As with most unpleasant subjects, humans don’t want to think about the effects of their alcoholism or drug abuse on young children. We’re guilty of thinking children are resilient and will outgrow the trauma they suffered as a result of living with addicted parents. However, experts now agree that parental drug or alcohol abuse has lifelong effects on many kids. Let’s look at how growing up as children of alcoholics or drug addicts can affect a person even into adulthood.
Children of Alcoholics Can be Affected for a Lifetime
Some alcoholics and drug addicts are in denial about how their addiction affects others. They claim that it’s their business what they do with their lives and that they are only hurting themselves. In truth, addiction is not simply a personal problem. It is a family issue that can also extend to affect friends, employers, and communities.
A young child or teenager suffers from their parents’ substance-abusing behavior while living in the same home. But, many of these individuals continue to suffer the effects long into adulthood.
Characteristics Common to the Adult Child of an Addict
Here are some of the ways being the child of an alcoholic or a drug addict manifests to cause problems later in life:
- Fear authority figures and become isolated.
- Become “approval seekers” and go out of their way to please others.
- Angry people frighten them.
- Unable to effectively handle personal criticism.
- May live life from the viewpoint of victims.
- Have problems standing up for themselves.
- May confuse love and pity.
- Unable to express feelings or emotions.
- Suffer from low self-esteem and judge themselves harshly.
- Terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship.
- Will become an addict or become romantically involved with one.
- May develop another compulsive trait such as becoming a workaholic or a gambler.
- Always feel that they are different from everyone else.
- May become an alcoholic or a drug addict themselves.
- Often are more concerned for others than for themselves due to an overdeveloped sense of responsibility.
Children of alcoholics or drug addicts never know what to expect from one day to the next. Arguments, unreliability, inconsistency, and unpredictability are not unusual in their lives. Their emotional or physical needs are not met. Sadly, these children who grew up lacking positive foundational relationships find it difficult to develop healthy interpersonal relationships later in life. They also have poor problem-solving skills and struggle with erratic coping skills.
How to Take Back Control of the Life They Deserve
Fortunately, these individuals don’t have to continue suffering the effects of being children of alcoholics or drug addicts. Professional help is available to help them learn how to express their needs and handle conflict in more effective ways. Gaining insight into their behaviors, struggles, and feelings will help them understand how their childhood may have affected their adulthood.
Of course, the first step is for a person to recognize the fact that growing up in a dysfunctional home with alcoholics and addicts has had an impact on their adult life. If you are one of these adults, a support group is a good place to begin. It is also helpful to try these things as well:
- Educate yourself about adult children of alcoholics or addicts
- Set boundaries for yourself and enforce them
- Write a personal journal
- Eliminate unhealthy people, places, or things from your life
- Help others who had a similar childhood
Children of alcoholics don’t truly grow up. What this means is that they never learned the normal way of feeling, thinking, or reacting to daily life. That can change with the right help.
Finding a Way to Finally Feel Normal
Remember, you are not alone. Millions of people grew up in homes with parents who struggled with alcohol or drug abuse. That’s why there are professionals who are eager to help you overcome the effects of that lifestyle. Children of alcoholics and drug addicts do not have to remain victims forever. Take that first step today and seek help.
adultchildren.org/ – Children of Alcoholics/Dysfunctional Families
adultchildren.org – ACA Is
verywellmind.com– Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics
verywellmind.com – Were You Affected by an Alcoholic Parent?
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