GROWING UP IN AN ALCOHOLIC FAMILY: COPING AND TREATMENT
There are various diseases that are said to be genetic, such as Diabetes, Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack), mental illnesses such as Schizophrenia and depression. But medical science got too late to recognize that Alcoholism can be genetic too. Studies show that people who have alcoholic parents/grandparents, they are more predisposed to be alcohol addicts too. Yes, environment plays an enabling role too, but if a person has alcoholism in genes, then environment would not be such a major factor. There are several genes responsible for causing Alcohol Use Disorder. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has funded Collaborative Studies on Genetics of Alcoholism (1989) so that specific genes that can influence a person’s likelihood of developing alcoholism can be identified.
“COGA investigators have collected data on more than 2,255 extended families in which many members are affected by alcoholism. The researchers collected extensive clinical, neuropsychological, electrophysiological, biochemical, and genetic data on the more than 17,702 individuals who are represented in the database. The researchers also have established a repository of cell lines from these individuals to serve as a permanent source of DNA for genetic studies.”
Let us gain an insight into what Alcohol Use Disorder is:
AUD is problematic consumption of alcohol, which preoccupies the mind and of an individual to such extent, that despite of suffering from various troubles and imbalances in life (health, family, job etc), that individual cannot voluntarily stop consuming alcohol. In AUD, even lowering down the everyday amount of alcohol consumed, causes withdrawal symptoms.
A person with AUD does not think of the consequences of his behavior performed under the influence of alcohol. He craves so much for it, that he does not care about the situation and location. He would drink while driving, working in office, swimming etc. He would slowly give up social activities and spend that time in drinking too. He does not worry about its ill effects on his health, family and finances.
AUD does not just affect a person’s physical and mental health, but disturbs the whole equilibrium of his social, family and emotional life. His behavior gets altered in massive ways. Either a person would get too aggressive and harm himself or people around him, or he would become so isolated that he would not want to see anybody and might even get more depressed. Since alcohol is a depressant, the myth that alcohol boosts mood has to be cleared from the readers’ mind.
Alcoholic families are three to four times more likely to have alcoholic children as they grow up in such an environment where they see their alcoholic parents. They tend to exhibit more behavior and emotional issues due to their dysfunctional home.
In fact communication tends to become problematic as the situation in the family worsens. Family members no longer feel the need to interact and they form their own social groups outside where they drink together. There have been many cases who said that their father asked them to drink with him. We have also seen such cases, who in their psychosocial evaluation and Alcohol Severity Index (ASI) stated that they had never seen their grandfather, but definitely have heard from parents that he was an alcoholic.
Various Areas Affected Due To Alcoholism in Family:
Allowing Alcohol in family itself is a big problem. And if parents are alcoholics, the child’s social life gets restricted. He would be unable to form any positive social contacts. His parents rather would be his enablers.
It tampers with growth in all areas: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social, Spiritual. Their perspective towards situations become limited and they continue practicing what their comfort zone allows. They do not have the concept of wrongs and rights, as for them, it might be just OK to drink and drive. They might have made it a Normal Routine of their life.
If somebody’s Grandparents were alcoholic, alcoholism gets transferred into genes, body would show high tolerance for it. His alcohol consumption would never be normal then.
Characteristics of an Alcoholic Family
Adult Children of Alcoholics(ACoAs) are generally aware of the split personalities living inside the body of alcoholic parent that raised them. On one hand these children have love care and concern towards their alcoholic parent and on the other they harbor the feelings of fear, uncertainty and even hatred for the parents that raised them. ACoAs don’t exhibit hatred intentionally, the grim scenarios in their homes, those heated arguments after a few drinks, those bashings make them hate their alcoholic parents. Parents are sometimes unable to stop their child from going astray as they themselves are on the wrong path.
As the father or mother transitions in and out of recovery, the family also transitions between sobriety and drunken family unit. On the outside the family may seem to be happy but intrinsically a shift is happening and each family member can feel it when it happens.
Common Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics
These adult children of alcoholics seem to suffer from a similar set of symptoms which have been identified as the ACoASyndrome. The primary symptom of this syndrome is Fear. This fear outreaches the other spheres in their lives – intimacy, change in environment, coping in emotional and situational problems, fear of abandonment and making mistakes in taking important decisions of life. In addition to this ACoAs tend to have aggressive, manipulative and perfectionist tendencies.
These traits are a result of a dysfunctional home centered around a profound lack of empathy and distinct tolerance of abuse – generally accompanied by denial. It would be difficult for an ACoA to understand the difference between a normal home and an alcoholic home where inter personal relations are all shallow and broken and lives of all family members revolves around blaming each other.
The unfortunate correlation between alcoholism and abuse only serves to cause further psychological damage to ACoAs.
Available Treatment Options
Some of these children grow into well-adjusted individuals while others struggle to cope with their emotions and inter-personal relationships. Similar to alcoholics, ACoAs benefit from taking treatment and attending AA meetings while others take up the twelve step program or alternative healing therapies.
In the past decade, therapists and counselors have grown substantially to provide services to ACoAs. Some ACoAs don’t realize that some of the issues in their lives potentially stem back to their childhood including depression and anxiety and they are unable to express their feelings. Unfortunately, either they consume alcohol or self medicate.
In Shafa Home, there are trained psychologists, social workers and professional counselors and therapists working for rehabilitation of Alcoholics and drug addicts. You can contact us at +91-9810223987