Due to my alcoholism for the last 12 years my children had to spend a lot more time taking care of me than I took care of them. I thought I was a fun dad. I did not see this at the time but when I look back at it me getting drunk and playing in the pool with them was not really being a dad and them helping turn me over on my side on the couch when I passed out so I would not choke on my throw up was not their job as kids (and I could provide many examples like this unfortunately). Now I am 9 months sober but my children still look carefully at my eyes when I come in after work and I can feel them smelling my breath whenever we are in close quarters. When I am in a bad mood they try to cheer me up but they do it in a way that is from fear that I will drink. I wish they could stop being so afraid. I feel shame and guilt every time I see them afraid because of me. It actually makes me want a drink more than anything else. They are so used to looking after me and worrying for me that they cannot stop it even after nearly a year without a drink. How can I stop them from trying to parent me? I don’t deserve them and I don’t deserve a chance to be their dad but since I have it I want to make up for the past.
It is really great that you have been able to get sober and stay that way for so long. You must take a lot of pride in your transition. In all likelihood your kids do also. However, they will never become the children you wish you had. Their caution is healthy, and it is important that you accept it. In fact, if you can find a way of accepting it, it will be easier for them to grow out of their present perceptions. You, in fact, already know this. How do I know that you know? Because you write: "I feel shame and guilt every time I see them afraid because of me. It actually makes me want a drink more than anything else." It is your feeling of shame and guilt that is your stumbling block. It is possible that they are aware (at some level, maybe subconsciously) that your difficulty of accepting the relationship as it is right now is putting you at risk. That will only make the situation worse. It is really completely in your hands to celebrate your achievements and accept their caution. As you get rid of your fears and grow further away from a life of alcohol and addictions they will follow. But you must be patient with them. It will take way longer for them to feel confident than it will take you to change. Trust that it will happen.