Sunday, October 28, 2012

Growing Up in a Substance Abusing Household

Countless millions of adults in this country have a parent with a drinking or drug problem. The emotionally available parent is one who can read and validate the moods and needs of the children and who encourages their independence as they grow up.In these healthier households there is a sense of security, consistency and predictability. As the children grow up, they gain a feeling of trust and mastery in the world with the support of the parent.

Dealing with the ramifications of growing up in an alcoholic family
But what happens in the dysfunctional household where alcohol or drugs dominate the domestic climate? When an adult has formed a dependence on alcohol or drugs, the normal give-and-take of everyday life can become disrupted. Rather than working through daily problems and frustrations and modifying behavior to adapt to these problems, there is always the drink or drug at the end of the day.
Have a drink and the problem goes away, at least in one’s mind. The parent is emotionally unavailable. Thus, the needs of the growing child are often ignored. The drunk or chemically influenced parent can hardly perceive the feelings of the child – and usually places his or her own needs over those of the child. Even if the parent is addicted to a substance but not using it at the time, there is still a tendency, because of how substance abusers approach the world and problems in general, to neglect the child’s needs. The healthy option for the chemically-dependent parent is to work on coming to terms with the impact of substance abuse on his or her own life and the life of the

Getting counseling for children who grow up in substance abusing families
The Child Becomes Either Overly Responsible or Irresponsible

Children growing up in the substance abusing family cope by attempting to stabilize their chaotic environments and find ways to minimize conflicts or make the parent feel better. Later on they may become compulsive overachievers, taking pride in these behaviors they learned while growing up. They are the ones who help others, yet harbor anger when others don’t do for them to the extent that they do for others. Alternatively, siblings growing up in the same family might become irresponsible, hoping, as they did in childhood, that others might come through and take care of their needs. Regardless of the outcome, when they grow up they avoid looking openly into their own behavior and understanding the effect that it has on themselves and others.

Coping in Adulthood with a Legacy of Dysfunction

The first step in coming to terms with an emotionally conflicted childhood is to admit it, and this can be very difficult. We may have learned to use denial as a way of dealing with our parent’s substance abuse problem, in much the way our parent used denial in dealing with their own use of alcohol or drugs. It may seem that the pain is more easily handled when it is cast out of our minds. But it does not really go away. And the survival patterns we learned in childhood continue to interfere with happier experiences after we have grown up. It takes courage to confront the situation openly and honestly, but the payoff can be life changing. A healthy, functional, and satisfying life is possible and attainable.

For additional information and help dealing with the aftermath of growing up in a dysfunctional family please call us for a free consultation at 941-907-0525 or visit our website.

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