Q&A: Being aware of parental alcoholism

Q: I grew up in a home with an alcoholic father. I’ve abstained from alcohol because of it, but are there other issues I should be concerned about? I don’t want this part of my past affecting my own family.

A: We admire your courage in wanting to confront your own challenges. In the case of children of alcoholics, many grow up to have difficulty expressing their feelings. To survive, they learn to insulate themselves against the pain of their environment by “stuffing” emotions like anger and sadness. They may also have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility derived from the necessity of caring for a drunken parent and emotionally supporting other family members during their most formative years. These character traits may be useful in their original setting, but can often become liabilities later in life, especially in a marriage relationship.

Relating to authority figures can also be a problem. Interestingly, this can lead to widely contrasting outcomes, with some victims adopting a rebellious attitude while others become “people pleasers,” unable to assert themselves even when they’re clearly being taken advantage of. They may also be terribly afraid of abandonment, and will do whatever it takes to hold on to a relationship, even when they’re being abused.

For these and other reasons, adult children of alcoholics may end up marrying alcoholics or become alcoholics themselves. Even if they don’t drink, they may have extreme “Type A” personalities and display workaholic tendencies.

This description doesn’t fit every person who grows up in an alcoholic home. Each person and situation is unique. The good news is that there is effective help available, and our counsellors would be pleased to get you pointed in the right direction. Please call our Family Support Services at 03-7954 7920 or write to support@family.org.my.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.


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