An alcoholic home is often one of chaos and instability, causing lasting effects for children exposed to this type of unpredictable environment.

According to the available research, more than 11 million American children under the age of 18 live in a family with at least one alcoholic parent.

The effects of parental alcoholism can be severe, and in some cases, so profound that they last a lifetime. Without addressing these lasting effects, a range of issues can develop, including trust and mental health issues.

How Alcoholic Parents Impact Their Children

Current research suggests that children of alcoholics are at an increased risk for numerous negative outcomes, including poor self-esteem, mood disorders, underachievement, and substance abuse. Adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs) often exhibit similar traits and qualities, including but not limited to:

  • Issues with self-regulation, often showcasing “black and white” thinking
  • Increased feelings of anxiety and hyper-vigilance

Another key area of concern is the link between children raised in alcoholic homes and their risk of poor relationship functioning later on in life. In this study, it was found that ACOAs were 3-4 times more likely to select an alcoholic partner in comparison to non-ACOAs.

Another key study, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, found that the development of attachment in intimate relationships was associated with alcoholism in the opposite gender parent. For example, husbands with alcoholic mothers reported lower marital satisfaction, whereas wives reported lower marital intimacy when their fathers struggled with alcoholism.

How to Begin the Healing Process

Depending on the ways in which parental alcoholism has impacted you, there are many steps you can take to begin the healing process. For some, that means seeking treatment for alcohol abuse, while others wish to address problematic antisocial behavior.

Step one: Educate yourself

The more you know and understand, the better you’ll be able to cope with past trauma throughout your personal healing journey.

Books are an excellent resource, especially when they share personal stories in which you can relate. They can also help you better understand the science of addiction.

Step two: Practice self-care

The term “self-care” is defined as the practice of preserving or improving your own happiness, health, and overall well-being — which needs to be a top priority. This particularly applies to those in recovery.

To begin, focus on your health in regard to your diet and activity level. There is a direct link between nutrition, exercise, and positive well-being, both mental and physical. Activities such as yoga are also ideal when aiming to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Make a list of five things that will help rejuvenate your soul. Whether that means spending more quality time with friends and family, focusing on creative outlets, learning to cook, or actively going to church, this list should be personalized to match your interests, goals, and desires.

Step three: Meet with others in your community

There are many groups across the nation that meet to discuss their hardships with the aim to support and encourage others. For example, the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization is an excellent resource. There are options to meet in-person, as well as online. Meeting with these like-minded individuals who understand where you’re coming from can be freeing.

Step four: Talk to a professional

In many cases, although self-care, education, and ongoing peer support can improve one’s ability to function in everyday life, professional help is required to truly heal.

Loving an alcoholic comes with unique challenges. However, there are numerous therapy options and individualized treatment plans that can help you take back control of your own life and future.

Whether you are currently struggling with alcohol, trauma, or both, help is available. If you’re ready to take the next step or inquire on behalf of a loved one, please speak with an admission specialist. They will help guide you towards a brighter, more productive future — one that allows you to break free from the chains of addiction.

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