Many addicts and codependents believe that their behaviors do not affect anyone else besides themselves. This is especially the case if they are high functioning and regarded by those outside the family as being responsible contributors to society; the addict and/or codependent parent(s) may even have the false sense that they are providing the best for their family’s well-being. However, this is certainly far from the truth in almost all cases and children especially suffer the most.
Children are the daily but powerless witnesses to the devastating actions and consequences of addiction. Their childhood is usually stunted because they are often called upon to take on adult duties to keep the family functioning. They also have the extra heavy burden of keeping what happens inside the home a secret to outsiders, and because of this, they usually navigate through the world with a deep sense of shame, fear, and guilt. They spend a great deal of time and energy on figuring out what “normal” means or what it means to be a “normal” child and often they are uncertain how to behave or what to say.
Because the lines are blurred within the home, they sometimes are not able to discern good examples or role models from those that are not. Therefore, the characteristics of children from addict homes and codependent parenting can range and be numerous within any person. There is no one set or predictable outcome to those who grow up with addiction as environmental factors and genetics vary within each individual. For example, a brother and sister within the same alcoholic family system may grow up quite differently; one child may become a hyper-vigilant, super responsible adult who has a hard time “letting go” and having fun, while the other becomes a repeat criminal, with very little sense of remorse or responsibility.
The larger understanding to gain is that most children are affected deeply and in severe ways from growing up with an addict. Sometimes the results follow the child well into adulthood and may become crippling to their wellbeing for a lifetime; they may even pass the dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors into future generations. Some examples of how addiction may affect your children are: they may have an extremely low sense of self-worth or self-esteem, have a terrific fear of abandonment, have trouble becoming close to anyone in intimate relationships, may constantly seek approval from others, may become their own harshest judge, may have trust issues, may behave erratically or in compulsive ways, such as overeating, being a workaholic or even abusing substances or alcohol themselves.
If you or a loved one has an addiction of any nature, and have children, they may be affected and their quality of life may be impacted. If you need help getting through to an addict, contact us today. We can provide you with quality treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.
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