What does it mean to be a child of an alcoholic?

When I was a kid, I didn’t think that I am a child of an alcoholic. I just knew that something is going wrong and that it’s giving me a lot of negative feelings. I actually don’t know when the word “alcoholic” came to my mind. But the first time, when I realized that this is actually my reality, was only a bit more than 2 years ago.


My father is an alcoholic.


He has never been a chronic alcoholic drinking for weeks or months. But he has never had limits. It was always ending up in conflicts at home. Now I think that for so many years it was a fight between a nice, helpful, hard worker HIM and HIM with a need for alcohol. The situation went out of control when he spent few years living abroad. A wife, who was always trying to protect him from getting down, was not there. But there were “friends” always ready “to have a drink”.


People with alcohol addiction always deny their problem. They continue to drink even when drinking causes negative consequences, for example destroying relationships with family. This is exactly what happened in my family. My father didn’t accept his problem even when my mother started divorce. My parents got officially divorced after 31 years of marriage. I was 30 years old.


So, what does it mean to be a child of an alcoholic?


  1. Such person faces problems to understand and control emotions


Children of alcoholics are growing with very different emotions and feelings for one person. On one hand, they love their father. On the other hand, they might be even scared of him. A mind of a kid is not yet ready to deal with these emotions and all challenges of life. Being adults, they will struggle to understand, express, accept and manage their emotions.


  1. Such person is a freak of control


For kids is not easy to see a father who is destroying his life, it’s not easy to hear all conflicts at home. They try to help, to get the situation under control, to protect a father. However, most of the time this doesn’t help. Such kids start to feel weak. Being adults, they will be freaks of control – like this they subconsciously will try to compensate this feeling of being weak that they felt in a childhood.


  1. Such person always feels guilty


First of all, some kids may think that they are the reason why father is drinking. However, all of them will feel guilty for not doing enough to solve this problem. Feeling of guilt may later disturb many areas of life. Feeling of guilt often develops mental health disorders, such as depression. It’s very difficult to find a line between “I love him, I will give one more chance and try to help” and between “It’s enough, I did everything, now I have to let him go”.


  1. Such person feels strong anxiety


Person with alcohol use disorder being drunk is usually different compared to him sober. His behavior changes, he has no control over his words and actions, he can become even aggressive. Seeing father like this, kids develop fairs and feeling of shame. However, kids may not understand these feelings and how serious this situation is. For this reason, quite often kids just hide these feelings and try to forget all situations when father was drunk. With time, they develop anxiety disorder. Kids who were growing with anxiety may not even know that there is a way to feel different.


  1. Such person has to learn how to trust a partner


Girls, who were growing with a father alcoholic, doesn’t know how to trust a man. This is something new, what they need to learn. Many insecurities that they developed in childhood, now they can put across their own relationships. They may feel shame or panic just after a very small trigger or often without a clear reason. Also, these girls have more chances to start relationship with an alcoholic partner.


It's not easy to create a healthy life having so many traumas and insecurities. I am working with therapist for a while, I read a lot and I clearly see what an effect this had over me. But I am thankful for being mindful and choosing to solve my problems instead of blaming someone.