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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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Roles Played Within the Dysfunctional Family

People who grew up with a parent who had a substance abuse problem often wonder how their brothers and sisters turned out to be so different. After all, everyone grew up in the same household, so why aren’t all the siblings alike? In all families, substance abusing or not, brothers and sisters need to claim their own unique identities. We need to find ways that we are not like others in the family, and this helps us to form our own identities and sense of self.  In the alcoholic or drug-abusing family each sibling finds his or her own unique way of coping with the conflicts. Claudia Black, an expert on adult children of alcoholics, and others have identified different roles that can emerge among siblings, each of whom tries to make sense of the chaos.

The Hero
These children try to make sure that the family appears normal to the rest of the world. They develop a strong sense of responsibility and project an image of competence and achievement. This is often the first-born child, but not always. They learn as children that someone has to be responsible for the family, and if the parents are inducing chaos, it is up to the “hero” to provide stability. These people often grow up to be academically or professionally successful, although they often deny their own feelings and may feel like impostors.

The Adjuster
In order to cope with the conflicts within the family, these people adjust – but often in inappropriate ways. They often become invisible and avoid taking a stand or rocking the boat. They learn never to plan or to expect anything, and they deal with conflict by avoiding it. In adulthood “adjusters” may feel that their lives are out of control and that they are drifting meaninglessly.

The Placater
These siblings are the ones who learn early to smooth over potentially upsetting situations in the family. They develop a good ability to read the feelings of others, but at the expense of their own feelings. They tend to go into care-taking professions later in life, even though this may reinforce their tendency to ignore their own feelings.

The Scapegoat
These are the children who become known as the family problem. They have a tendency to get into trouble, including alcohol and drug abuse, as a way of expressing their anger at the family. They serve as the “pressure valve” in the family: when tension builds, they misbehave as a way of relieving pressure while allowing the family to avoid dealing with the parent’s drinking problem. When they grow up, they tend to be unaware of feelings other than anger.

Did you or someone you love grow up dealing with the substance abuse problem of a parent or family member?  

We can help you get free of emotional trauma and wounds resulting from these experiences. Contact us today for a free consultation: