Family Resource


adult children of alcoholicsAdult children of alcoholics are often described as “co-victims” who develop many of the same characteristics associated with alcoholism, even if they’ve never taken a drink themselves. If you’re struggling to come to terms with the trauma you suffered due to a parent’s drinking, read on for tips about how to begin the healing process.

1.Realize That It’s Not Your Job to Save Anyone but Yourself

Many adult children of alcoholics feel an intense need to “save” others. Growing up, they may have been forced to comfort younger siblings, cook meals, and handle other adult responsibilities while a parent was struggling with addiction—leaving them to feel as though the weight of the world rests squarely on their shoulders. They also fear abandonment, which makes them stay in unhealthy relationships instead of moving on to find someone who treats them with the respect they deserve.

Change can be scary, but you are worthy of healthy relationships. It’s okay to cut ties with friends or family members who are using their toxic negativity to prevent you from taking the steps you need to be happy. These people don’t support your desire to change because they’re not emotionally ready to take a step forward in their own lives.

2. Accept Your Emotions

The majority of adult children of alcoholics struggle to express their emotions, especially the anger they feel surrounding their childhood trauma. One of the first steps in the healing process is giving yourself permission to express how you feel about your past as well as your current circumstances.

One way to become more emotionally honest is by writing down your thoughts in a journal. Then, gradually work on opening up with others in your day-to-day life. Instead of pushing down your irritation when a friend stands you up for your planned movie night, tell her it upsets you when you make plans and she abandons you at the last minute. If your spouse promises to help with the laundry and spends the night watching TV while you do all the chores, tell him you feel unappreciated when he ignores your request for assistance.

3. Use Affirmations to Stop Self-Criticism

Growing up in a home environment filled with dysfunction can lead you to believe that you’re somehow flawed. Young children often blame themselves for family troubles, creating patterns of self-criticism that last long into adulthood.

Affirmations are a form of self-suggestion. Choose a few positive statements that reflect your new outlook on life or specific goals you want to work on, then repeat them to yourself several times per day until they become your new truth. If desired, you could also write your affirmations down and place them in locations throughout your home where you’re sure to see them.

Some affirmations that may resonate with adult children of alcoholics include:

  • I am choosing to be proud of myself and all that I’ve accomplished.
  • I can find inner peace within myself as I am.
  • I deserve wonderful things.
  • I am in charge of my own life story.
  • I am worthy of love and respect.

4. Give Yourself Permission to Have Fun

Adults who grew up with parents who struggled with addiction often complain that they find it hard to relax. Their brains are programed to expect stress and drama, leaving them constantly on edge.

Developing hobbies and special interests is an important part of being a well-rounded human being. Take the time to explore whatever personal passions you’ve always thought were too frivolous. Enroll in a dance class, learn a foreign language, take up oil painting, or plant a garden of fresh produce to add to your gourmet home-cooked meals. No matter what sparks your interest, strive to find at least a few hours each week to devote to the pursuit of fun.

5. Know You’re Not Alone

The stigma surrounding addiction may make you feel like your experience is unusual, but you’re not alone. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency estimates that about one in eight people in the United States is an adult child of an alcoholic. Finding a network of support through Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) can help you work on building a brighter future for yourself. ACoA’s support groups are based on a modified version of the 12 steps for addiction recovery used in Alcoholics Anonymous. Al-Anon Family Groups are another excellent option to consider, since they have groups for spouses or partners, teens, and adult children of alcoholics.

 

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This observance, sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), stresses the need for education regarding alcoholism and addiction recovery.

At St. Joseph Institute, we stand together with NCADD to encourage an open and honest conversation about the risks associated with underage drinking. In this post, we’ll outline six tips for talking to your teen about alcohol use.

1. Begin the Conversation as Early as Possible

It’s best to begin talking to your children about alcohol use in the upper elementary grades. Statistic indicate that about one-third of young people have begun experimenting with alcohol by the end of eighth grade, with boys reporting their first drink at 11 and girls reporting their first drink at 13. This is troubling because children who start drinking before 15 are five times more likely to abuse alcohol later in life than those who begin drinking after 21.

Of course, it’s never too late to start discussing the risks of underage drinking. Older teens still need your guidance as they navigate the challenge of becoming independent young adults.

2. Promote Positive Relationships

Friendships play an important role in helping kids develop their own unique sense of self. Making an effort to get to know your child’s friends can help ensure that these relationships stay positive. Encourage your teen to invite friends over to your home regularly—using snacks, movies, video games, and music to create a welcoming atmosphere.

It’s also important to maintain contract with the parents of your teen’s friends and establish that they share your values in regards to underage drinking. Do not allow your teen to attend parties where there will be no adult supervision or to spend time at homes where alcohol is readily accessible to minors.

