Alcoholism is referred to as a family disease. This is because the addiction not only harms the alcoholic but also everyone who has to live with them. Children always suffer when they share a house with an alcoholic parent. There can be a real sense of shame and they can spend a lot of time living in fear. Unfortunately, alcoholism is common and there are many children who find themselves in this situation.
It can be difficult for young children to understand why their parents become alcoholics. The effects of alcohol can be frightening, and it is difficult to comprehend why anyone would want to behave that way. There are different theories about why people become addicted to alcohol. Some experts believe that alcoholism is a disease of the brain. There is also likely a genetic reason why some people become addicted while others do not. Other theories view alcoholism as a maladaptive coping mechanism to deal with life’s problems.
While there can be disagreement about the exact causes of alcoholism, there is no doubt about strength of this type of addiction. The alcoholic is mentally obsessed with alcohol and will find it difficult to function without it. If they have been abusing this substance for a long time, they will suffer withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop. This physical addiction and mental obsession is a powerful combination, and this is why alcoholics can remain trapped inside their hell. Alcoholics use denial as a coping strategy, as this means they don’t have to face the destructiveness of their behavior.
Children who grow up with an alcoholic parent can be severely impacted by this. They are at greater risk of developing emotional problems and many grow up to become alcoholics themselves. These children can also have to deal with the following effects:
* Shame is an emotion that many children of alcoholics have to contend with. They may feel too embarrassed to bring friends back to their home, and may feel the need to lie in to keep the problem secret.
* There can be a great deal of anger against the alcoholic parent. This person is destroying the family but they do not seem to care.
* The situation can be so bad that children suffer symptoms of depression. They may be attracted to high risk behaviors such as drug abuse or even become suicidal.
* They may perform badly in school.
* Living with an alcoholic can mean a lot of stress. An addict can be highly unpredictable and may act irrationally and abusive. This can lead to physical and mental abuse of the child. All this stress can be very damaging to children.
*The child of an alcoholic can find it hard to form relationships with other people. It is difficult to trust others when parents have not been good caregivers.
Living with an alcoholic parent is traumatic. It’s important for children to know that it’s not their fault. There are some resources on the Web for children, e.g.:
* Above the Influence’s When Your Parents Use Drugs [including too much alcohol]
* The National Association for Children of Alcoholics Kid’s Page
* Kids Health’s Coping with an Alcoholic Parent
The most important thing to understand is that they are not responsible for the actions of the substance abuser. An alcoholic may try to blame their problems on those who live with them, but only they are responsible for the abuse. This also means that it is up to the parent to find the solution for their alcoholism. It is not the responsibility of the child to do this, even though they love their parent and want to help. It is just not possible to make somebody else get sober.
If an alcoholic parent does not want to get help, there isn’t much that can be done. The addict will often have to hit a rock bottom before they are willing to change. This can happen because they have done something they later regret. It can also occur when they have reached a stage where they are no longer willing to pay the price of their addiction. Some alcoholics never seem to reach the point where they are willing to get help.
It is not be possible for the children of alcoholics to solve their parent’s alcoholism, but they can do a lot to help themselves. It is important to discuss the situation with a trusted adult. A school counselor will be trained to deal with this type of problem and will be able to offer good advice. Finding out more about alcoholism can also be of benefit because it means the strange behavior of the parent will make more sense. There are also support groups available that can offer support and advice to the children of alcoholics.
Alateen is a twelve step support group that is open to the teenage children of alcoholics. It is part of Al-Anon which offers the same type of support to the whole family. These meetings are usually under the direction of an adult Al-Anon member, but the majority of those attending will be teenagers. The concerns of young people can differ from those of adults so such a group can be highly beneficial.
Ending the Cycle of Addiction
Children of alcoholics are more likely to develop an addiction when they get older. This can be avoided by understanding the process of addiction and looking out for the warning signs. Some children of alcoholics avoid the problem completely by making their mind up never to drink alcohol or take drugs.