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Alcoholism can be very destructive for both the alcoholic and his or her family and friends. The adult child of an alcoholic, or ACoA often feels this burden the most. The inappropriate behavior caused by his or her parent’s drinking can be very destructive. The ACoA is constantly surrounded by attitudes and actions that create an unhealthy environment for their mental development. Children of alcoholic parents often carry trauma from their childhood with them into adulthood.

Alcoholic Parents

ACoAs live in families where at least one of the parent figures is an alcoholic. These children may find that arguments, violence, and inconsistency are regular occurrences at their homes. Growing up in an atmosphere like this has a huge impact on a child’s development.

Due to their developmental level and the presence of denial, children begin to blame themselves for not getting their own needs met, leading to underlying feelings of shame and unworthiness that can extend into adulthood.

According to Counseling & Psychological Services because the caretaker had personal needs or behavior problems that interfered with his or her ability to provide for the emotional and sometimes physical needs of the children. The environment was inconsistent, unpredictable, arbitrary and chaotic. This may have led to the following problems:

  • The unaffected parent becomes preoccupied with the needs of the affected parent. This codependency enables the affected parent to continue his or her behavior while making another adult less available to the children.
  • The children experience their environment to be unpredictable and unreliable in the sense of getting their needs gratified on a regular basis.
  • The children are not allowed to have feelings, or confide in others about how they feel or about not getting their needs met. This may lead to denial, secrecy and children not being able to express themselves or trust others.
  • Due to their developmental level and the presence of denial, children begin to blame themselves for not getting their own needs met, leading to underlying feelings of shame and unworthiness that can extend into adulthood.
  • To protect themselves from such feelings, and to protect the family, the children adopt behavioral patterns that ensure survival. These include taking on particular “family roles” such as the hero, the scapegoat, the lost or ignored child, the mascot or clown. They can also have psychological characteristics or issues.
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Seeking Help From Professionals

Psychotherapy is a highly recommended solution for adults born to alcoholics. It would also be beneficial to receive family therapy if everyone is willing to work together to overcome these problems.

  • Al-Anon and Alateen meetings are a great way for the children of alcoholics to get help. Al-Anon is a support group that was developed for families who are affected by alcoholism. Alateen is a similarly functioning group that focuses on helping youth share their experiences. Both groups aim to help anyone whose lives have been affected by alcoholism.
  • Co-dependents Anonymous is a support group created with the intention of breeding healthier relationships among people who struggle with codependency. A lot of alcoholic parents are enabled by their partner’s focus on the alcoholic’s needs. This result in the neglect of their children. Since the needs of their children aren’t met, they often seek solace and identity in others as they grow older – through their friends, partners, and even their children.

This group helps codependent partners, or those who struggle with relationships due to being raised by codependent parents. They can share their experiences with others, develop new strategies for coping with their problems, and new techniques for meeting their needs independently.

  • SMART Recovery offers an alternative to the 12-step program used in typical alcohol abstention programs They offer online meetings daily, as well as face-to-face meetings in many places around the world. SMART Recovery is great for ACoAs who cannot get to meetings in person or who are unable to find success using a 12-step program.

The process of healing from the trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) of growing up in an unstable environment takes time. The shadow of a disturbed and unfortunate childhood follows us until we find the courage to confront it.

It’s important to build a support network that will assist you in learning how you may have adapted to a dysfunctional setting and examine negative behaviors you may have adopted in order to survive. It’s also important through the healing process that you give yourself credit where credit is due. Give yourself credit for the determination and strength you’ve displayed throughout your upbringing.

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Crystal Hampton

Crystal Hampton is a 37-year-old avid writer from South Florida. She works for a digital marketing company that advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.