Childhood is a delicate thing. Though some say that children are resilient, others maintain that resiliency is based upon certain circumstances. Something that may affect one person in one way could have an adverse reaction on someone else. Children may be resilient, but they often use positive things as a cover for hiding emotional trauma. In other words, we never really know how resilient someone is based on his or her financial or marital success. The depths of emotional pain that exist within children who lived through trauma are often hidden from the outside world.
Children of alcoholics are an interesting case study. According to the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, children of alcoholics are suffering from an “emotional, familial disease.” Sober alcoholic parents who are not emotionally sober, but are simply physical sober often affect their children negatively too. This is why it’s so critical for alcoholic parents to join a 12-step program or get help at a recovery home for their disease.
So how does alcoholism affect children, and can children be resilient enough to overcome the negative side effects of an alcoholic family unit? What can children of alcoholics do to ensure they do not follow their parents’ footsteps? There are many ways in which alcoholic parents affect their children, but here are three of the most critical ones.
1.Children of alcoholics feel isolated and uneasy around others. According to the Adult Children of Alcoholics Service Organization, children of alcoholics feel uneasy around others, especially pertaining to authority figures. Because children of alcoholics have been hurt and abandoned so often in the past, they go overboard in attempting to please people to gain their love. These children grow up to be people pleasing, isolated, uneasy adults who often run from authority.
2.Children of alcoholics live like victims as adults. These children grow up to see themselves in a victim role, and are unable at times to take responsibility for their actions. The truth is, they were victimized and have never really dealt with the pain of being victimized as children. Unfortunately, living a life of victimization does little good as adults.
Too often, this role that children of alcoholics assume affects love and relationships. They often choose relationships where their partner is an alcoholic, abusive, or controlling. In essence, the child of an alcoholic becomes the caretakers, the providers, and the victim of bad circumstances. In reality, they must make different choices in order to escape living as a victim.
3.Children of alcoholics find alternative ways of filling their unfulfilled needs. Because these children never resolved the abandonment issues and neglect they experienced when young, they often repeat the family cycle. In doing so, they marry alcoholics, become alcoholics, or choose another addiction-such as work or sex-even though they maintain physical sobriety or drink moderately. In other words, they use something to hide their emotional trauma, and truthfully, repeat the cycle by affecting those around them with their behavior. How often do we as adults think, “Why did I marry someone exactly like my parents?” It is due to the fact that we run towards the same thing that led us to be broken in the first place.
Adult alcoholics have a responsibility to their children to maintain emotional sobriety. There is nobody who feels more guilt and shame than the alcoholic himself does. Most alcoholics understand that they are putting their children in harms way. They know that their behavior is destructive towards their children’s emotional well-being. Of course there are alcoholic parents who refuse to see their own negative behavior due to their own preconceived notions of being victims, but most feel guilt and shame on a daily basis.
The best thing an alcoholic adult can do for their children is to become both physically and emotionally sober. There is no way to change the past or make certain wrongs right overnight. The only way to help their children in the long run is to get sober and stay sober using the 12 steps or another process. Though the children may have emotional scars later, they will recognize the courage and bravery that it took for their parents to get the help they needed.
Children of alcoholics must get the help they need in order to maintain emotional sobriety. These children, once adults, no longer can blame their parents forever for their own circumstances. This does not mean that their emotional trauma should be ignored. In fact, it means the opposite.
Children of alcoholics must grow up to get the help they need through a 12-step program. They have a responsibility to avoid becoming the type of person their parents were. The Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization is one organization that provides 12-step help for these children. The help can also be found in counseling, community, and church. It is only once they receive the help they need that they can go on to live lives free from pain, without worry about repeating the pattern of their parents.
Are you a parent who drinks too much and wants to show a better example for their children? Or are you an alcoholic or addict who simply drinks or does drugs and isn’t sure how to stop? If so, call Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health today. Call 949-558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery.