Did you know that alcoholism affects the family?
Alcohol directly affects the person who drinks it and, indirectly, affects the persons who are related to the alcoholic.
The closer the relationship with the alcoholic is, the more it will affect you mentally and emotionally.
I grew up in a family where my father drank regularly. Beer and wine were his everyday friends.
At first, we didn’t understand my fathers’ sudden mood swings, until one day my mother called Alcoholics Anonymous and there, they gave her the number of a few aid groups called Al-Anon, which are for alcoholics’ families.
My mother started going to those groups and shortly after, I started going to others called Al-Ateen, which are specific for children and adolescents.
There they explained that alcoholism was a disease that affected the entire family.
If a family member has a drinking problem, a dysfunctional family context is created.
Alcohol causes changes in the persons’ behavior and these changes may make you behave:
- Relaxed and optimistic, or,
- Angry and aggressive
But there is no way to know if they will behave in one way or another.
In my case, I never knew if “today” my father was coming home nervous or if the evening was going to be quiet.
The important thing is that there is a great UNPREDICTABILITY in the person’s behavior.
And I want to emphasize this: It’s impossible to predict it.
It’s from this unpredictability that, if you’ve lived in a family with alcohol problems and/or other addictions, you’ll be able to understand what is happening to you.
What happens to a child living in a dysfunctional context?
For a child to develop and mature, you need a predictable and relaxed context.
But, what is the problem when you live in a family where alcoholism is present?
The alcoholic, at any time and in any situation, without no apparent reason, can become aggressive.
And express their aggression towards you, to your mother/father or anyone who stands before them.
Due to this, not knowing what will happen, makes you live in a constant state of alertness, because there is no predictability in the alcoholic’s behavior.
That’s why, you can NOT relax.
Pierre Janet defines trauma as:
“Exposure to a stressful INEVITABLE event”
For example, I remember eating dinner quietly when suddenly I made a comment about something, without further claim to an opinion, and suddenly, I got a bucket of cold water poured over me because “what” I said, was “interpreted” by my father in a way I couldn’t understand, and he became verbally aggressive against me.
Faced with an inevitable stressful situation, there are only three possible ways to react:
- Run away
- Become paralyzed
As an adult, you can face it or you can leave.
If there is no escape or the other is stronger, you become paralyzed.
As a child
If it’s your father or your mother, you can’t face the one who is attacking you verbally or physically, because you are small.
You cannot run or turn away from that person, because they are the ones who have to care of you. Besides, where would you go?
So, then, it becomes a stressful event that you can’t avoid.
And the only possible reaction you have as a child, is becoming paralysis.
This reaction is involuntary.
The brain takes reins of the situation and paralyzes the body.
During this paralysis, you cannot assimilate the experience that is happening to you.
You won’t be able to make any sense of it.
So that emotion and perception, may remain as separate sections in your psyche as images, feelings, smells, etc. which may arise abruptly in your adult life.
The non-alcoholic adult
If, as a child you are going through in this situation, but there’s a non-alcoholic adult who can:
- Protect your from the attack
- Help you with your emotions
- And give meaning to the experience
Then, YES you’ll be able to integrate that experience.
If the non-alcoholic adult explains that:
- your father or mother has an illness
- the illness causes this aggressive behavior
- it has nothing to do with what you do or say
- there is no pill to cure this illness
- etc. etc.
And hugs you, let you cry, reassures you…
The pain won’t take over as you can give a meaning to what happened.
If you can’t get an explanation or emotional support from the non-alcoholic adult and because of your mental and emotional immaturity, then you’ll blame yourself for the alcoholic’s aggressive reaction.
This is very important to understand.
If no one tells you anything, an unconscious thought will be created in the child’s mind stating “you’re not good enough to be treated well” or, “You’re not doing it right” or, even worst “something must be wrong with me.”
And this wrong and misguided way of thinking, will dig deep into your subconscious.
Furthermore, if these unpredictable situations repeat over time, it will lead to loss of confidence in:
- Others, and
- The world
Can you understand now why sometimes you feel like you feel?
How alcoholism affects the family
Summarizing what I explained so far:
If you grew up in an unpredictable environment, where you couldn’t relax or develop, you may feel stuck in a place where mistrust seeps into your way of seeing and being in the world, and also, of relating.
Thus, people who have grown up in a dysfunctional and unpredictable context, probably, will become insecure adults with low self-esteem and with a lot of fear.
If this is your situation, listen very carefully to what I have to say:
IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.
All these things that happen to you now, all your insecurity, your fears, etc. are non-intrinsic, you are not born with them, they are a result of your circumstances.
So having myself experienced everything I told you, I want to offer my sincerest support to help you overcome all your insecurities and mistrust.
If I could overcome them, you can too and I can show you the way. Just email me to firstname.lastname@example.org and use the first free online session I offer.
Do not remain in silence.
Hopefully my experience will give you the strength to leave that place, and to trust yourself, other and the world again.