Children of Alcoholics Forced Into Adulthood

Jeanne, a 53-year-old from Massachusetts who asked that her last name be withheld, once found her father lying facedown in a pool of blood with 20 bottles of vodka in the trash. Today, leading a successful career in the high-tech industry, she refuses to drink alcohol and shuns those who do.

Like many children of alcoholics, she led a life "hidden" from friends. "No one on the outside sees it," she told "People thought everything at home was happy and there were no problems. My mother did everything she could to hide it."

Her father never abused the family physically but waged a psychological war when he was drunk, especially at holiday time.

"My earliest memories were that every holiday was ruined," she said. "You could tell when he was starting -- it was humiliating and embarrassing, and he would slur his words and ignore you in favor of someone else."

'I Own You,' Father Shouted

Once, after her mother had the piano tuned and Jeanne was excited to sit down and play, her father shouted, "I don't want to hear you play. I want to hear the piano tuner play." He also dangled her promised college education as a "tool" to make sure she behaved. "I own you," he would tell her.

Since then, Jeanne has never enjoyed the holidays and she admits the experience probably has kept her from ever getting married and having the responsibility of children. But she gained personal strength.

"I have been fiercely independent ever since," said Jeanne. "I think there are permanent scars, but you can't let those dictate your life. It's there and you move on and you can't let it define you and get sucked down into that hole."

Jeanne is a living example of new research on children of alcoholics that finds that most children from "trauma-ridden" families make it," according to psychologist O'Gorman, who studies resiliency. "They gain something that makes them grow up faster and lose some of their childhood, but they gain maturity and wisdom, which is a good thing."

"There are incredible stories of heroism," she said. "You can change the end of your story."

For more information on this topic, go to the following links.

National Association for Children of Alcoholics

Children of Alcoholics Foundation

ABC News researcher Barbara Paulsen contributed to this report.

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