“Will I be like my dad?” “My whole family are addicts; does this mean I’ll be one too?” Many children of an alcoholic parent are driven to “not end up like” that parent. Unfortunately, what we resist only persists.  These adult children often create a life that’s fertile for alcoholism or other addictive behaviors.

Anxiety, self-consciousness and low self-esteem prevail when thoughts are hyper focused on the negative or what we don’t want to become.

Many children of alcoholics believe that by simply avoiding the pit falls of the alcoholic parent, it will result in them not ending up with an alcohol addiction. Too many times, however, the result is that they too are addicts.

5 Reasons Why Adult Children Struggle

Because adult children of alcoholics work so hard at not being like dad and or mom, they’re blinded by denial. They refuse to accept these five realities:

  1. Their role models in the home environment are often flawed individuals. Their parents cannot provide them with the coping skills necessary to develop a healthy life.
  2. Many are in survival mode.  When they grow up, they often resort to escapist coping activities similar to those of their parents: substance abuse, poor anger management and violence.
  3. They often voice frustration at not being able to handle the addicted parent in a normal parent/child relationship.
  4. Often times adult children must care for their parents. Who will be there for them if they aren’t?
  5. Adult children feel trapped in such relationships. They need support and guidance to help break the cycle of addiction (which can include codependency – an addiction to people.)

How Therapy Can Help Adult Children

The challenge for a therapist is to re-focus such negative thoughts onto creating a life that the child of an alcoholic. Often, this is a daunting perspective as these children can only see what’s in front of them and how the alcoholism is impacting their lives right now. It’s in their lack of life experience that they can get stuck.

Fortunately, therapists can contribute a great deal in helping children to become unstuck. It is through their guidance of a child’s own self-discovery that they will uncover the life that they want, instead of trying to avoid the life that they don’t want.

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Elizabeth Viszt
Elizabeth is a certified Educational Specialist and Success Coach. She has a BA, MS in biology with a concentration in ethology (animal behavior), is an EAGALA Equine Specialist in equine assisted learning and personal development, and has extensive personal leadership skills. She spent much of her career in education at the high school, college and correctional facility levels teaching biology & chemistry and acting in the capacity of a success coach. Elizabeth presents workshops and seminars which address communication issues as they manifest in personal relationships. She uses writing as both a creative and cathartic outlet, especially after losing both of her parents to cancer in 2015. She lives in upstate NY, on a farm that bears the name of her motto: Be Unreasonable! She's invested in empowering others in moving their pieces forward in the world.


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