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How does Alcoholism Affect Children?

By: Sam Harrington-Lowe - Updated: 6 Mar 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Alcoholic Parents Children Of Alcoholics

It's unlikely to sound surprising but studies have shown that children who have alcoholic parents will grow up to suffer deep-seated emotional and behavioural damage.

Anybody who has lived with an alcoholic parent or even parents will know what a rollercoaster life at home can be. As the alcoholic seeks to point the finger of blame at someone, anyone, children can find themselves being blamed for the problem; their home life is filled with conflict, chaos, bewilderment and embarrassment. And it's not just arguments and disorder these children have to deal with, it's a fact that incidences of abuse, both mental and physical, are much higher in homes where booze is a problem.

Alcohol Abuse Study

Priory Healthcare, famous for its celebrity rehab admissions, recently conducted a survey of abuse in alcoholic homes. The centre consulted its own doctors and therapists to complete the report, but also incorporated independent figures on crime, abuse and alcoholism to complete the picture.

55% of domestic violence cases come from alcoholic homes, and 90% of child abuse cases involved alcoholism or alcohol abuse in the home. The study also revealed that that girls based in an alcoholic home were up to four times more likely to suffer sexual abuse.

Research as part of the report also discovered that 70% of those children with alcoholism in their homes later developed compulsive behavioural problems themselves, including addictions to alcohol, gambling, drugs, sex and food - and something like 50% went on to marry or live with alcoholics or alcohol abusers when they grew up.

Sadly too, children of alcoholics are four times more likely to become alcoholics themselves, due in part perhaps to genetics, but also because of learnt behaviour and repeating childhood patterns.

How Do Children React to Drink?

Children very often react in one of three different ways, and they will generally carry these coping mechanisms into their adult years.

The first way is to become quiet, withdrawn and to internalise the unhappiness they are feeling. The second way is to live in denial of the problem, pretending it doesn't exist and denying any problem to any well-meaning enquiries.

Thirdly, they may then go on to use their background to make themselves stronger. But overall, any of these coping strategies will be an outward presentation. Generally though, children of alcoholics will be insecure, vulnerable and anxious, and often find it hard to be successful or develop close personal relationships.

Is your Parent An Alcoholic?

Alcoholism is a family disease - this is a phrase often repeated but it's very true. It affects everyone in the home - when things are good, everyone is fine, when things are bad, the whole house is affected.

If you live with this rollercoaster, you will understand it completely. Coming home from school or work is a journey of trepidation - what is waiting at home? Nights can be scary, lying bed listening to arguments or violence, or worse, fearing for your own safety. And what about getting dinner and a clean school uniform? Children of alcoholics often assume the role of carer, particularly looking after younger siblings.

Children also find themselves assuming responsibility for the alcohol problem, imagining that if they were to do something differently that they could change things, perhaps even that it's their fault simply for being born. They struggle to understand how a parent can seemingly love them so little, that their desire for drinking is more important than they are.

Don't Take it Personally

Remember that alcoholism is a disease that the sufferer cannot help. The best thing a child can do is to perhaps talk to a teacher or a friend's mum or dad, and look out too for support groups that can help children too. Getting some outside support is the best way to help them cope.

