"I live with an alcoholic mothere and it's like every
day when she starts to drink I lose her, so everyday I am grieving. I am coping by going to group and individual counseling."
High School Sophomore
"My dad is an alcoholic. I don't know how to deal with it
but I try not to think about it because whenever I do I think about of death. I don't know what to do!" High School Senior
"what can I do when one of my family members drinks a lot? I am really worried
and I cry about it a lot?" High School Freshman
These are among the many notes
I receive from students after I deliver my presentation, Teens Coping with Grief, Loss and Other Tough Stuff.
A great web site with a lot of helpful information is: www.nacoa.net (National
Association for Children of Alcoholics)
Here is a wonderful article by Claudia Black who has written much in
the field of addiction in the past 30 years that you will find on www.nacoa.net:
Children of Addiction
By Claudia Black, Ph.D.
Created Feb 8 2010 - 2:23pm
Thirty years ago I began working with children impacted
by addiction in their family. Addiction in the family is a legacy that continues to thrive, although today we have a much better understanding
of how children are influenced when raised with the chaos and fear that permeate an addictive family.
was confronted with issues of children on two fronts. I was working in a treatment facility in their four day family program
and had the opportunity to work with some children of clients - a 15 year old, 17 year old and 23 year old. These young
adults were aware of how their lives were negatively impacted via their relationships with others, their own use of drugs, and how fear in general was influencing their decisions about many aspects of their lives. Then while sitting in an airport, I
received a call from a desperate mother wanting to know what she should do as her husband, in an alcoholic fury, had just
hit their preteen age son. These are just four of the estimated 27.8 million children in the U.S. affected by or exposed
to a family alcohol problem. This number does not include those affected by or exposed to other drug problems.
These children are at increased risk for a range of problems,
including physical illness, emotional disturbances, behavioral problems, lower educational performance and susceptibility
to alcoholism or other addictions later in their life.
doesn't have to be this way. Through our churches, schools, other community venues, and online social networking sites there is an opportunity to advocate for these vulnerable children who are not in a position to advocate for themselves.
Children living with addiction in their family, be it an addicted
parent, sibling or other relative, need to know that the addiction and the resulting behavior is not their fault. They need to hear the
message that they did not cause it nor can they control it. They need to hear they are not alone. Most importantly they
need to hear there are people they can talk to, adults in their school, their church or synagogue, a friend's parent, an
extended family member, etc. As concerned family and community members and helping professionals we need to recognize the
role we can play in these children's lives.
is the time to be willing to rise to the occasion. Sunday February 14th through Saturday February 20th is Children
of Alcoholics Week 2010, a week dedicated to bringing awareness to the needs of these children. NACoA, the National Association for Children of Alcoholics has a wealth of free information about children,
and even more so about resources and ways for you to become involved in this week and in the future. ACO week can be about
you educating and creating greater numbers of people who reach out and let children know they are available to them and
they will understand.
It is my hope we all recognize
that we are in a position to impact these children not just this one week but 365 days a year.
Up In Alcoholic Families
- 1 in 4 children
in the US are exposed to alcoholism or drug addiction in the family.
- These kids are at an increased risk for behavioral problems, physical illness, emotional problems and
lower education performance (according to the US Department of Health and Human Services).
- Children of addicted parents often worry, feel scared, anxious, angry and embarrassed.
- Children see emotions explode very quickly.
- Children see emotions implode and disappear as they get stuffed or avoided
- What really matters tends to get ignored while things that don't matter
become the focus
- Families like this may have crazy
behaviors occur which seem to go unnoticed.
sense of "normal" gets distorted.
get hurt often, hearts are broken and families torn apart
- The no talk rule, "don't talk about what happens at home" to anyone. Keep it a secret.
- So instead of talking it out, children tend to "act it out".
- Often trauma is part of the family cycle,
which triggers the fight or flight response. The body gets flooded with adrenaline so that a person can prepare to flee for
safety or stand and fight. When neither happens because fighting seems pointless and or when children feel trapped and can't
flee, children will shut down or freeze. This helps to not feel so much pain, fear, rage and helplessness.
- This freeze state is part of the trauma response. It is our body/mind
system trying to preserve itself with too much emotion. Overtime these swings from feeling flooded to shutting down, become
the central coping or operating system in the children.
- Within these families is a lot of impulsive and rigid behavior.
- There is a lot of despair and denial in the family and the children.
- There are a lack of boundaries and/or disengagement. Each person retreats into his/her
- Members of the family may over function
or under function. (the over functioning parent or child may be angry and resentful for all the extra work they feel they
have to do, like take care of the addicted parent or cover up for him/her. This may also make a child want to appear "perfect"
and want to overachieve.
- Under-functioning happens
when children feel discouraged.
and neglect can both be present in such families. We may want to take care of everyone besides us. Children who grow up neglected
often push away other potentially healing relationships.
- Abuse and victimization are themes in these families. Abuse happens when feelings are acted out and not talked out.
Since the family can't seem to process pain, anger, hurt, they are at risk for acting it out instead.
- Balance in all of these above named areas can be achieved with help,
support and through learning new skills and identifying behaviors and beliefs that do not work.
- Emotional dysregulation is a strong price children often pay when growing up in addicted
There is help for emotional dysregulation and learning emotional
regulation. Through such things as: as Ala-teen, Al-Anon, group therapy, individual counseling, meditation, yoga,
massage, relaxation exercises, activities that soothe the emotional system and teach skills of mind/body regulation.
Has Your Life Been Affected By Someone Else’s
Alateen Is for You!
