“Let’s get a drink” is a common phrase used by friends, family and colleagues as part of being social. However for 18 million Americans2, alcohol abuse is a problem invading not only their bodies but their minds and relationships.
Alcoholism affects the loved ones of the alcoholic as much as it affects the alcoholic.
I have been conscious of alcohol abuse and its ravaging effects on families because I grew up with an alcoholic father. It made me particularly sensitive about drinking too much or depending on it as a way to handle my emotions.
I attended Alateen meetings so that I could understand how alcoholism was impacting the way I viewed the world. It definitely influenced my relationship with alcohol and prevented me from falling into alcohol dependence.
I learned in my teens that children of alcoholics had certain common characteristics.
Adult children of alcoholics can have issues with esteem and shame. I know that it took me a long time to work through issues of feeling like I was less than my counterparts.
“They may believe on some level that they did something to deserve the neglect they experienced. I know I felt that way. As adults these children often may suffer from anxiety and/or depression as well,” said Cara Gardenswartz, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Beverly Hills, California, as reported in a WebMD.com article.
For all of my teen years and most of my adult life, I have struggled with issues with esteem and trust. To most people that have met me, that might seem a shocking statement because of my big personality.
Mine was a silent struggle which can be one of the loneliness and of the most damaging. I was used to hiding the truth about my father’s alcohol abuse so it was no different from hiding my low self-esteem with others.
Children of alcoholics have a need to have control of situations or relationships. They don’t like to be vulnerable because they have learned not to trust their caregivers. Gardenswartz said, “If you grow up in a family where everything is unpredictable, you tend to want to hold on to a feeling of control.”