This is a guest post by a lovely lady Almany Parsons. She is from Florida and currently a stay home mom with her 2 sweet girls and teaches online for VIPKID. She has a great knowledge in Psychology so I thought why not use it for a good purpose.
Growing Up with an Alcoholic as a parent: I thought I was okay.
What is it like growing up with an alcoholic parent?
When you grow up with an alcoholic, you don’t always realize that this is not what it’s like for other children. You don’t realize that you’re being raised by an alcoholic and that it will impact you for the rest of your life. You don’t realize, that this is not “normal”.
I remember being shocked when I went to a friend’s house and they actually sat down together to eat, and the adults had sweet tea to drink instead of beer.
I remember my grandmother having to write a note to my 5th grade teachers, explaining that I was not able to finish my homework the night before because my mother had drunk herself into a drunken rage and we had to lock ourselves in the garage. That day, we watched movies in class. As a child, this was fun but as an adult, I look back and wonder if just maybe it had something to do with that note.
As I got older, so many people told me what a great job I was doing despite my mother. I had straight A’s and was on track to go to college – despite my mother. I had stayed out of trouble – despite my mother.
When older adults talk about me even now, it’s always “You’ve overcome so much. I’m so surprised you’ve achieved as much as you have even with all you’ve been through.”
They made it sound like I had survived my childhood and was thriving! They made it sound like I had not been affected by the toxic stress I was exposed to on a daily basis. They made it sound like I was okay. AND I BELIEVED THEM.
I graduated with honors. I went to college. I got married and had 2 beautiful daughters. We own our home and do not struggle financially. I do not struggle with mental illness or depression. I don’t do drugs. I’m not involved with the law.
I am not the stereotype of an addict’s child. So, I must be okay, right?
What happens to children raised by an alcoholic parent?
It wasn’t until I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree and taking a class called “Substance Abuse and Mental Health” that I realized, I was incredibly affected by my childhood. I had always taken so much pride in being successful through everything that had been thrown at me. But, suddenly I was learning that everything I struggled with was a direct result of growing up with my alcoholic mother.
Children raised by an alcoholic parent tend to display similar characteristics and personality traits later in adulthood. These may include:
Avoiding Conflict – Individuals raised by alcoholics often mistake assertiveness or forms of authority as aggressive and avoid any confrontation in general because of this. After being surrounded by this 24/7 as a child it is easy to come to a pro at avoiding conflict as an adult.
Fear of Losing Control – Growing up with an alcoholic can be a world of chaos and one way that an individual may cope is by controlling the few aspects of their lives that they are able to influence. This may be other people’s emotions or behaviors, their laundry or even the food that they eat. There is a constant fear that is they lose control, their lives could become even more chaotic.
Constant Approval Seeking – Spending an entire childhoodbeing sensitive to their alcoholic caregiver’s emotions often translates intobeing oversensitive to other’s emotions as well. This leads to fear that someone else may feeluncomfortable because of their own behaviors or image. The opinions of others are what shape theirself-esteem.
Difficulty Relaxing/Poor Coping Skills – It is difficult to let go of control and expose their non-perfect vision of themselves; especially when others are watching. Healthy coping skills are not modeled for childrenraised by an alcoholic and they will continue to use poor coping skills intoadulthood. This can lead to chronicstress and overreaction to change.
Low Self-Esteem – It is no secret that children of any addict typically harbor low self-esteem. This loops back to the need to seek constant approval and other’s opinions playing such a role on their self-image.
Difficulties with Intimacy – After being lied to and deceived by an alcoholic repeatedly throughout childhood, it can be difficult to trust another individual as many other healthy relationships may have. It is also difficult to let down the guard that has been put up to prevent disappointment.
Obsessive Behaviors – It is not uncommon for an individual to obsess over minor things in an attempt to distract themselves from the bigger things happening in their lives – this is especially true for adults who were raised by alcoholics.
Physical Illness – Stress can take a large toll on an individual’s body. This can cause long-term damage for children whoexperiencing this stress during the prime times of their development. Adults who were raised by alcoholiccaregivers also may lack positive coping skills and as a result use food,drugs, or other unhealthy ways to cope. This often leads to physical illness in adulthood.
Overreaction to Outside Changes – The desires to have control over their world in combination with unhealthy coping skills leads to overreaction to changes that they are not able to control.
That day in my “Substance Abuse and Mental Health” class, I realized that my entire childhood had shaped who I was. I was directly affected even though all this time I thought I wasn’t.
All of a sudden, it made sense that I was not able to decide to make a big purchase without talking it through with 5 different people and making sure they all agreed it was a good decision.
It made sense that hospitalization of a family member was something I could handle emotionally but the change in last minute plans could cause a panic attack.
It made sense that I obsessed over planning a dinner or what kind of car to buy and often struggled to make a final decision.
Instead of developing healthy coping skills and a strong sense of self – as an adult, I am learning the skills I need to overcome many of the anxieties that have become me.
I realized, that I was in fact largely impacted by my childhood and it was a part of who I was.
But that is okay; I am okay.
If you are a child of an alcoholic parent, what are some ways that you have been able to overcome the long-lasting effects of being raised by an addict?
My Point of View
I was in awe after reading this. Well, I would love to know your thoughts too, below in comment box.
Hope to see you soon. Till then Stay Safe and Take Care.