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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
Alcoholism is a considered a family disease meaning that it does not only affect the alcoholic; it affects the loved ones of the alcoholic. An alcoholic can totally disrupt family life and cause harmful effects that can last a lifetime. According to the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), seventy six million American adults have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Alcoholism is responsible for more family problems than any other single cause. One out of every four families has problems with alcohol.
5 Ways Alcoholism is a Family Disease
1. Family Dysfunction – Family dysfunction refers to conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse that occurs continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal and thus perpetuate this family disease when they grow up and have their own families.
2. Financial Woes – Financial stress is the number one cause of arguments and fights amongst couples, in general. Add the cost of supporting a habit such as alcoholism, and the stress factor goes up. Alcoholics need a way to support their alcohol habit. Whether the alcoholic is consuming a lot or a little, it is usually a daily need and that all adds up. Besides directly spending money on alcohol, alcoholism can lead to loss of a job (and therefore the loss of household income) and exorbitant fines for alcohol-related offences such as DUI’s, court costs, lawyer fees, etc. In this way, alcoholism’s effects can be seen as a family disease.
3. Marital problems – Alcoholism as a family disease also manifests as a wedge that forms between partners. Fighting, trust issues, depression, fear (walking on egg shells), anxiety, and codependency are all common to an alcoholic relationship. Codependency is defined as a psychological condition and describes behaviors, thoughts and feelings that go beyond normal kinds of self-sacrifice or caretaking. Statistically, separated and/or divorced men and women were three times as likely as married men and women to say they had been married to an alcoholic.
4. Health – The family disease of alcoholism includes both mental and physical health issues. The latest research supports the heredity of this family disease. Genetics combined with an alcoholic environment leads to an increased risk of alcoholism amongst children of alcoholics (COAs). COAs have been found to have a higher rate of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Some of these symptoms include crying, lack of friends, fear of going to school, nightmares, perfectionism, hoarding, and excessive self-consciousness. Young children affected by this family disease may have frequent nightmares, bed wetting, and crying. This family disease tends to affect older children differently. They may show such depressive symptoms as isolating, hoarding, obsessive perfectionism, or being excessively self-conscious. Furthermore, the family disease of alcoholism correlates with an increased rate of suicide among COAs and, on average, they have total health care costs that are 32% greater than children of non-alcoholic families.
5. Prevalence of abuse – Alcoholism is more strongly correlated to child abuse than depression and other disorders. Studies have found that substance abuse such as alcoholism is a factor in nearly four-fifths of reported cases of domestic abuse and that alcoholism is more prevalent among child-abusing parents. Alcoholism is a family disease because it affects everyone in the family unit. Furthermore, this is a family disease because it is often replicated and perpetuated when the abused COAs start families of their own.
If you or your family have been affected by alcoholism, please give us a call at 800-951-6135.
We depend on our parents.
Dealing with an alcoholic is never easy, but when the alcoholic is your parent, the situation becomes even more difficult. Most children look up to their parents. They go to their parents for advice. Before a person has a family of their own, they rely on their parents to plan and host all holidays and other special occasions.
Sure, some people will tell you that coping with an alcoholic parent, once you are grown up and out of the house, is as easy as distancing yourself until they get help. The reality is much more complicated. For instance, it is becoming more and more common for adults in their 20’s or even 30’s to depend on their parents for financial assistance. Even if you are financially independent, you may get into a jam and need your parents help. You may have kids and want them to have a relationship with their grandparents. You may even be put into a position of helping your parents out financially because one or both of them needs help. Whatever the case may be, coping with an alcoholic parent is not easy.
As crazy as it may sound, sometimes coping with an alcoholic parent means getting help yourself. Usually, the children of an alcoholic have issues of their own that are caused by growing up in an unstable household. You may have trouble forming connections to other people, because your alcoholic parent made it difficult to trust and count on others. You may avoid confrontation because when you confronted your alcoholic parents as a kid, things could turn ugly. Even if you were out of the house before your parent started drinking heavily, you could feel abandoned and betrayed by your alcoholic parent.
Coping with an alcoholic is much easier and more effective if you become healthy first. There are many support groups and therapists that deal specifically with coping with an alcoholic parent. These groups can also be a good resource for advice on how to stop enabling an alcoholic parent and where to find help for them.
Although it’s not always easy, coping with an alcoholic parent means setting healthy emotional boundaries. Talk to them (when they are sober) about what you will and won’t tolerate. This is not about telling your parent what to do; it is about ensuring your own safety and well-being. Let them know that if they keep getting drunk, you will take action (such as leaving the house, not letting them watch the children on their own, or not taking their calls when they are intoxicated). Stay consistent about enforcing these boundaries. Inconsistency will only make your parent realize that you don’t mean what you say and lets them continue to pull the emotional triggers that keep you stuck in enabling their behavior. When you are coping with an alcoholic parent, it’s important to pick your moments when you talk to them. If your parent is drunk, any kind of talk will probably devolve into an argument, and it’s an argument you will rarely win. He or she may not even remember what you said the next day.
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-951-6135.