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[Add a Comment]
I am concerned about my grandson and his partner and I do not who is the worse for the drink and even drugs in the past (I hope).The problem is they have a baby, which of course is a great concern for all of us.Iwas very fortunate to have come from a family that doesn't drink, and my grandson parents only drunk very rarely. I do not know how to deal with it, apart from not preaching, listening, I have given him money to help him for his work situation, nothing else.I wonder if that is advised and of course the baby is often me and lives with my daughter, as she lives with them.I have obviously concerned with her health,can anyone help, please?
Ella - 6-Mar-17 @ 6:41 AM
Hi Everyone. Thanks for taking time to read my story. I'm in a3- yr. long-distance relationship with someone in the UK (I'm in the US). He's addicted to alcohol, benzodiazapines and pot, none of which he will admit to. He has crippling anxiety and cannot leave his home. I have visited him several times, but no amount of reassurancehas helped himdeal with his issues. He refuses to seek counseling of any type. Several incidents of childhood trauma have led to the addiction. According to him, I'm the only person who's helped understand how his childhood affects his adult life. He has threatened to "drink himself to death," if I were to leave him, along with other emotional blackmail tactics. I am so tired, and am ready to end this relationship, as my health is suffering. If he does follow through on his suicidal threats, I have no way to contact emergency services in the UK. After researching how to contact UK police and ambulance services from the US, I have found no reliable way to do so. He only has enabling friends/family who are also very unreliable. If any you have any ideas, your help would be greatly appreciated.
Micki - 9-Feb-17 @ 4:19 PM
My girlfriend is in complete denial.She even watered a bottle of gin my brother had brought round .I put a line on the bottle this morning to only find itway over the line.I confronted her with this,and she denies it was her.It's only I who lives here with her,and no one has been in my flat,Yet.She denies it.I have given her everything,and she still takes from me :( I want to help,but realise I can't.Anyway.She saw what I have just typed,and said she will move on after Christmas.So sad,but best for us both.I need to be inspired,not being drained all the time.
peavley - 19-Dec-16 @ 8:45 PM
alcohol is really bad. it retards development
JEFF - 10-Sep-16 @ 1:59 PM
I am married to a man who is drinking more and more whisky. He always has a reason to drink but with him drinking to excess every day after his night shift means I get up to a man who constantly repeats himself and is extremely loud. We went I a cruise recently and in the evening he was drunk before he even went to dinner and I found this more and more embarrassing, So l would make sure we only sat on our own. As many of you say sober he hasa great personality but I find myself trying to switch off from him once he has started to drink.
Janus - 9-Jul-16 @ 10:16 PM
Scratch - Your Question:
I have been living with my boyfriend for just over a year now. I knew at the beginning of our relationship that he liked to go out occasionally and have a few drinks,however, over time he has started going out earlier and staying out later. When he drinks he starts smoking again and I know he's also lost money gambling.He will create arguments and become sarcastic and verbal,giving himself a reason to storm off and stay out drinking. I always get the blame, it's always my fault , leaving me dumbfounded and confused?Things went from bad to worse a few weeks ago and I finally sought help. I was put in touch with a family support group called Al-anon. I've been attending meetings for a few weeks now and don't know how I'd have got through the last couple of months without them. I would highly recommend anyone to give it a chance. Although it's early days and I still feel ALL OVER the place, sometimes full of rage and despair, I now know that I cannot change the situation or my alcoholic boyfriend. I take one day at a time and avoid getting into arguments. I know it's a disease that I have NO control over, and until my boyfriend comes out of denial and seeks help, I am powerless. Alcoholism is a very cruel disease. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I don't know what the future holds or whether my boyfriend will be in it? Sometimes I feel so lonely and empty and sit here feeling like the victim, " why me?" "Haven't I gone through enough?"I love my boyfriend dearly but absolutely hate the disease.For anyone in the same situation, you have my sympathy. Keep strong and look after yourself because you deserve to be happy. We only have one stab at this after all.

