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Substance abuse affects your child, too

12/5/2016

In our world, children rarely have a voice. They depend on the adults in their lives to see to their needs, to make sure they are taken care of and given the life skills they will need as they grow toward adult independence as responsible, reliable good people who care for the next generation coming up under their watch, each generation feeling safe and secure. Well, that’s how it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?

            The National Association of Children of Alcoholics reported recently that currently “over 18 million children live in households with parental addiction.” The Surgeon General has stated that one in seven people develops a substance abuse disorder sometime in their lifetime. The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress cite an article, “The Effects of Parental Substance Abuse on Children and Families” which indicates that substance abuse is a global problem affecting children everywhere on Spaceship Earth, not just in the United States.

The article states, “The child may no longer be living with the substance-abusing parent because of separation, divorce, abandonment, incarceration or death and the parent does not have to be still actively drinking or using for the child to feel the impact of the abuse.”

Children live what they learn in their home environments. In families where substance abuse is a problem, they learn:

  • Their parent’s behavior is unpredictable.
  • Communication is not clear.
  • Family life is chaotic and unpredictable.
  • If there are rules, nobody enforces them consistently.
  • Children are confused and insecure.
  • Children blame themselves for their parent’s substance abuse and the parent does, too. (Children aren’t to blame and they can’t cure their parents.)
  • Fear is with good reason: domestic violence, physical abuses, the unknowns that result from the chaos and uncertainty of every moment.

“…[C]hildren of substance abusers … may be the victims of physical violence or incest. They may also witness violence … and … may suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome with the same kinds of sleep disturbances, flashbacks, anxiety and depression that are associated with victims of war crimes …”

They lack needed social skills and often try to hide the problems that are going on in their lives. The children are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders and suicide attempts. And they are at higher risk of developing their own substance abuse issues. They learn not to trust, to feel guilty even when they are not. They feel shame as they hide the truth about their lives. They live in a land of confusion, ambivalence, fear, insecurity and more.

“One person with addiction affects seven other people who care about them,” says the National Association of Children of Alcoholics. The damage to a family may last lifetimes, never forgotten, perhaps never healed without help.


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