Growing Up In An Alcoholic Family
By Ellen Plaze, Director of Business Development When I was a little girl, I would sit quietly in the cafeteria at school as other children talked about what they did at home the night before. It sounded so different than what had happened in my house. You see, I grew up in an alcoholic family and already knew to be quiet and keep the family secrets. I felt shame and was sure that somehow it was my fault. And thus began another generation of alcoholic family dysfunction. There are very few differences if your loved one is an addict. Addicts tend to hide drugs better from their family and financial and legal consequences can occur. I watched my mother act like nothing was wrong. This was very confusing to me, but I was afraid, so I followed her lead. You see, I had no words to describe what was going on. I had never heard of alcoholism or drug addiction. I learned to be very wary of people and not to trust anyone. We were always anxious and afraid, wondering what would cause things to take a turn for the worst. We tried to be perfect to keep the alcoholic rages from happening. They came anyway. I always felt not good enough. In the long run I learned to be away from home as much as possible, since you weren’t even safe with the people who were supposed to love you. This disease has a profound effect on families. Genetic predisposition leads to more addiction. Violence and the resulting trauma damages souls. Lack of trust and poor role models create years of struggles with intimacy. We try to be perfect or just avoid people in an attempt to control the world around us. But so very much has changed since I was a child. Help is readily available. Bookstores have whole sections about recovery for the whole family. Teachers and school counselors recognize addiction and talk to students about it. Many famous actors, politicians, and athletes have come forward and shared their stories of recovery and hope. But somehow the shame still gets in the way of people getting the help they need. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- If your spouse or child had asthma, wouldn’t you read everything you could about the illness and then find the best doctor available for medical care? Why don’t we do this when it comes to a loved one with addiction?
- If you had a loved one with shortness of breath, would you wait until the symptoms got much worse to get them to treatment? When your loved one is drinking too much or smoking marijuana, why would you wait to suggest help or get some for yourself?
- If your parent was diagnosed with diabetes and was refusing medical care, wouldn’t you pull together family and friends to urge them to get the care they need? When an alcoholic or addict refuses treatment, why would you just hope it gets better?
I have learned some important facts about addiction:
- You didn’t cause it.
- You can’t cure it.
- But you can get help.
- Education and support help take away the fear.