Our Response:
Thanks for telling us about your experiences and for your inspiration.
AlcoholIssues - 26-May-16 @ 2:19 PM
I have been living with my boyfriend for just over a year now. I knew at the beginning of our relationship that he liked to go out occasionally and have a few drinks,however, over time he has started going out earlier and staying out later. When he drinks he starts smoking again and I know he's also lost money gambling. He will create arguments and become sarcastic and verbal,giving himself a reason to storm off and stay out drinking. I always get the blame, it's always my fault , leaving me dumbfounded and confused? Things went from bad to worse a few weeks ago and I finally sought help. I was put in touch with a family support group called Al-anon. I've been attending meetings for a few weeks now and don't know how I'd have got through the last couple of months without them. I would highly recommend anyone to give it a chance. Although it's early days and I still feel ALL OVER the place, sometimes full of rage and despair, I now know that I cannot change the situation or my alcoholic boyfriend. I take one day at a time and avoid getting into arguments. I know it's a disease that I have NO control over, and until my boyfriend comes out of denial and seeks help, I am powerless. Alcoholism is a very cruel disease. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. I don't know what the future holds or whether my boyfriend will be in it? Sometimes I feel so lonely and empty and sit here feeling like the victim, " why me?" "Haven't I gone through enough?" I love my boyfriend dearly but absolutely hate the disease. For anyone in the same situation, you have my sympathy. Keep strong and look after yourself because you deserve to be happy. We only have one stab at this after all.
Scratch - 23-May-16 @ 10:18 PM
I have been married for 3 years to a functioning alcoholic. He is a wonderful and attentive man when sober, but I live on the edge dreading his time off work! My days of work are always stressful and ruined due to his verbal attacks, stumbling around, the wrecking of our home and so on. My job is stressful 5 days a week, and the 2 days that I should have to rest are MORE stressful! We moved to where we now live when we married, so my family and friends are not close. I feel lonely, isolated and at a loss to know what to do! My head says leave, but my heart says stay!I am nearly 49, this is my second attempt at marriage, and I just want some peace in my life! I love him, but I don't LIKE him. I sleep apart from him because I can't stand to be near his smell, his slobbering and his snoring! We haven't had sex for about 8 months now...firstly because he couldn't 'rouse' himself, but now because I have taken myself away in my own little world! Just when he manages a period of sobriety and my hopes get lifted, the same drunkard reappears and ruins everything! Loving and liking someone are two very different things. I have to disagree with the Beatles on this one..."All you need is love?" Not for me...you need honesty, trust and peace first!
Lizzieloulou - 4-Apr-16 @ 11:26 PM
I have a father who is suffering from alcoholism, it started with depression after his father died and then he decided to turn to drinking every night because 'it blocks everything out for a while'. We've brushed it under the table for so long because he hides being drunk well, but he started lying about how much he was drinking and hiding it in various places around the house and his van, he gets awful mood swings and has become so bloated from all the beer, he'll have beers in the fridge but feel the need to buy more every day. Luckily he is not physically abusive, but he is mentally and manipulative we just don't know what mood he'll be in when we walk through the door. We've tried to help so many times, he's been in hospital (where the nurses have told him if he doesn't stop something bad will happen), he's been to the doctor and he promises he's going to cut down and only drink at weekends but it happens for around 2 weeks and then he's back to his old tricks. It's been going on for at least 5 years now, he doesn't think he has alcoholism and he's in denial, it's always everyone else's fault except him and we are all 'horrible'. I don't want him to realise when it's too late and he's lost us all, I just want to make him see that he has a problem but he twists it constantly to make us all feel bad I am not sure if there's much more we can do.
hoover - 31-Mar-16 @ 4:53 PM
I am told that unless I , myself,give up alcohol completely, my addicted partner has a 25% chance of not succeeding in recovery.I think that unnecessary.I will never drink any alcoholic substance in front of my partner.Where and when I have a drink, I will be alone and not in his view or awareness.t ...but i think my complete abstinence is unnecessary...if he needs a drink that bad, he can leave the house for the corner bar in minutes, without ransacking my room to find my "catch"
n/a - 12-Mar-16 @ 5:50 PM
Kaz - Your Question:
I have been married for 9 years to an alcoholic and have two children. My husband is such a nice person who is being ruined by alcohol. In his younger years he had been banned for drink driving 4 times (even spending a short time in prison because of this).Two years ago I had really laid it on the line for him about how his drinking affects my life and the life of his kids and how I cant put up with it anymore etc. He stopped drinking for 6 months and things were sooooo much better. However over the past 18 months things have ever so gradually got worse and BANG, here I am again. living with a nightmare. He is never voilent but when he drinks he gets very paranoid and depressed and asks me over and over again if I love him and if I'm ok and it really drives me nuts. He cant be trusted in social situations as he just cant stop after a few drinks and ends up totally plastered. I dont even want to think about the money he spends on drink! He has no self confidence or self worth and doesnt believe he deserves a wife and kids, so he drinks. but that makes him more depressed, so he drinks. its never ending.10 days ago I broke down in tears and told him exactly how I felt and that I am moments away from packing up mine and the kids stuff up and leaving and that I wasnt prepared to be married to a drunk and that the kids can to better. He admitted that he has a problem. Yesterday he went to the doctors and was prescribed diazapam and some form of vitamin B1, referred to the alochol service and needs to go back next week for blood tests to asses for liver and brain damage. He knows that he will lose everything if he drinks. He found the visit to the doctor quite traumatic and in his words "its wasnt nice spending 30 mins with a stranger telling them what an ar*ehole I am".I am glad he has been for help as he has never done this before. I really want to be there to support him but I am just not sure I can hang around waiting every day for him to go back to the drink. I love him and hate him all at the same time. I have shed so many tears over this I just dont know how many more I have left.I want this to work for the sake of the kids and also for me and my hubby as we really do get on great when the drink isnt around. but I cant have a drunk husband and my kids cant have a drunk father. How many chances to I give him?Sorry to rant for so long but I really just needed to get that out!!

