Addiction and alcoholism not only affect those who drink and drug, it also affects their loved ones in sometimes devastating ways. The children of alcoholics and addicts are often times traumatized by the experience of being raised in this environment. Unfortunately, once grown these ‘adult children’ may have difficulty separating the past from the present. In the absence of therapy, proper guidance and counseling, these experiences can impact people for years and affect their personal relationships. There are some special features that are apparent in those who are still struggling with the exposure to alcoholism and addiction during their childhood.
Children of alcoholics and addicts are generally not taught appropriate skills while growing up. As a result, they may not have the capacity to adequately solve problems or manage conflicts in adulthood. They instead may be manipulative, lie or become aggressive to get their needs met. Often this behavior leads itself to unstable, chaotic and unhealthy relationships with other people.
People raised by alcoholics and addicts are often quite serious. This is due to the fact that they have, more likely than not, been deprived of a carefree childhood in a stable home. They have become hard-wired to be equipped at all times for unexpected, sometimes explosive incidents or to provide care at a moment’s notice for an impaired adult. Because they never learned how to have fun and play as children, they also have difficulty doing so as adults. When grown children of alcoholics do attempt to have fun, oftentimes they do so impulsively, making careless decisions without regard to consequences.
People raised in morbidly disfunctional households often report having low self-esteem and poor self confidence as a defining features. They sabotage themselves by setting unreasonably high standards and use their own failure to achieve these measures as justification for their own inadequacy. In adult children, there exists excessive negative self-talk and internal criticism, in addition to an unquenchable need for validation from others. Adult children often place other’s needs before their own, at times risking their own well-being to please another. In addition, self-esteem in these grown adult children may be so low that if they meet someone who seems to genuinely care for them, that person’s motives or integrity may fall under scrutiny.
Difficulties managing personal responsibility and control issues are common among children of alcoholics. Many had no choice but to take on responsibility because their caregivers were unable to do so, oftentimes in order to win approval. Some completely abandon all sense of responsibility due to the inability to ever please their parents despite their best efforts in childhood.
Unfortunately these patterns continue into adulthood without therapy or the acquisition of new coping skills. People raised by alcoholics and addicts often feel powerless over the chaos of their early environment. They then tend to struggle with a need for control in their adult lives and feel a sense of panic whenever control is threatened. Consequently, grown children of alcoholics and addicts also feel more comfortable living in drama and chaos then they do a peaceful or structured environment, though that is often what they crave.