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Author: Justin Mckibben
Estimates show that in America roughly 10% of the population is addicted to alcohol or drugs. At first you might think 10% doesn’t sound like a lot. How does 33 million people sound? And if overdose and death rates have taught us anything, it’s that this problem is a serious and lethal one. But not only do we see the pain and turmoil of those who struggle, but we have to see what the families go through. The individual suffers deeply, but we cannot forget the children of alcoholics.
These numbers show that millions of parents, spouses and children are destructively impacted as they live with a person suffering from addiction.
National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week started on February 12th and went to the 18th. This observation is to help spread public awareness about the impact of alcohol and drugs on children and families. While the official week of observation has ended, we encourage people to take the chance this month to continue the conversation. We don’t just acknowledge the issue for 7 days a year, right?
The Truth about Children of Alcoholics
Alcoholism is a chronic disease with a far-reaching impact.
- In America, experts estimate 6.6 million children under 18 live with at least one alcoholic parent
- One in four children in the U.S. are witness to alcoholism or addiction to drugs regularly
According to The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), children of alcoholics experience many hardships that have a profound impact on their futures. Children of alcoholics typically:
- Have poorer language skills
- Have more absences from school
- Are more at risk for mental health disorders
- Higher risk of physical health issues
- Are at a significantly higher risk of becoming alcoholics themselves when they grow up
How to Help Children of Alcoholics
Most people have the knee-jerk reaction to insist a child should be removed from a detrimental environment. To many it makes sense that if the child is put in danger, they should be taken from their home to be kept safe. If we can’t always help the alcoholics, at least the children of alcoholics should be protected, right? The idea is the children of alcoholics can then have a stable environment while the parent gets treatment.
However, others would argue against such an approach, saying it not only breaks up the family unit, but it could also create a more instability. Removing the children of alcoholics from their homes and putting them in unfamiliar environments might only make things worse. Sometimes this process can create new stress and fear in a child, and ultimately be counterproductive.
So the unique difficulty in helping children of alcoholics is finding a way to maintain stability while still addressing the issues in the home, specifically those connected with the addiction.
Family Programs Part of Holistic Healing
Thankfully, complete removal from the recovery process is not the way it has to be for the families of those who struggle. Newer, more holistic treatment modalities make it a point to incorporate the children of alcoholics and their families in the treatment process.
An effective family program, such as the Palm Healthcare Family Program, can help to support the spouses, parents or children of alcoholics and addicts in many ways. Communicating with families and involving them in the recovery plan tends to make the living environment less dysfunctional.
A key element to assisting the family and children of alcoholics is education. Understanding the individual’s difficulties, they are able to provide an elevated level of support to the patient from home. These kinds of family involved programs can help the children of alcoholics get a better perspective on their parent’s behavior. At the same time, it gives families a chance to heal in tandem with their loved one.
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The Family for the Future
As innovation and education provide lasting results, treatment is beginning to grow in ways that have a stronger impact. Even elected officials and policy makers are now focusing on the impact of the family of the person addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The reality is, every person suffering from addiction issues eventually has to return home. Taking children away from their parents does not solve the issues, because eventually we want the individual to be able to live in their home environment. Recovery is about to reuniting families, not tearing them further apart. A more supportive family environment will go a long way in helping people in recovery maintain lasting sobriety.
This is why welcoming the family is good for the future. Programs like Palm Partners Recovery Center believe in keeping the spouses, parents and children of alcoholics and addicts connected to the person who needs their support the most. Overcoming the isolation and having love and connection in your corner can change the game. So even though National Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week ended, we still want to challenge everyone to bring their kids or their parents closer together.
Thousands of people everywhere are growing and changing their lives through programs of recovery. Along with them, thousands of families are rebuilding and sharing their strength and hope. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call. We want to help. You are not alone.
CALL NOW 1-800-951-6135
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Author: Shernide Delva
There are many theories on why some people struggle with addiction and others do not. Some say it is due to environmental factors while others point to biological changes in the brain. It will take more time to understand addiction entirely. However, each day researchers learn more about it. One of the theories being suggested is the attachment theory of addiction. This theory delves into addiction from birth and says that life circumstances lead children to develop a survival mechanism that encourages them to seek outside nurturement. If a child is not getting the attention they need, they attach to something that will fulfill that need. Could this attachment be related to addiction?
What is the Framework of Attachment Theory?
To understand the attachment theory of addiction, we must define it and understand how it works. The attachment theory states that children who do not grow up in a secure environment learn unhealthy attachment skills. Therefore, in treating addiction, it is critical that treatment provides a model of secure attachment, so individuals can understand how to respond to pain and discomfort other than acting out in addictive behaviors.