3. Encourage Extracurricular Activities

Kids who are involved in sports, music, drama, and other extracurricular activities are better equipped to resist the pressure to drink because they’ve seen firsthand that alcohol isn’t necessary to have a good time. If your child is struggling to find a suitable activity at school, consider searching for volunteer opportunities in the community, such as working at an animal shelter or the public library.

Getting a part-time job may also be an option for older teens. Work experience teaches time management skills, teamwork, and responsibility. All of these attributes will help your teen make wise decisions in the years to come.

4. Stress the Risks

Pop culture often portrays drinking as a harmless way to relax and have fun. Talking to your teen about the darker side of alcohol use helps put the issue in perspective, especially if you can provide context in regards to portrayals of underage drinking in your child’s favorite movie or television show.

NCADD has a fact sheet with underage drinking statistics that can provide a starting point for discussing the risk of making poor decisions while intoxicated. Risks for teens include getting into fights, having unprotected sex, suffering from alcohol poisoning, or being involved in an auto accident.

5. Be Honest About Your Own History

If you’ve struggled with alcoholism or you’ve seen the consequences of a family member’s drinking problem firsthand, don’t be afraid to share this story with your teen. You don’t need to provide every intimate detail, but these personal stories are often a highly effective way of getting a teen to recognize the dangers associated with alcohol use.

It’s also important for your teen to know that having a family history of alcoholism puts him or her at a higher risk of developing similar problems. Genetics isn’t destiny, but abstaining from underage drinking is the best way for your teen to stay safe.

6. Know the Warning Signs

Drastic changes in academic performance, decreased personal hygiene, neglecting responsibilities at home, and a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities are some of the signs that suggest your teen may have a drinking problem. Depression, mood swings, anxiety, and difficulty concentrating are also cause for concern.

If your teen has already been experimenting with alcohol, encourage him or her to take the self-test for teenagers on the NCADD website. This simple questionnaire evaluates a teen’s risk factors for problem drinking, providing you with a baseline to determine if further services are needed.

Couple Holding Hands

Watching your spouse or partner struggle with addiction isn’t easy, but this challenge doesn’t have to mean the end of your relationship. With patience, commitment, and determination, your marriage can emerge from this struggle stronger than ever before.

Start a New Chapter in Your Relationship

Try to look at your spouse being in recovery as an opportunity to build a new marriage and start a fresh chapter in your own personal love story. Let go of past mistakes, hurt, and anger.  Focus on discovering who your partner is as a sober individual and give yourself permission to fall in love all over again.

One way to build a new marriage with a spouse in recovery is to set aside a regular “date night” to talk and reconnect, just as you did when you first met. Some great sober date ideas to consider including going for a walk in the park, visiting a museum together, going bowling, checking out an arcade, or volunteering for a non-profit organization you both support.

Listen Without Judging

Addiction is difficult to truly understand unless you’ve struggled with substance abuse issues yourself. However, being willing to listen without judgment can go a long way towards creating a better marriage when your spouse is in recovery.

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re often guilty of multi-tasking instead of taking the time to truly communicate. At the end of the day, put down your phone, turn off the TV, and give your spouse your undivided attention. Recovery is an ongoing process, so setting aside 15 to 20 minutes each day to reconnect in this fashion can go a long way towards keeping your spouse on the path of sobriety.

Make Time for Self-Care

When you’re the spouse of a recovering addict, it’s easy to become so overwhelmed by your partner’s needs that you neglect to take care of yourself. However, self-care is an essential part of building a strong marriage. You can’t be a supportive partner without creating a strong foundation for yourself.

Self-care includes eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting the rest that your body needs, as well as finding time for activities you enjoy apart from your partner. This may include solo pursuits such as gardening or reading as well as catching up with old friends. When your own mind, body, and soul have been nourished, you’ll be able to bring your “best self” to the marriage.

Start a Journal

Keeping a journal can be a wonderful way to explore your feelings surrounding your spouse’s recovery without creating additional tension in your marriage. When you’re feeling hurt, angry, or disappointed, writing in your journal can help you work out your issues before you’re tempted to lash out at your spouse.

If you don’t consider yourself much of a writer, try making lists or creating an art journal that combines doodles and collages with words that express how you feel. If you’re not fond of writing by hand, create a special folder on your laptop for journal entries. There’s no right or wrong way to journal—all that matters is you choose an approach that works for you.

Seek Counseling

Marriage counseling is so much more than just a last-ditch strategy to avoid divorce. Any couple going through major life changes can benefit from marriage counseling. Having an objective third party to offer advice, guide discussions, and teach communication techniques can help you feel more confident as you work towards your sober future together.

If you have children who are struggling to understand your spouse’s addiction, family counseling sessions may be beneficial as well. An experienced therapist can help your family address parenting challenges and brainstorm ideas for how you can all support each other.

 
To learn more about our programs or for a campus tour  of St. Joseph Institute, please visit our website. You can also call us directly at 877-727-4465. 

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