Being raised in a family where alcoholism runs rampant is one of the most difficult lives a child can be brought into. There are so many different ways that alcoholism affects a child. Some of the things that being a child of an alcoholic can cause are low self-esteem, fear, stress, embarrassment and anger management problems. The list goes on but I am sure that you have the idea by now.
Children of alcoholics are four times as likely to have problems with alcoholism in their future. This statistic comes from several studies done on the affects that alcoholism has on children. It is believed that alcoholism is genetic to some extent. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a child will become an alcoholic because a parent or grandparent is. I am living proof that the odds can be beaten. I drink, but I don’t do it very often. Twice a year is my limit. So what did I have to do to beat the odds?
Let me paint you a picture of what life is like as a child of not one but two alcoholic parents. Let me also add that three out of four of my grandparents were also alcoholics. Alcoholism runs rampant in my family. In fact, it is harder for me to think of people in my family that aren’t alcoholics than to list the ones that are.
I mentioned in the opening lines of this article that low self-esteem is an issue for children of alcoholics. You may think that an odd thing to say. You wouldn’t think that if you had been raised by alcoholics. Low self-esteem goes with the territory. I live it every single day. It’s an uphill battle to find ways to avoid the pitfalls of it. This goes along with not being able to take a compliment.
You may wonder why self-esteem would even play a role in the life of someone like me. It does because when you live with an alcoholic during the years that are supposed the be the most beneficial to you. Those years turn into being put down at every turn. When living with an alcoholic parent you soon realize that you can’t do anything right. The most important person in your life has done everything in their power to bring you down to their level. The person that is supposed to love you doesn’t seem to love you at all. They prefer their bottle over you. That is how it appears.
You may also be given to asking the question “what does a child of an alcoholic have to fear?” It could be the fear of having no choice in riding in the car with someone that obviously can’t even walk straight. It might be that they are afraid that the alcoholic will get angry about something and take their wrath out on you. It may be as simple as being afraid that you will turn out like them. Could all of these things be true? Yes, they can and are true for millions of children across the United States daily.
Embarrassment is one of the biggest problems for children of alcoholics. Imagine worrying about whether you can bring your friends home or not. Why be afraid of that? Because your parent(s) might be drinking. You never know what you are facing when you come home from school. Embarrassment goes even deeper than that. It is very embarrassing to be seen in a public place with drunk parents. Everyone knows they are your parent and you will be judged by them. Where you are not judged you will be pitied. It all goes hand in hand for the child of an alcoholic.
It is pretty clear to see why one of these children would become angry. Anyone would get angry when they can’t trust their own parent. You want the parent to stop drinking and you try everything in your power to stop it. Dumping the liquor down the drain, begging and praying are all a part of the game. When those things don’t work you become angry. You think that if this person loved you they would stop doing it. They would quit for you if only they love you enough. Children don’t have the reasoning to understand that a parents love for you is completely seperate from their love for the child.
Stress comes with all of the above problems. You can’t have all of these things in your life and not get stressed out. Imagine being just three years old and dealing with all the things that are associated with living in an alcoholic home. It’s not a pleasant thought so how could it be a pleasant lifestyle?
Now back to the question of how I was able to overcome the odds of becoming an alcoholic. It is true, all the odds were against me. I almost lost the battle a couple of times. There were a few stages that I began drinking at a high level. This was between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one. Isn’t that strange? I started drinking long before the legal drinking age. During that time eighteen was the legal drinking age in Maryland however, I stopped drinking the year that I turned twenty-one, the now legal age for drinking in Maryland.
The reason that I quit drinking at that point is because I became pregnant. I stopped drinking altogether for several years after that. Why? Because I made a clear and conscious decision not to raise my children the same way I was raised. When I thought about my baby I thought only of one thing. I want this child to know that I love her.
I fell back into drinking when my children started school. It lasted for about one summer and then I was done with drinking like a fish forever. It became very clear to me that I didn’t want to live my life for one thing alone. That one thing being when I would have my next drink. I see now, my aging parents, one dying and one still only needing one thing. That one thing being her next drink.
I have lived my life trying to change those two people. I wanted to change who they were because I thought that if they stopped drinking they would then love me. I was under the wrong notion. If you are the child of an alcoholic and you still believe that your parents drinking has anything to do with their love for you, please do some soul searching.
Here are some tips that may be helpful to you in your journey:
1. Realize it’s not your fault- You didn’t do anything to cause your parents to be alcoholics. They don’t drink because of you. They have other deep issues within themselves that have been there for much longer than you have.
2. Let go- Let go of all the feelings of inadequacy that come from your parent’s alcoholism. You didn’t make the choice for them to drink and you certainly didn’t do anything wrong to deserve the backlash that inevitably comes with it. Look at yourself in the mirror and realize that you are your own person. Make a list of the things that you know you are good at. Look at yourself in the mirror and realize that you are better than what you were told as a child.
3. Seek- Look for other people that can help you deal with all of the left over feelings that you have from your upbringing in an alcoholic home. There are many sources. The most prominent ones are ALANON/ALATEEN. This type of support goes a long way in your recovery. You can even join online if you want to. These are people that will understand all of your feelings because they have been there too.
4. Stay sober- Avoid the pitfall of becoming like your parents when it comes to alcohol. You don’t have to drink to have a good time. You don’t have to drink in order to have high self-esteem. You don’t have to drink to prove anything to anyone. Remember that because you have a family history of alcoholism it makes you four times as likely to become one yourself.
5. Find- Look for the things that make your life feel complete. It doesn’t matter what it is. Raising a family, a good career or travelling the world. If you find what makes you complete as a person you will be too happy to worry about anything that happened in your life before.
I hope that you find something in this article to help you get through each day a little easier. Let go of your past and you will find the future. Hold on to the past and you simply stay there without ever being completely fulfilled.