If you are a child of an alcoholic parent, you deal with emotional scars that can last a lifetime, and it can be hard to separate the past from the present. Growing up with alcoholism or other forms of addiction in your family isn’t easy. Understanding the impact that an alcoholic parent had on your life can help you and other adult children of alcoholics take the first steps toward healing.
The Alcoholic Parent: A Lifelong Impact
A home affected by alcoholism is usually marked by chaos, arguments, denial and poorly-defined family roles. Some psychologists assert that children of addicted parents experience trauma at the same levels as soldiers who face combat. These traumatic experiences have a lifelong impact, and many adult children of alcoholic parents display similar characteristics:
· Problems with control
· Issues with intimacy
· Tendency to judge themselves harshly
· Lying for no real reason
· Difficulty having fun
Five Survival Tactics for Growing Up With An Alcoholic Parent
If you’re tired of letting your past experiences define who you are today, a few survival tips can help you break free of the grip addiction has had on your life:
1. Quit the blame game
Deep down, you know that the things that happened in your childhood weren’t your fault, but you might still be harboring feelings of guilt as an adult. Do yourself a favor and stop blaming yourself. Your parent’s addiction was never your fault. At the same time, stop blaming your alcoholic parent. They let you down, but holding onto anger and blame won’t accomplish anything–it will only drag you down further.
2. Define boundaries
Having addiction in your family can end up consuming you, so it’s important to develop a strict set of boundaries. Decide exactly how much time you’ll spend each week thinking about or dealing with your family member’s alcoholism. This time could include grieving over the traumas of your childhood or dealing with your addicted parent. Put your boundaries in writing, and be sure to stick to them.
3. Put yourself first
Children of alcoholics often feel invisible. Let your adulthood be the time that you’re allowed to be loved and heard. Listen to your needs, work at figuring out who you are, and love yourself the way your parent should have loved you.
4. Build a support system
When you grew up with an alcoholic parent, it’s normal to feel isolated or abandoned. Counteract those feelings by developing a network of friends who will understand you and respect you.
5. Practice having fun
Adults who grew up with addicted parents often have a hard time letting go of that overwhelming feeling of responsibility. It can be hard for them to relax and have fun. Try to remind yourself that loosening up and allowing yourself some fun will be good for your body and mind, and it won’t transform you into that alcoholic parent.
You can’t erase the trauma of living with an alcoholic parent, but you can learn how to rise above your past. With these survival tactics in mind and the support of your loved ones, you can take control of your future and overcome the legacy of addiction.