Our Response:
For now, try and think positively. The fact the he acknowledges a problem is a huge step towards progess. The fact that the doctor made him feel bad may or may not have had a negative effect...did they also give him hope, that there are ways to improve etc? It's difficult for you and the children and we can't say whether you should stay or go, but it does sound as though he is willing to take positive steps to help himself. Are there any hobbies that you can do as a family that could also help? Such as cycling, swimming, golf, camping etc. Focusing on something else will also be a help.
AlcoholIssues - 22-Jan-16 @ 11:44 AM
I have been married for 9 years to an alcoholic and have two children.My husband is such a nice person who is being ruined by alcohol.In his younger years he had been banned for drink driving 4 times (even spending a short time in prison because of this). Two years ago I had really laid it on the line for him about how his drinking affects my life and the life of his kids and how I cant put up with it anymore etc.He stopped drinking for 6 months and things were sooooo much better.However over the past 18 months things have ever so gradually got worse and BANG, here I am again... living with a nightmare.He is never voilent but when he drinks he gets very paranoid and depressed and asks me over and over again if I love him and if I'm ok and it really drives me nuts.He cant be trusted in social situations as he just cant stop after a few drinks and ends up totally plastered.I dont even want to think about the money he spends on drink!He has no self confidence or self worth and doesnt believe he deserves a wife and kids, so he drinks... but that makes him more depressed, so he drinks... its never ending. 10 days ago I broke down in tears and told him exactly how I felt and that I am moments away from packing up mine and the kids stuff up and leaving and that I wasnt prepared to be married to a drunk and that the kids can to better.He admitted that he has a problem.Yesterday he went to the doctors and was prescribed diazapam and some form of vitamin B1, referred to the alochol service and needs to go back next week for blood tests to asses for liver and brain damage.He knows that he will lose everything if he drinks.He found the visit to the doctor quite traumatic and in his words "its wasnt nice spending 30 mins with a stranger telling them what an ar*ehole I am". I am glad he has been for help as he has never done this before... I really want to be there to support him but I am just not sure I can hang around waiting every day for him to go back to the drink.I love him and hate him all at the same time.I have shed so many tears over this I just dont know how many more I have left. I want this to work for the sake of the kids and also for me and my hubby as we really do get on great when the drink isnt around... but I cant have a drunk husband and my kids cant have a drunk father.. How many chances to I give him? Sorry to rant for so long but I really just needed to get that out!!
Kaz - 21-Jan-16 @ 11:53 AM
hiacynth - Your Question:
My son is an alcoholic,he is supposed to be my carer am 80,and at my wits end,betweenbouts he is wonderful,helping in the house and garden,but then the alcohol takes over ,strong cans of lager,until he can hardly stand,he has 10 points on his licence ,and it's only a matter of time,he seems to live in a world that is a tissue of lies,he says he is getting helpbut I am wondering if that is not another of his stories,he is not violent or abusive,which is a blessing,but I think is this what short time I have left at my age I have to cope with this

