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The Truth about Children of Alcoholics

I hope this post can assist those burdened with being raised by an addicted parent to understand some of the characteristics of Children of Alcoholics. It is only if we are unafraid of the truth, will we find it.


Alcoholism in the home has long-lasting effects. Children of alcoholics often learn to cope with an unhappy childhood in ways that causes problems for them later in life. If you were raised by a parent who struggles with substance abuse, learning how alcoholism affected your past can help you build a better future.

Childhood Characteristics, Beliefs and Patterns

Children of alcoholics often act in one of the following ways

• Become super-responsible, like a miniature adult

• Become a trouble-maker

• Become able to adjust to any change, without noise or fuss

• Become a family clown or peacemaker, smoothing over troubles

Children of alcoholics often believe they are all alone, that no other families have these problems or that it is up to them to cure the parent. A child may take the blame for a parent’s alcoholism – or the parent may blame the child. As a result, many children of alcoholics not only feel unloved, but unlovable. Some of them suffer physical or sexual abuse, which reinforces the feelings of inadequacy. Also, because life at home is full of disappointments, broken promises and lies, the child learns not to trust. They shy away from relationships as not to get too close to anyone thus, not developing the ability to communicate in a healthy way.



Problems in Adult Life

Adult children of alcoholics often retain their childhood patterns. The super-responsible child may grow into an adult who demands perfectionism. The child who is the family’s scapegoat may have legal or financial troubles throughout life. The child who used to adjust to anything may be passive and withdrawn as an adult. And the family clown may grow up to be entertaining, but irresponsible.



An adult child of an alcoholic may be anxious, may try to control events and relationships, may have trouble being intimate, may be chronically depressed or have stress-related health problems. Tragically, many children of alcoholics either become chemically dependent themselves or marry alcoholics.

If you were raised with an alcoholic parent, there are some things you should consider:

• Find out as much as you can about alcoholism and its effects on family relationships. Be sure to learn of the physical effects of alcohol consumption as well as the emotional effects on family relationships. Just remember, if you had cancer, you would find out all you can. You would become an expert. This is no different. Do not pretend it doesn’t exist.

• Talk about your feelings and experiences with friends, church community, relatives, or people you may know who are in recovery. Health Professionals are a good resource as well. You can also check with your local chapter of AA to locate meetings for ACOAs.

• While it is often sad, painful and sometimes confusing, it is important to remember that you did not “cause” your parent’s drinking. There are many reasons someone develops a dependency on alcohol.

If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, anger or relationship problems...reach out. There are people who understand and there are people willing to help. As uncomfortable as the truth may be, it is only through facing our deamons that we can move past them.

Comments

Lon Woodbury said…
On the reactions: maybe even can show all the patterns on different levels or different times. Also, might refer to a emotionally unstable parent, not just an alcoholic.

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