In the alcoholic family the children suffer in many important areas of life due to the drinking patterns of a parent or parents. Usually the family in some measure has a lack of structure, safety, stability and predictability. This affects the children basically because children need structure, safety, stability and predictability very much in order to develop naturally.
The stressful environment of the alcoholic family causes the children to grow up fast and become adults in order to cope. In addiction they become hyper sensitive to the environment and the parents behavior. Noticing and picking up on cues in order to stay safe. They become expert in reading other people and keeping a distance or fixing a situation. They might become their parent’s helpers and therapists. They adapt to situations that are uacceptable because there is no escape for them. They adapt to their parents yelling, being absent, arguing, being violent and of course drinking.
The child will often feel responsible for the parents’ drinking and will at times try to get the parents to stop or will feel that ‘if they really loved me they would stop, so I must be worthless’. So this has a deep effect on the child’s self esteem and sense of value as a human being. When the child feels abandoned and neglected he/she will take it personally.
The consequence as adults are multifaceted and complex. They may suffer from the following symptoms.
Adult children of alcoholics may suffer from many psychological issues ranging from:
relationship problems and codependency
anger and sudden rage
tendency to please and adapt to others
identity and need confusion
As adult children of alcoholics it might be difficult to feel your limits and you may accept situations or behavior from people that is not appropriate. You may be a person who is very caring towards others while neglecting your own needs. You may not even know what your needs are and spend your time trying to figure out what others want or need.
In order to heal from your childhood wounds you need to face the fact that your early environment was not ideal and that you suffered as a result. You need to grieve the parents you did not have and feel the feelings that you have not been able to feel then. Working on boundaries and feeling your needs is very important and you may also have to evaluate the relationship you have to your parents today.