a 17 year old boy who says of his father he's not proud of me and I'm not proud of him. The boy is perhaps not typical but his experience is becoming increasingly common in 20th century America. Coming of Age is
Coming of age
Barbara joined the Al-a-Teen
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Columbia University
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In the Al-a-Teen, an organization of children of alcoholics, Barbara tried to find some meaning in the tensions that surround her and her family.
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Explores the thoughts and feelings of American youth in the 20th century. Writer-director Ben Park talks with teenagers and parents, teachers and friends.
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Director: Park, Ben
Interviewee: Russell, Maurice
Producing Organization: Columbia University
Writer: Park, Ben
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-21-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:24
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Chicago: “Coming of age; Barbara joined the Al-a-Teen,” 1961-05-05, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 12, 2022,
MLA: “Coming of age; Barbara joined the Al-a-Teen.” 1961-05-05. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 12, 2022. <>.
APA: Coming of age; Barbara joined the Al-a-Teen. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from