Living with an alcoholic parent can feel worrying, embarrassing, and even lonely. In the U.S., 18% of people in the 1990’s lived with an alcoholic while growing up, according to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. Living with an addict who suffers from alcoholism is challenging enough for another adult, but children face unique struggles while growing up this way. Not only does growing up with an alcoholic parent increase the risk that they, too, will abuse alcohol; it also means that they must cope with considerable stressors at a young age. What kids need to remember is that they are not alone. They can reach out for help for themselves and for their parent.
Although kids may be acutely aware of when their parent is drinking because of changes in their mood, signs in their appearance, or even by episodes of neglect (i.e. failure to come home after work or provide a meal), they may not understand that a person who is an alcoholic is suffering from a disease. This disease is fueled by powerful compulsion. Even when an alcoholic wants to stop drinking, they find they can’t. The physical, mental, and behavioral dependencies they have on alcohol make it challenging for them to refraining from drinking. Only with treatment, can they find help to manage these dependencies and overcome them. Living with an addict is not easy, but there are resources for both addicts and their families.
Talk to a Trusted Adult
Many children of alcoholics suffer in silence. They may feel embarrassed by their parent’s drinking, resulting in avoiding forming close friendships. Others may worry intensely about their parent’s health and well-being. Others may experience intense fear for their own lives based on their parent’s actions. These are serious concerns that should not be ignored. If possible, kids should reach out to their other parent, another trusted family member, a teacher, or a school counselor. These people can help you find resources to help you and to help your alcoholic parent if they are willing to accept help. Many support groups focus on teens and their experience of living with an addict.
If you are living with an addict, you especially need to be concerned about your own risk factors for developing an addiction. Certainly not every child of an addict will drink irresponsibly or develop alcoholism, but it’s vital to learn about how this disease can develop so that you can live a different life, one that is free from alcoholism. Through education and support, you can learn to cope with your own stresses and challenges in healthy ways. Talk to a trusted adult today.