Adult Children of Alcoholics Achieve Balance by Leaving Addiction in the Past

Growing up with a parent who struggles with alcoholism can be incredibly tough. Adult children of alcoholics face many lingering effects of this stress later in life—including in their personal relationships. Working through inner challenges, including the mental and emotional habits associated with being close to addiction, can bring significant relief. Although these individuals face a higher risk of alcoholism themselves, compassionate treatment can help them leave addiction in the past.

Stumbling upon wine bottles stashed between winter coats in the linen closet. Watching glass after glass of scotch disappear over dinner—at home on a Tuesday. Dreading the inevitable smell of alcohol on her mother’s breath. Sarah’s reality at home revolved around these moments. Though things were sometimes better (and sometimes much worse), her childhood was full of memories of alcohol.

Growing up with an alcoholic parent is never easy. It’s almost impossible to leave your childhood without some kind of lingering effect that reveals itself later in life. If you’re the child of an alcoholic, you may struggle with the emotional, mental, and physical side effects of your parents’ addictions—and though you may vow to be nothing like them, it’s all too easy as an adult to fall into the very same addiction pattern that marred your childhood. Thankfully, there are a number of compassionate treatment options that can help you walk this difficult path.

How Growing Up With an Alcoholic Parent Affects Your Own Relationships


As Sarah experienced all too often, conflict in the home is an unfortunate reality of growing up in the care of an alcoholic parent. You may be used to a home life that’s loud, messy, and angry— between all members of your family, sober or otherwise. Growing up this way, it’s difficult to know what a healthy relationship looks like, and how to build them when you become an adult yourself.

It’s almost like you’re in a constant guessing game when it comes to evaluating your own reactions to the people in your life. It’s easy to confuse pity with love and be attracted to partners you try to “rescue.” All too often, you end up with partners who struggle with substance addiction themselves.

If you feel discouraged and stuck in these relationships, know that you don’t carry that weight entirely on your own shoulders. There’s a lot more at play here than what you might see as a lack of willpower, and recognizing that and accepting it will go a long way in helping you move forward.

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Mental and Emotional Struggles of Adult Children of Alcoholics


As an adult, you’ve probably tried very hard to move on from growing up in an alcoholic household. You’re determined not to fall into the behavioral patterns you witnessed, but you may be shocked and hurt to discover that it happens more than you’d like to admit. This often has to do with your thought process and the way you engage with difficult emotions. Understanding these factors can help you recognize when they’re affecting you, and how you can find a way out of them.

Self-criticism is, undeniably, a huge part of living as an adult child of an addict. You may have grown up surrounded by constant self-beratement, and those patterns of thought can be incredibly hard to shake. Being too critical of yourself, however, can lead to serious self-esteem issues and long-lasting feelings of shame or guilt, so the sooner you can start addressing that self-criticism, the better. Or maybe it’s fear that you struggle with—the idea of losing control. You may struggle with a sincere fear of abandonment. That would be completely understandable: alcoholic households are often rife with neglect.

Even on your own, you can benefit greatly as an adult from speaking your truth. All too often we are forced into denial—pretending that we didn’t grow up the way we did, or that we’re not “turning into our parents”—and we tend to rely on this unhealthy strategy far too long. Speaking truth about what you went through (aloud to yourself, in a journal, with those closest to you, or using a private blog) can help break the cycle of denial.

Physical Effects of Parental Addiction in Their Adult Children


Some of the quietest effects of growing up in an alcoholic’s household don’t appear until later in life. Living in a constant state of high stress unfortunately puts you at a much higher risk of physical ailments—as minor as stress headaches and asthma or as serious as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Children of alcoholics are also at a significantly higher risk of developing compulsive behaviorand, ultimately, substance addiction. Growing up around addiction can be incredibly traumatic, and you may develop the need to self-medicate with alcohol or other substances to cope with that trauma. This counterintuitive result can be shocking to you and difficult to handle on your own. That’s why seeking compassionate treatment for substance abuse can be an integral part of your healing process.

As an adult, though you may care deeply for a parent who struggles with alcohol addiction, you’ve probably come to realize that you can’t force them to seek treatment or work towards recovery. Your true purpose lies in examining how your parent’s addiction has impacted your life—and in deciding how you will deal with its effects. You’re at the perfect stage in your life to engage in the healing work of achieving emotional balance. You are your first line of defense against hardship, and with the right mindset, you can become your own repository of comfort and stability.

Seeking treatment for your own alcoholism or lingering trauma can help you leave that part of your life in the past. With the help of your team of compassionate recovery professionals, you’ll be able to create a future for yourself in which addiction is only a memory.

At Alta Mira, we provide compassionate care for the whole person. Whether you’re seeking treatment options for yourself or a parent, Alta Mira’s residential therapy programs have family involvement options to suit each unique circumstance and provide your family with the healing it deserves. Reach out to us today to learn more about how your family can move forward from addiction and achieve lasting recovery.