Alateen is for young people whose lives have been affected by someone
else’s drinking. Sometimes the active drinking has stopped, or the active drinker may not live with us anymore. Even
though the alcohol may be gone, and the alcoholic gone or recovering in AA, we are still affected. Many of us have received
help from Alateen or Al-Anon. The following 20 questions are to help you decide whether or not Alateen is for you.
you believe no one could possibly understand how you feel? _____
2.Do you cover up your real feelings
by pretending you don’t care? _____
3.Do you feel neglected, uncared for, or unloved?
4. Do you tell lies to cover up for someone else’s drinking or what’s happening in your home?
5. Do you stay out of the house as much as possible because you hate it there? _____
6.Are you afraid or embarrassed
to bring your friends home? _____
7. Has someone’s drinking upset you?_____
birthdays, and holidays spoiled because of drinking or others’ reactions to the drinking? _____
9.Are you afraid to speak up for fear the drinking or fighting will start again?_____
10.Do you think the drinker’s
behavior is caused by you, other members of your fam- ily, friends, or rotten breaks in life? _____
11.Do you make threats
such as, “If you don’t stop drinking and fighting, I’ll run away?” _____
you make promises about behavior, such as I’ll “get better grades,” or “keep my room clean,”
or “do anything you want,” in exchange for a promise that the drinking and fighting will stop?
13. Do you feel that if the drinker loved you, she or he would stop drinking? _____
you ever threaten or actually hurt yourself to scare the drinker into saying, “I’m sorry,” or “I love
15.Do you or your family have money problems because of someone else’s drinking?
16. Are you scared to ride in a car with the drinker? _____
17.Have you considered calling
the police because of abusive behavior? _____
18.Do you avoid dating or having close friends because
they may find out about the drinking or fighting? _____
19. Do you think your problems would be solved
if the drinking stopped? _____
20. Do you ever treat teachers, friends, team- mates, etc. unfairly
because you are angry about someone else’s drinking? _____
If you have answered yes to any of
these ques- tions, Alateen may help you. You can con- tact Al-Anon and Alateen by looking in your local telephone directory
or by writing to:
Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, VA
23454-5617 Telephone: 757-563-1600 Fax: 757-563-1655
Web site: www.al-anon.alateen.org E-mail: email@example.com
meeting information call: 1-888-425-2666 (1-888-4AL-ANON) (USA and Canada, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET)
Family Group Headquarters, Inc. 2000 22-150M-05-100/2.00 S-20 Printed in U.S.A.
Click here for AL-Anon and Alateen Meeting Lists for the US
Risk Factors for the Child/Teen of an alcoholic/addict:
Genetics: Big debate for years over whether or not you can inherit
the disease. Recent studies suggest that genetics accounts for 40-60 percent of the risk for developing substance abuse. If
you have a parent who is an alcoholic, or other biological relative, you are more likely to feel a heightened sense of pleasure
or elation and relaxation after drinking alcohol than someone who doesn't have alcoholism in the family. If you and a friend
from a nonalcoholic family have identical blood alcohol levels, your friend may feel the effects of alcohol sooner than you.
dynamics may contribute to addiction. According to the Medical Council on Alcoholism, any of the following factors may increase
the risk of psychological and social problems in kids, whether or not they have alcoholism in the family or not.
These may increase likeliness of developing an addiction:
- parent's alcoholism
- death of a parent
- parents' divorce or separation
- illness of a parent
Family Relationship Issues:
- Can you depend on family members?
the family unhappy?
- Do family members understand
- If not, do they try to?
Communication problems in the family:
- Do family members talk about problems directly or only hint at them or avoid them?
- Do family members show affection?
Conflict in the family:
- Do family members criticize each other?
- Fight a lot?
- Ignore each other?
Mental Illness and Emotional Problems
Mental illness and emotional problems increase the risk for addiction. If you suffer from anxiety, depression, bi-polar
disorder, or other mood disorders it is common to try to self medicate with alcohol or other substances. People who have social
anxiety or who are very shy in social situations also may turn to alcohol or other substances in order to feel less self conscious
Alcohol changes the brain chemicals and therefore may produce anxiety and depression.
It is hard to know at times which came first: the addiction or the depression and anxiety? Depression in users may also
contribute to increase in relapsing, therefore it is crucial to also get the depression treated as well as the addiction.
Some people have a dual diagnosis: substance abuse and mental illness. Their treatment is going to be a bit more
complicated. The more serious the mental disorder, the more likely it is to feel a compulsion to use. Please seek help from
a mental health professional. A comprehensive treatment plan is necessary in addition to self help groups such as the 12 Step
programs that focus only on addiction.
For Teenagers Living With a Parent Who Abuses Alcohol/Drugs by
Edith Lynn Hornik-Beer
When Parents Have Problems:
A book for teens and older children with an abusive, alcoholic or mentally ill parent by Susan B. Miller
Beyond the Blues: A workbook to help teens overcome depression by Lisa
The Anger Workbook for Teens: activities
to help you deal with anger and frustration by Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, MS
The Bipolar Workbook for Teens: dbt skills to help you control your mood swings by Sheri Van Dijk, MSW
and Karma Guindon, MSW
The Anxiety Workbook for Teens:
activities to help you deal with anxiety and worry by Lisa Schab, LCSW
Teens Write Through It: Essays from Teens Who Have Triumphed Over Trouble, Fairview Press
Kids Write Through It: Essays from Kids Who Have Triumphed Over Trouble,
CLEAN: A New Generation in Recovery
Speaks Out by Chris Beckman, Former cast member of MTV's Real World: Chicago (Recovery from a young addict's perspective).