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Adult Children of Alcoholics

If you have struggled with addiction to alcohol or other substances, there’s a good chance you had a parent who did too. Addiction runs in families and having a parent who is an addict is a good predictor of future problems.

Addiction is just one problem adult children of alcoholics frequently have. There is, in fact, a Laundry List of problems that stem from having a parent who is unpredictable, unreliable, absent, or abusive as a result of addiction. Children who live in this kind of environment often grow up to be isolated, distrustful of others, and especially wary of authority figures. They may be people pleasers, sacrificing their own needs and identity to help others. These are the primary strategies they learned as children to cope with a threatening or negligent parent.

Adult children of alcoholics often have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, but at the same time they are reactive. Instead of setting and moving toward their own goals, they are more often busy looking for fires to put out. They often end up in relationships that supply plenty of fires, because that’s how they learned to relate to others. These relationships are codependent, in which one person derives a sense of meaning by enabling the other person’s addiction. This is an unhealthy kind of relationship and often both partners in a codependent relationship have problems with addiction.

As these learned behaviors often drive addictive and enabling behavior, they must be addressed at some point. Adult children of alcoholics have to learn to draw boundaries, say no, and develop a stronger sense of self, not dependent on another person. This is one reason family or couples therapy is so important in treatment. Not only is the support of your partner necessary in recovery, but you may have to make some fundamental changes in the way you relate to each other.

Therapy is probably the most effective way of dealing with the problems related to growing up with an alcoholic parent, but there are also support groups that can help. Al-Anon is probably the best known. It’s for friends, family, and partners of alcoholics. It doesn’t matter if you’re an alcoholic yourself. If you have or had an alcoholic parent, you can go to Al-Anon meetings. There is also a group called Adult Children of Alcoholics with regular meetings around the world. You can talk to people who have faced similar challenges growing up with alcoholic parents.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.