Adult Children of Alcoholics--Stats You Will NOT Believe
by Lisa A. Romano
According to Addiction Treatment Magazine's Article:
Alcoholism is a scourge that affects all members of the family, not just the alcoholic. The damage is pernicious and inescapable, and has long-term negative consequences for all concerned. An estimated 27.8 million children in the United States are affected by or exposed to a family alcohol problem – and preliminary research suggests that more than 11 million of them are under the age of 18. These numbers do not include children who are affected by or exposed to other drug problems. What happens to these children as they grow up? Are they doomed to repeat the pattern of alcohol abuse they see in their alcoholic parent? Or are they fighting to be free?
Crime and Violence
Incest and battering are common in alcoholic families. An estimated 30 percent of father-daughter incest cases and 75 percent of domestic violence cases involve a family member who is an alcoholic. COAs are more likely to become targets of family abuse and/or to witness family violence at the hands of an alcoholic parent.
What often happens is that the victims of such violence and abuse shoulder the blame for what has happened to them. They often turn to alcohol themselves as a way out of the pain of guilt, shame and helplessness they feel. Their childhood has been ripped from them, and they are robbed of normal childhood experiences. How can this not negatively impact COAs?
How it all plays out has a lot to do with whether or not they receive treatment while they are still children. COAs, if not treated when they are young, will carry their problems with them into later life.
Alcoholism is a key factor in 68 percent of manslaughters, 62 percent of assaults, 54 percent of murders and attempted murders, 48 percent of robberies, and 44 percent of burglaries.
FACTORS THAT MAKE PARENTAL ALCOHOLISM WORSE FOR CHILDREN
ACCORDING TO RESEARCH FROM THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE ON ALCOHOL ABUSE AND ALCOHOLISM (NIAAA) (HTTP://PUBS.NIAAA.NIH.GOV/PUBLICATIONS/FAMILYHISTORY/FAMHIST.HTM), A PERSON’S RISK INCREASES IF HE OR SHE COMES FROM A FAMILY WHERE:
- BOTH PARENTS ABUSE ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS
- AN ALCOHOLIC PARENT IS DEPRESSED OR HAS OTHER PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBLEMS
- PARENTS’ ALCOHOL ABUSE IS SEVERE
- FAMILY CONFLICTS LEAD TO AGGRESSION AND VIOLENCE
FAMILY MEMBERS – CHILDREN AND SPOUSES – OF AN ALCOHOLIC FREQUENTLY BECOME CO-DEPENDENT. THAT IS, THEY ARE ADDICTED TO ANOTHER PERSON’S ALCOHOLIC BEHAVIOR.
SOMETIMES, THE ALCOHOLIC (PARENT OR SPOUSE) WILL DISCONTINUE DRINKING FOR A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. THIS LEADS THE COAS AND SPOUSE INTO A FALLS SENSE OF SECURITY. THEY BELIEVE THAT EVERYTHING’S OKAY, THE PROBLEM IS SOLVED. IT ISN’T.
CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS OFTEN FEEL RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PROBLEMS OF THE ALCOHOLIC, BELIEVING, WRONGLY, THAT THEY SOMEHOW CREATED THE PROBLEM. THEY INTERNALIZE THESE FEELINGS, ULTIMATELY SUFFERING TREMENDOUS GUILT, SHAME, AND SENSE OF HELPLESSNESS AND HOPELESSNESS. THEY MAY TRY TO HIDE THE EVIDENCE OF THEIR PARENT’S ALCOHOLISM, OR MAKE EXCUSES TO OTHERS FOR PARENTAL ABSENCE AT FUNCTIONS, LIE TO FRIENDS, SCHOOL, EMPLOYER OR OTHERS ABOUT THE PARENT.
THEY MAY EITHER SERVE THE ALCOHOLIC PARENT DRINKS OR TRY TO GET RID OF THE STASH OF ALCOHOL. BOTH ARE ATTEMPTS TO STAVE OFF THE PROBLEMS THAT MAY ENSUE FROM AN ALCOHOLIC PARENT GETTING OUT OF CONTROL, ERUPTING INTO VIOLENCE – OR TO JUST KEEP THE FAMILY TOGETHER.
THIS IS CO-DEPENDENCY. THE CO-DEPENDENT CHILDREN AND SPOUSE OF AN ALCOHOLIC SOON FORGET ABOUT THEIR OWN NEEDS AND DESIRES. THEY’RE TOO BUSY LOOKING OUT FOR OR COVERING UP THE PROBLEMS OF THE ALCOHOLIC FAMILY MEMBER. THEY MAY ATTEMPT TO CURE OR CONTROL THE DRINKER – TO NO AVAIL.
COAS LEARN HOW TO TIPTOE AROUND THEIR ALCOHOLIC PARENT. FEARING REPRISALS, THEY TRY HARD TO PLEASE THE PARENT IN A NEVER-ENDING AND FRUITLESS ATTEMPT TO GET THE PARENT TO STOP DRINKING. BY DENYING THE PROBLEM EXISTS (PARENTAL ALCOHOLISM), THE COAS AND SPOUSES ENABLE THE ALCOHOLIC TO CONTINUE HIS OR HER DRINKING AND NOT FACE UP TO THE TROUBLES SUCH DRINKING CAUSES.