Our Response:
What a difficult situation for you to be in. Your son clearly loves and cares for you but is a victim of this addiction. If he has admitted he has a problem, then perhaps you could suggest specific resouces to him such as Alcholics Anonymous?
AlcoholIssues - 20-Aug-15 @ 11:52 AM
my son is an alcoholic,he is supposed to be my carer am 80,and at my wits end,between bouts he is wonderful,helping in the house and garden,but then the alcohol takes over ,strong cans of lager,until he can hardly stand,he has 10 points on his licence ,and it's only a matter of time,he seems to live in a world that is a tissue of lies,he says he is getting help but I am wondering if that is not another of his stories,he is not violent or abusive,which is a blessing,but I think is this what short time I have left at my age I have to cope with this
hiacynth - 19-Aug-15 @ 2:46 PM
justme - Your Question:
After being with my alcoholic partner for nearly 19 years I feel I can't go on any longer. I'm becoming more isolated and am starting to drink more myself. My heart is so heavy with the sadness and despair I am feeling that I am struggling to function 'normally'. Having broached the idea of him leaving I am now afraid that he may dig his heels in when the time to go arrives. I'm taking to see a housing specialist tomorrow morning to help find him a place to go to. He believes me to be at fault and thinks I am the worst wife ever. Perhaps I am?? All I know is that I have to do something before I sink with no way of pulling myself back. I am very worried about finances. I have some hefty debts and have no idea how I will manage without him financially. I am 61 and unable to work through health issues. However, at this moment in time it feels better to end up in a financial quagmire than to carry on living with the uncertainty, verbal abuse and arguments that my life consists of and daily roller coaster that my life consists of at the moment. I know he can stop drinking because he has done it before, for considerable lengths of time. The problem then changes to pain killer dependency. I even stopped my prescription in the past as he has found my medication and taken it. Sadly I do still love him but really don't like him. I feel the nly way left is to try to get him out of my home, and life.