As humans, we have a longer period of dependency on caregivers, more than any other mammal. Not only do we need our caregivers for food and safety, but for emotional connection, affection and love. When we are infants, we naturally turn to our caregiver in times of distress. Babies cry, and they learn they have support when they need it.
Here is what it looks like when secure attachment does not happen: Baby is upset and turns to their caregiver for comfort and connection. However, instead of their needs being addressed, the baby is ignored, left alone or abused for having needs. Over time, this patterns results in the child learning not to turn to their caregiver in times of distress. The child will stop seeking care and comfort from their caregiver, and instead, look for ways to regulate and self-soothe from the outside world.
This period in life is where some researchers believe addictions starts to develop. As a child grows in this unhealthy attachment environment, they learn not to turn to humans for care and comfort. Instead, they seek alternatives. Addictions to drugs, food, and rituals around food like over- or under-eating become coping mechanism for replacing security a secure attachment would have provided.
The Internal Working Model
Furthermore, in infancy, a child learns necessary skills for survival and develops what the attachment theory calls an Internal Working Model (IWM). Our IWM helps us find out how to view the world and ourselves. A child’s IWM is dependent on their upbringing. The theory argues that a child’s attachment style has a significant impact on whether they will develop a substance abuse dependency.
To fully understand unhealthy attachment, you should first understand secure attachment. Secure attachment is when a caretaker shows awareness of a child’s emotions and quickly attends to the child when they are distressed. The theory suggests that when a child is properly taken care of, they feel free to explore the world and acquire independence because they develop a sense of certainty that their caretaker will be there if anything goes wrong. They rarely feel uncertain or insecure in their independent journey because they know they have a caretaker there if needed.
However, if the attachment system a child has growing up is deficient, the child will struggle with emotional regulation as an adult. Children raised in an insecure environment grow up learning to blame themselves when they are unable to provide for their emotional needs on their own. Instead of developing security in a healthy manner, they will use addictive substances or behavior to define comfort and safety. The use of addictive substances and behaviors will lead to continued dysfunction and continued addictiveness.
Treating Addictiveness through Attachment-Oriented Therapy
Recent studies positively confirm a link between insecure attachment and substance dependence. Fortunately, there is hope. “Attachment-Oriented Therapy” or AOT is a way of “eliciting, integrating and modifying styles represented within a person’s internal working model.” (Flores 2004). The therapy works to shift the internal working model an addict has acquired to self-sooth since childhood.
The point of the therapy is to teach those struggling with addiction how to regulate their emotions and feelings, so they avoid seeking outside sources as a means of managing their emotions. Addicts learn how to explore the deeper problem of why exactly they use their addictive behavior to escape their emotional pain and where this method of survival was rooted.
AOT is rooted in providing a way for individuals to explore themselves from the inside out. Attachment theory states that a model is necessary for patients to understand how to stop seeking answers on the outside and learn to heal. By providing a haven for addicts to learn to feel and express emotions, a better solution can be found.
Learning how to regulate emotions and self-sooth are skills that we develop from infancy. Therapies like AOT help in reestablishing methods of secure attachment. If you struggle with managing your emotions, seeking help is the first step. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135.
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Author: Shernide Delva
There has been an influx of media attention on the heroin and painkiller epidemic which is now at record numbers. The focus in the media has been on the rise in overdose fatalities from heroin and prescription painkillers. Overdoses have more than tripled in the last decade and the numbers continues to rise at alarming rates. While raising awareness of the opioid epidemic is necessary and much needed, we still cannot take our attention away from the drug killing Americans the most: alcohol.
The biggest threat to Americans remains to be alcohol. Americans are dying from alcohol abuse at numbers that exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 35 years. The CDC estimates that in just the last year, over 30,700 people died from alcohol-related causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis of the liver.
In a little over a decade, the number of Americans who have died from alcohol have risen by 37 percent. In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from painkillers and heroin combined, says the CDC.
If you think these numbers are high due to alcohol-related accidents, you are wrong. These numbers do not even include deaths caused by alcohol like drunken driving incidences, and murders committed under the influence. If we were to count those deaths, the death toll would be up to 90,000.
Why do these numbers continue to climb? Researchers conclude it is simply because Americans are drinking more. The statistics prove this conclusion:
- Americans who drink at least once a month rose from 54.9% to 56.9%.
- 51.9% of women reported drinking at least monthly in 2014, up from 47.9% in 2002.
- Binge drinking by women is up to 17.4% from 15.7% in 2002.
All in all, binge drinking is the major culprit. People who drink the most are at the highest risk for alcohol-related death. According to past research by Cook, the top 10% of American drinkers consume close to 74 drinks a week on average. Drinking at this rate is linked to a range of health complications, including cirrhosis, cancer, brain damage, drunk driving and other accident fatalities.
