As therapists, we work with many clients struggling to cope with the effects of alcoholism in their lives. If you grew up with an alcoholic parent, you might have experienced a range of emotions, including shame, confusion, and fear. Growing up in an alcoholic home can be a traumatic experience. You may have experienced neglect, verbal abuse, or even physical abuse. You may continue to struggle as an adult child of an alcoholic with trust issues, anxiety, depression, or addiction as an adult.
If any of this resonates with you, know that you are not alone. There is help available, and you can heal the wounds of your childhood. There are ways to cope with the challenges you face.
In this blog post, we will share tips from our registered psychotherapists at Nōmina Wellness on how to deal with alcoholism as an adult child of an alcoholic. We also provide resources for further reading.
Acknowledge your feelings surrounding growing up with an alcoholic parent
The first step is to acknowledge the pain that you may feel. It is important to understand that the way you feel is valid. You may have a lot of anger, sadness, or guilt. You may feel you need to protect your alcoholic parent or make excuses for their behaviour. It is okay to feel whatever it is that you are feeling. The goal is to become aware of your emotions so you can deal with them healthily.
Talk about your experience as an adult child of an alcoholic
It can be helpful to talk about your experiences with someone who will understand and support you. Talking about your experiences with alcoholism can be incredibly therapeutic. It can help you to process what you have been through and to know that you are not to blame for your parent's addiction. If you are unsure where to start, there are plenty of online forums, such as Alateen Electronic Meeting for younger adults.
Many diverse types of support groups, such as Al-Anon and those specifically for adult children of alcoholics (ACOA), are also available. These groups provide a safe space to share your experiences and connect with others who understand what you are going through. Support groups can be an invaluable resource for healing and growth.
Get professional help from a therapist who has experience with adult children of alcoholics
Alcoholism can cause lasting damage to your mental and emotional health. If you are struggling to cope, please seek professional help. A registered psychotherapist can provide guidance and support as you work through the challenges of growing up with an alcoholic parent. A therapist can help you work through your trauma and develop healthy coping mechanisms. They can also offer practical advice for managing triggers and tricky situations.
Educate yourself about alcoholism
It is essential to understand that alcoholism is a disease and not a choice. This understanding can help to lessen the feelings of abandonment, shame and guilt that often accompany growing up with an alcoholic parent. The more you understand alcoholism, the better equipped you will be to deal with it. Specialized family programs can also help.
At its core, alcoholism is a disease driven by complex biochemical and psychological processes. While environmental or genetic factors can contribute to the development of an addiction to alcohol, there is no single cause of this condition. Instead, alcoholism stems from a subtle interplay between an individual's genetic makeup and exposure to external stressors or trauma called epigenetics. Over time, changes in the brain caused by chronic alcohol use result in compulsive cravings and uncontrollable urges to drink. As these changes take place, individuals lose control over their drinking behaviours and are unable to stop themselves from consuming more alcohol.
Tip: Watch your alcohol/drug/substance consumption. If you feel like you cannot control your use of alcohol or drugs, it is vital to seek professional help.
Make self-care a priority
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically. Dealing with an alcoholic can be very stressful. It's important to take care of yourself emotionally and physically by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. It's also essential to find healthy ways to cope with stress, such as journaling, meditation, or spending time with friends and family members who support you.
Set boundaries with the alcoholic in your life
It is crucial to set boundaries with abusive people, whether emotionally, verbally, or physically. Boundaries include setting limits on what you will tolerate from the person and what type of contact you will have with them. For example, you might decide to only speak to the person on the phone or only see them in person if other people are present. It is also important to have a safety plan in case of an emergency.
Understand that you are not alone
One in four children is estimated to grow up with an alcoholic parent. One of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone in this. Millions of other people have grown up in homes with alcoholic parents, and many of them have gone on to lead happy and healthy lives. You can too.
If you grew up with an alcoholic parent, know that it is possible to heal the wounds of your childhood and build a happy, healthy life for yourself. Seek professional help, join a support group, educate yourself about alcoholism, and make self-care a priority to get started on your journey toward recovery today!