Addiction

Impact of Addiction on Relationships with Children

“Growing Up In An Alcoholic

Household  Is Like Being

In An Airplane

With Enough Gas and No Map

It's A Private Affair

                                                                                          

Many families in our culture operate within an unstated but powerful rule that  matters of internal conflict or confusion are kept “in-house”.  “We” don't talk about private family matters. Children of alcoholics follow the same rule. The imposed silence, however, traps these children within the confused and distorted reality of a family that usually denies the existence of the illness that grips it. Without outside assistance, these children cannot recognize that they are in the midst of denial, delusion, shame and silence. They seldom know any other way of life.  Without a place to turn, these children have no alternative except to believe that the confusion, anger, distortion, distrust, insincerity, and inconsistency are “normal” and “to be expected”. The unpredictability and irrationality caused by the addiction of a family member often create an atmosphere that is characterized by blame, emotional pain and is sometimes unsafe. Some children come to believe that the underlying problems are their own fault. As a result, the predominant feeling for many of these children isn't sadness, anger or hurt. Instead, it is an overwhelming and disconcerting sense of confusion.

The Risks

As a result, it is hardly surprising that children of alcoholism and addiction are at significantly greater risk for:

  • Mental illness or emotional problems, such as depression or anxiety.
  • Physical health problems.
  • Learning problems, including difficulty with cognitive and verbal skills, conceptual reasoning and abstract thinking.
  • Being verbally, physically, or sexually abused.
  • Being neglected.Feeling obligated to take on parental responsibilities, resulting in an early loss of childhood. 
  • Sadly, most struggle to succeed and please in spite of the stresses at home.

As a result of this confusion and uncertainty, many children of alcoholics learn not to trust themselves and others. As they grow older, these patterns are carried with them into their future lives and relationships. They often find themselves ill-equipped to handle uncomfortable emotions and may have extreme difficulty in building a different kind of relationship with their own spouse or child(ren).

 

 

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