“Will I be like my dad?” “My whole family are addicts; does this mean I’ll be one too?” For many children of an alcoholic parent, there is the need to “not end up like” that parent. Unfortunately, that which we resist only persists and these children often create in themselves ground that is 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 the realization that, as an adult, they too are addicts. They work so hard at not being like dad/mom that they fail to see how the process occurred when they were trying so hard to avoid it. Their role models in the home environment are often flawed individuals who cannot provide them with the coping skills necessary to develop a healthy life. Many are in survival mode as they grow up and often resort to escapist coping activities similar to those of their parents: substance abuse, poor anger management and violence. They often voice frustration at not being able to handle the addicted parent in a normal parent/child relationship. Often times therapists will hear children indicate that they are the caregivers for their parents and who will be there for them if they aren’t? Children feel trapped in such relationships and need the support and guidance of others to help them break the cycle of addiction.
What A Therapist Can Do
The challenge for a therapist is to re-focus such negative thoughts onto creating a life that the child of an alcoholic does want. 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 is 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.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive by Elizabeth Viszt and Kathleen Benzaquin