Growing Up Around Alcoholism

Growing Up Around Alcoholism

Children of an alcoholic parent are three to four times more likely to become alcoholics as adults. Behavioral and emotional issues can arise from a dysfunctional home as effects of alcoholism on the family extend well beyond just the person with alcoholism. Communication is also stilted in families with alcoholic parents, creating more problems and further dysfunction. Growing up around alcoholism presents many challenges which need to be addressed as an adult.

Increased Risk for Alcoholism

A grown child of an alcoholic is generally aware of the split personalities in the home and the parent with addiction to alcohol. Often the family transitions with parents who go in and out of recovery, seeking to find balance and respite. Adult children of alcoholics have an increased risk of suffering from alcoholism as adults. The risk is greater also to suffer from suppressed emotions and unhealthy coping skills.

Common Traits

The primary symptom of a child of alcoholic parents is fear. Fear comes from shifts and changes in intimacy, times of change and ways of coping as the child fears abandonment and making mistakes. As a result of the fear, or in addition to it, adult children of alcoholics tend to have aggressive, manipulative or perfectionist tendencies. Traits which result from a dysfunctional home come from sensing a lack of empathy and tolerance of abuse accompanied by denial.

Some of the traits adult children of alcoholic parents state which impact life as an adult include:

  • Having to guess what normal is. When in unfamiliar situations, individuals from homes with alcoholic parents may stand back and watch others before doing acting.
  • Experiencing difficulty having fun. It may be hard to be excited about upcoming holidays, celebrations or birthdays. Events which were supposed to be positive may have negative connotations or memories attached as an adult.
  • Difficulty with relationships. The person may have gotten ‘too close’ and it is uncomfortable. A person may be challenged to experience long-term relationships or cannot allow oneself to trust a person that intimately.
  • Difficulty trusting people. It is hard to trust others, especially ones who are not known well. Broken promises and lies growing up may have set an adult child up for disappointment and mistrust of others.
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Afraid of angry emotions
  • Seeks approval
  • Feels overly responsible for others

Treatment Options

Some children grow up into well-adjusted individuals while others struggle to cope with emotions and relationships. Similar to alcoholics, many adult children of alcoholic parents may benefit from seeking treatment, going to AA meetings or other supportive twelve-step programs and alternative healing therapies. Services for adult children of alcoholics has grown as therapists and counselors recognize the burgeoning need. The best resources for treatment include trained counselors and therapists in the field of alcohol and addictions treatment. Groups specific to adult children of alcoholics (Al-Anon) can be quite helpful in assisting adults to jump the hurdle of facing a tumultuous past which may be impacting the present.

If you are an adult child of alcoholic parents and struggle with addiction to alcohol, help is available. Call us to find out how we can support your journey to sobriety with resources and information tailored to meet your individual needs.