ADVICE FOR CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS
JUST BECAUSE THE PARENTS DRINK TO EXCESS DOESN’T MEAN THE CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS NEED TO GROW UP TO BECOME ABUSERS OF ALCOHOL AND DRUGS THEMSELVES. IT ONLY MEANS THE RISK IS GREATER. BUT THERE ARE THINGS THAT COAS CAN DO TO MINIMIZE THE RISK.
- AVOID UNDERAGE DRINKING – RESEARCH SHOWS THAT THE EARLIER A CHILD BEGINS TO DRINK, THE MORE LIKELY THEY ARE TO BECOME AN ALCOHOLIC OR TO ABUSE OTHER SUBSTANCES AS AN ADULT. DRINKING THAT STARTS BEFORE THE AGE OF 14 PUTS CHILDREN AT HIGHER RISK OF BECOMING ALCOHOLICS – BOTH DUE TO GENETICS AND ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS. AND, UNDERAGE DRINKING IS ALSO ILLEGAL.
- TALK TO A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL – CHILDREN WHOSE PARENTS DRINK TO EXCESS SHOULD SEEK HELP FROM A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL. THIS CAN START AT SCHOOL BY TALKING WITH A SCHOOL COUNSELOR OR NURSE, THE FAMILY DOCTOR, OR MEMBER OF THE CLERGY. THESE PEOPLE CAN RECOMMEND GROUPS OR ORGANIZATIONS TO HELP CHILDREN AVOID PROBLEMS WITH ALCOHOL. ADULT COAS WHO HAVE ALREADY BEGUN TO DRINK CAN USE THE ASSISTANCE OF A HEALTH PROFESSIONAL TO ASSESS THEIR DRINKING PATTERNS AND DETERMINE IF THEY NEED TO CUT BACK AND, IF SO, GET HELP ON HOW TO DO SO.
- ADULT COAS SHOULD DRINK MODERATELY, IF AT ALL – GUIDELINES FROM THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES AND THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE SUGGEST THAT MODERATE DRINKING FOR AN ADULT SHOULD BE NO MORE THAN 2 DRINKS PER DAY FOR MEN AND 1 DRINK PER DAY FOR WOMEN. THIS IS TRUE WHETHER OR NOT THE PARENTS WERE ALCOHOLICS. NATURALLY, THERE ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO SHOULD NOT DRINK AT ALL. THESE INCLUDE PREGNANT WOMEN, ALCOHOLICS IN RECOVERY, PEOPLE WHO TAKE CERTAIN MEDICATIONS OR HAVE CERTAIN MEDICAL CONDITIONS, AND PEOPLE WHO PLAN TO DRIVE OR ENGAGE IN ACTIVITIES REQUIRING ATTENTION OR SKILL. ADULT COAS, IF THEY PLAN ON DRINKING MODERATELY, SHOULD PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION. IT MAY BE HARDER FOR THEM TO MODERATE THEIR DRINKING, AND THEY CAN EASILY PASS FROM A CASUAL DRINKER TO A HEAVY DRINKER OR EVEN A HARD-CORE ALCOHOLIC. AS DRINKING INCREASES, SO DOES THE RISK OF ALCOHOL-RELATED SOCIAL PROBLEMS SUCH AS VIOLENCE AND TRAUMA, AND DRINKING AND DRIVING, AND MEDICAL PROBLEMS ASSOCIATED WITH ALCOHOL, INCLUDING LIVER DISEASE, BRAIN DAMAGE, AND CANCER.
ALATEEN, AL-ANON AND ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS
CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS CAN GET HELP BY ATTENDING MEETINGS OF AN ORGANIZATION KNOWN AS ALATEEN, WHICH, ALONG WITH AL-ANON FOR THE SPOUSES AND OTHER AFFECTED FAMILY MEMBERS OF ALCOHOLICS, IS AFFILIATED WITH ALCOHOLICS ANONYMOUS (THE ORGANIZATION FOR PERSONS DEPENDENT UPON OR ADDICTED TO ALCOHOL AND OTHER SUBSTANCES). THE FACT IS THAT CHILDREN AND SPOUSES OF AN ALCOHOLIC REQUIRE TREATMENT JUST AS MUCH AS THE ALCOHOLIC. ALATEEN AND AL-ANON ARE THE TWO MOST SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATIONS FOR HELPING CHILDREN AND SPOUSES OF ALCOHOLICS. THEY ARE BASED ON THE 12-STEP A.A. PRINCIPLES. THEIR GOAL IS TO HELP FAMILY MEMBERS UNDERSTAND THAT THEY ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE ALCOHOL DEPENDENCY OF ANOTHER FAMILY MEMBER. THEIR OWN RECOVERY DOES NOT DEPEND ON THE ALCOHOLIC GETTING BETTER.
A SCHOOL COUNSELOR, NURSE, OR NURSE PRACTITIONER CAN GIVE SUPPORT AND INFORMATION TO COAS ON HOW TO FIND ALATEEN MEETINGS.
According to target="_blank">Addiction Treatment Magazine Article