For more moderate drinkers, the health effects of alcohol remain less clear. The research and data from moderate drinking has been all over the place. Some data suggests moderate alcohol consumption; around one-to-two drinks per day may actually be healthy.
However, there is a gray line when it comes to moderate to harmful drinking. A recent study revealed that when used alone, alcohol was the deadliest recreational substance, followed by heroin and cocaine. For this reason, many are urging public health officials to shift focus away from the dangers of drugs like pot and LSD and focus more on educating people about the dangers of drinking.
Alcohol is a dangerous substance that when used in excess, can cause serious health consequences. However, since alcohol remains more accessible than any other drug, it increases the risk of abuse. Alcohol is a socially accepted drug and has played a role in our culture for so long that many do not even realize they have a problem until it is too late.
Alcoholism is a serious disease and if you feel your drinking is getting out of control, do not wait to be a statistic, get treatment today. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
Author: Justin Mckibben
As a recovering alcoholic, I can definitely remember a few black-outs in my drinking days. And by remember, I mean I at least know what people told me about the details of the night before after waking up in a strange place with random clothes on and sharpie tattoos all over my body. I was fortunate enough most times to wake up without injuries, except for a hangover that often felt like someone had split my skull with a hammer and poured the black-plague into the crack.
Blacking out is not fun, and it is extremely dangerous! Blacking out while drinking not only puts you at risk, but you could end up in a situation that risks the safety of others in a serious way. Recently a team of UC San Diego researchers conducted a study to warn young people about the dangers of black-out drinking found that a majority of adolescents experience a blackout at least once by age 19.
Research Data on Black-outs
The research team looked at data on 1,402 drinking adolescents in England, specifically for information when they were between ages 15 and 19. This age group was selected because the heaviest drinking usually occurs between ages 15 and 22, and this would be the first study to examine this age group in regards to blackout trajectories over time.
- 90% of the adolescents had drank to the point of blackout at least once by age 19
- About 50% of them had blacked out multiple times
The study also looked into what elements and behaviors may predict a blackout, including:
- Demographic factors
- Impulsive characteristics
- Peer substance use
Using this data the researchers determined that teens in this age group that were most likely to report blackouts had similar factors involved such as:
- They were smokers
- Had impulsive-like characteristics
- Higher estimated peer-substance involvement
- Were female
This was not too much of a surprise, as compulsive behaviors tend to come in pairs, and with drinking alcohol females will need less of an amount over a shorter time frame in order to get as intoxicated as males.
Alcohol Abuse in Adolescents
Alcohol abuse in adolescents is nothing new, but it is still a disturbing reality when taking into account the dangers of black-out drinking, which is typically hand-in-hand with binge drinking. Professor of psychiatry at the UC San Diego and corresponding author for the study Marc A. Schuckit said,
“No matter what country, when kids are drinking, they are not likely to understand what is going on with their systems and how dangerous it can be.”
Still, the scary part is this is nothing new. Binge drinking is already a problem among teens that has a major contribution to black-outs and alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking is essentially drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in a short period of time with the intention of getting drunk, and it is an easy way to develop alcohol poisoning when taking in too much alcohol for the body to keep up its vital functions.
Back in 2011 there was a 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey that looked into underage drinking and found that among high school students, during a 30 day time frame:
- 39% drank some amount of alcohol.
- 22% binge drank.
- 8% drove after drinking alcohol.
- 24% rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
- In 2011 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 25% of youth aged 12 to 20 years drink alcohol and 16% reported binge drinking.7
- In 2011, the Monitoring the Future Survey reported that 33% of 8th graders and 70% of 12th graders had tried alcohol, and 13% of 8th graders and 40% of 12th graders drank during the past month.
Alcohol is the number one commonly used and abused substance among young people in the United States, and more disturbing is that alcohol is the main factor in 4,700 deaths per year among underage youth.
Coming to Conclusions
The reason that we can be drinking one minute, and then finding ourselves in a tutu tied to a telephone pole in rush hour traffic in the morning is because alcohol is a depressant, and at high enough doses depressants impair memory acquisition, or basically create a momentary shutdown of memory storage. John Ericson wrote a statement in Medical Daily that said,
“Blacking out is always bad news, because it is more or less synonymous with losing your mind for a substantial period of time. During a blackout, you approach every new context as a blank, inaccessible slate, incapable of forming any hard memories.”
But all jokes aside, black-out drinking is absolutely irresponsible and can even be deadly. Some people get behind the wheel of a vehicle and kill themselves and others because they have gotten drunk to the point where their brain is incapable of keeping up with their body, and there are numerous other ways that young people can find themselves in situations that are detrimental to all involved. Professor Schuckit said it’s a serious problem, and should be handled as such,
“Kids have to recognize the problem of blackouts themselves and take steps to change behaviors. We need to identify something they can recognize in themselves and their peers so they can learn to modify their behaviors, because blackouts are dangerous, prevalent, and persistent.”
