In the United States, twenty million children are experiencing physical, verbal and emotional abuse from parents who are addicted to alcohol. Growing up in an alcoholic house can leave emotional scars that may last a lifetime. This is tragic because we consider that childhood is the foundation on which our entire lives are fabricated. When a child's efforts to bond with an addicted parent are handicapped, the result is confusion and intense anxiety. In order to survive in a home deficient, of healthy parental love, limits, and consistency, they must develop "survival skills" or defense mechanisms very early in life.
The crippling effects of alcoholism and drug dependency are not confined to the addict alone. The family suffers, physically and emotionally, and it is the children who are the most disastrous victims. Frequently neglected and abused, they lack the maturity to combat the terrifying destructiveness of the addict's behavior. As adults these individuals may become compulsively attracted to the same lifestyle as their parents, excessive alcohol and drug abuse, destructive relationships, antisocial behavior, and find themselves in an infinite loop of feelings of emptiness, futility, and despair. Behind the appearance of calm and success, Adult Children of Alcoholics often bear a sad, melancholy and haunted look that betrays their quietest confidence. In the chilling silence of the darkest nights of their souls, they yearn for intimacy: their greatest longing, and deepest fear. Their creeping terror lives as the child of years of emotional, and sometimes physical, family violence.
Normally, children learn about intimate relationships through both loving interactions with parents, and effective parental modeling. In alcoholic homes, all relating filters through "the bottle," with the alcoholic addicted to the alcohol and the spouse and children addicted to the alcoholic. For Adult Children of Alcoholics, surviving their families becomes the point of existence. The fortunate may be able to draw support from a supportive adult, and may emerge with fewer difficulties than their brothers and sisters. The majority, however, have to "make do." Some spend lonely hours in their rooms wishing only to vanish behind the woodwork. Others attempt to rescue the foundering victims in their middle. When a Child of an Alcoholic's father threatens his family during a drunken rage, he may stand between them, putting himself at great risk. He wins the peace, but only at the cost of the emotional vulnerability he must develop in order to form mutually nurturing relationships. Instead, he builds a wall of mortar and brick which protects him from all forms of human touching, no matter how harsh or soft. There are many approaches Children of Alcoholics may take to handle their stress. Some, sensing their family's need for relief, provide humor, distraction, anything to attract attention. Ironically, the more attention this child receives the less of him or her anyone sees. Their clown mask sits permanently in place, until even they feel oblivious to their own pain. The raging child, the family sacrifice, absorbs the family's suffering. Unheard, they lash out, hoping someone will hear their screams of desperation and help. Instead, authorities muffle their cries as they cart them away: to the principal's office, to detention, and generally someplace out of ear shot. Powerless, they sink into despair or drugs, sometimes finding solace in the streets. Romantic relationships may promise a sense of renewal to the lonely and depressed Adult Child. They bask in the rush of excitement that springs from mutual attraction and discovery. But when they need to work out problems and issues, they feel frightened and lost flooded with childhood memories of hatred and destruction. Without the tools to work out disagreements, they sit alone with the agony of separation from their loved one. Reunion brings relief from...
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