Our Response:
Have you tried counselling? This may help your relationship, your partner's drinking or simply put you on track to deal with the next phase in your life, whatever you decide that will be.
AlcoholIssues - 6-Aug-15 @ 2:15 PM
After being with my alcoholic partner for nearly 19 years I feel I can't go on any longer. I'm becoming more isolated and am starting to drink more myself. My heart is so heavy with the sadness and despair I am feeling that I am struggling to function 'normally'. Having broached the idea of him leaving I am now afraid that he may dig his heels in when the time to go arrives. I'm taking to see a housing specialist tomorrow morning to help find him a place to go to. He believes me to be at fault and thinks I am the worst wife ever. Perhaps I am?? All I know is that I have to do something before I sink with no way of pulling myself back. I am very worried about finances. I have some hefty debts and have no idea how I will manage without him financially. I am 61 and unable to work through health issues. However, at this moment in time it feels better to end up in a financial quagmire than to carry on living with the uncertainty, verbal abuse and arguments that my life consists of and daily roller coaster that my life consists ofat the moment. I know he can stop drinking because he has done it before, for considerable lengths of time. The problem then changes to pain killer dependency. I even stopped my prescription in the past as he has found my medication and taken it. Sadly I do still love him but really don't like him. I feel the nly way left is to try to get him out of my home, and life.
justme - 6-Aug-15 @ 12:35 PM
I go to Alanon. I hear these exact same stories every week at my meeting. I am, through the support of others who have lived with this family disease, managing my life better. I have the same story. My partner is the alcholic. We have two beautiful children. Her drinking was always bad. No off button. Over the years this has got progressively worse. It's affecting the children and now I am concentrating on changing mine and the children's life. I can't change her behaviour. Believe me I have tried. The most depressing thing for me is to see the mother of my children slowly but surely wreck our family. She is slowly killing herself. she goes to AA and has been in rehab. One day she might stop. I have to let her go. Sounds hard but I, or no one else for that matter, causes her to drink. I know I can't control it( God know again I have tried) and I can't cure it. My friends and family are helpful and supportive but I have found that in Alnon the support I need. Those who have lived or still living with this family disease are the only ones that truly understand. Going to the meetings is worth a try. Timo
Timo - 13-Jun-15 @ 8:46 AM
my boyfriend stopped for 6months but is now in the grip of a relapse and has gone back to the way he was before, in the past 3 days i think he has got through 3 litres of vodka, i suppose im lucky he is never violent or anything like that, i dont just dont understand why i took the first drink i new this would happen so why couldnt he. Just need to talk to people who have been through this and are going through as dont know what to do, the worst thing for me he has been talking about hanging himself as he cant see away out that scares me more than anything i scared when i come home from work in case i find him dead. Im scared, and have no one to talk too.
meatloaf - 21-May-15 @ 3:44 PM
I am an alcoholic.had seizures and was admitted for nine days for alcohol withdrawal treatment.it worked but three months later..started drinking again.what's wrong with me.I've put my husband and two beautiful kids through hell.I'm desperate.help.
nikki - 12-Aug-14 @ 11:48 PM
ive have read this article about living with an alcoholic and it is like reading about my own life.I split from my husband 6 weeks ago after living with his addictions for 15 years.They kind of crept up on us.He has tried so many times to get on the wagon but has never been able to embrace AA.'Im not as bad as them' he would say to me.I realise now it is because I have been his safety net, always supporting and protecting him, sheilding our children from it as best as I could.Even drinking too much myself just to try and be on a level with the man I love.In all of this i lost my own identity and self worth, putting my own feelings and dreams to one side without realising.I do not believe that he can do it with out AA.I have never been so sad as I am right now.reading the comments has inspired me to try a family group for me and my children.They are so sensitive and miss their dad so much but I cannot bring myself to destroy their image of their dad as they love him so much.We had everything going for us but getting that drink was always his priority and that has been a hard pill for me to swallow.I have a future ahead of me which for the first time in a long time is a blank page, no idea what it holds for me, so it is at the beginning again.I have to remember that just because it has finished with my husband it is not my failure.It is because he is an alcoholic and I have chosen to not live with it anymore.I hope this helps someone
em - 19-Sep-13 @ 10:14 PM
Me and my four daughters have lived in our situation for nearly 9yrs and its getting so much harder. I work two jobs working extra hrs to meet my financial commitments. His family are not very supportive ashamed more than anything. My children are suffering I see that but I do feel so trapped, im too scared to tell him to leave in case he harms himself. He has not ever tried to harm himself, but this is somthing I did at a young age when I went through this with my parents but domestic violence was more Witnessed. I am in touch with an organisation that deals with alcoholics and my partner has been attending for two weeks now and seems to be drinking more. He has stole from me, his daughters and has pawned my gold the other day. I feel so helpless for my girls as I do know that such experiences can affect them in their life.
D - 10-Sep-13 @ 9:30 PM
There is hope for you both,try alanon family groups
john - 12-Aug-13 @ 11:03 PM
My beautiful son was an alcololic, He passed away last year and life will never be the same, He was 28years old. No one in my family could handle him and I'll never forgive them for that. However he was my son but I can't imagine being married or having a partner who had that problem. Nickoo I know exactly how you feel, please if you think there is no hope, go and make a new life for yourself.
Chris - 30-Nov-12 @ 1:56 PM
I am married to an alcoholic. He has lied to me in the past on several occasions that he is trying to give up and didn't. But now no bills have been paid and on top of that he has borrowed lots of money from payday loan organisations. I feel like my life is a mess, but can not leave as I will not be able to support myself and my two children. I don't love him anymore but I am stuck until I can afford a place of my own. My marriage is sad.But above all am worried about all this debt as interest is building up. When I confront him he tells me how it was all for putting food on the table. Luckily apart from the mood swings, I have not noticed any damage done to my children.
charity12 - 27-Jun-12 @ 10:00 PM
@nicknoo..take a look at the article on Living with an Alcoholic on this site. There are lots of comments from people in a similar situation, some of which might help.
AlcoholIssues - 19-Apr-12 @ 2:11 PM
I am married to an alcoholic. I hate my life as i feel trapped.In the past there has been violance.I feel lonely and sad as i cant have people round and he sits on his own in his own little world with his drink
nicknoo - 18-Apr-12 @ 10:17 PM
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