Binge drinking for students may seem like a good idea, but the problem lies in the fact that not all young people are truly aware off the extent that danger takes them to, especially for those with a serious drinking problem. Someone who is consistently drinking excessively to get drunk, and experiencing more and more loss of time and memory should take an honest inventory on this behavior. Alcoholism is a cunning disease, and many young people may not know how real it really is until they find themselves in the grips of it. Then one day you wake up, if you’re lucky, and realize you have forgotten half of your life.
Binge drinking, black-outs, alcohol poisoning and alcoholism are all very real, and even teens are eligible to experience the horrors associated with all of them. It is never too late, and definitely never too early, to make a change that can save your life. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-951-6135
“Dad’s an alcoholic.” “Mommy needs to go to rehab.” These are not comfortable nor are they easy conversations to have with a child, even if your child has known that there’s been a problem for quite some time.
As it stands, more than 28 million children have an alcoholic parent and yet alcoholism and addiction aren’t being talked about in most homes. Instead, children grow up facing a lifetime of issues that their peers are fortunate enough to not have to deal with. Children of alcoholics tend to have more emotional, behavioral and academic problems than other kids, and are four times more likely to become addicts themselves. Children of alcoholic parents are also at a greater risk of abuse and neglect, as well as have an increased chance of witnessing domestic violence and marrying an addict later in life.
And that’s why it’s so important to start talking about drug use and addiction to our children.
How to Explain Alcoholism to a Child
#1. Plan the Conversation
Choose the timing of your conversation carefully. In other words, don’t try to have a serious conversation when your child is on their way out the door to catch the school bus, for instance. Make sure there are no distractions and the setting is a relatively calm one. It’s best to explain your alcoholism when you already have your plan to go to rehab in place.
Explain that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed and that you’re taking steps to do so. Talk about what will change, for example, that you will be away for a little while. Repeat the conversation as often as needed so that your child feels comfortable having an ongoing dialogue.
#2. Keep It Age-Appropriate
Obviously, you want to explain addiction and rehab in terms your child can understand.Therefore the language you use and the level of detail you provide should be tailored to their age and level of maturity. Break the issues down as simply and directly as possible, and make sure to include a message of hope at the end.
#3. Be Truthful and Honest
Children have an innate ability to know when an adult is lying. So, although you’ll need to use different terms (depending on your child’s age), you should be honest about the problem. Explain that addiction is a disease, just like diabetes, and that it is caused by several different things, such as genetics, environment and past trauma. But just like diabetes, you are sick and in need treatment to get better.
#4. Educate Yourself
Educate yourself about the disease of addiction so that you understand it before you try to explain it to your child. This will also help prepare you for any questions they might have. If you don’t know the answer, you can work on finding one together.
#5. Acknowledge the Consequences
Don’t downplay your child’s experiences of your alcoholism; instead, acknowledge the impact it has had and validate your child’s experience. Apologize for the pain you have caused and ask open-ended questions about how they feel.
#6. Reassure Your Child
Make sure to emphasize that your addiction is not their fault: they aren’t the cause nor do they have the power or control to fix the problem. This can be particularly difficult to convey, especially if you ever blamed your drinking on their behavior (i.e. Mommy has to drink in order to deal with you!) Your child needs to understand that what you said while intoxicated isn’t really who you are how you feel.
#7. Put Things Into Perspective
Children from alcoholic homes tend to idealize other families without realizing that other families have their own struggles, and maybe addiction is one of them. In fact, millions of children are from alcoholic homes. Make sure they know that they are not alone.
#8. Invite Dialogue
In order to deter secrecy, fear, and loneliness that comes with addiction, encourage you child to talk about their feelings without criticism or judgment from you.
#9. Teach the Seven Cs
According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, children of alcoholics need to know the “Seven Cs of Addiction”:
- I didn’t Cause it
- I can’t Cure it
- I can’t Control it
- I can Care for myself
- By Communicating my feelings
- Making healthy Choices
- By Celebrating myself
#10. Find Additional Support
Just as you need rehab and support in order to recover, your child need to know there are resources available to help them process the information as well as their0 emotions. If they don’t feel comfortable talking with you or another relative, they can reach out to a teacher, counselor, therapist, religious leader, or a support group such as Alateen.
It can be difficult having to leave your family and children for any amount of time, in order to go to rehab. But, you simply can’t be the best parent to your child or partner to your spouse if you are actively drinking or using other drugs. Many parents seek treatment in the form of rehab and so there is a lot of support and resources for you as well as your children. Call toll-free 1-800-951-6135 to speak directly with an Addiction Specialist. We are available around the clock to help.