The term “alcohol use disorder” (AUD) references a broad spectrum of problematic drinking patterns. These referencing patterns commonly include alcoholism, binge drinking, and alcohol addictions, all share similar characteristics of severe impulse control issues concerning alcoholic consumption and often encompass powerful, compulsive urges to drink.

These compulsions often lead to dangerous physical and mental situations, putting the impulsive user and those around them at immediate and impending risk. These characteristic impulses and control issues concerning alcohol can lead to both long and short-term chronic drinking issues that may encompass alcoholism or other drinking patterns that do not involve addiction. They can also onset a plethora of other mental health conditions, including depression or worsening anxiety as well as cancers, liver issues, and other chronic physical diseases or illnesses.

Alcohol use disorders can also perpetuate professional and personal relationships problems. Many individuals who misuse alcohol believe that drinking, especially if contained within their own home, pose no risk of harming others.

Of course, this is a false belief. Alcohol addictions and severe AUDs are often categorically substance use disorders by definition. Substance use disorders are a type of chronic mental illness that, without proper treatment, can have life-altering, damaging, and hazardous effects on an individual and those close to them.

Despite the dangers associated with substance abuse and drinking issues, alcohol misuse remains a steadily growing issue in the United States. Researchers estimate that over 25% of United States citizens ages 18 and older frequently engage in risky drinking behaviors. Studies also show that alcohol consumption consists of more than 85% of the American adult population.

Ultimately, over 14 million individuals ages 12 and older in the United States have an AUD. Alcohol use disorders cause damage to the abuser but also to those who surround them. Sometimes these damaging effects may seem as though they will blow over in a short amount of time. Still, more often than not, individuals who are affected by their loved one’s abuse of alcohol carry trauma scars from those experiences well into their adulthood.

What a sibling, friend, grandparent, or parent does with their alcohol consumption affects others. Children who grow up in alcoholic households are at higher risk of experiencing many cognitive, behavioral, and emotional issues. Exposure to alcohol abuse in early development may also put these children at further risk of developing an alcohol use disorder in their own lives. Luckily, just as there is support for those who directly wrestle with an AUD, there are avenues that children of alcoholics can also pursue to initiate their healing.

The Dangerous Influence of Alcohol Growing Up

It is increasingly common that children ages 12 and older experiment with alcohol in the United States. Addiction prevention websites talk about the dangers and warning signs of adolescent alcohol abuse to inform peers and parents alike so that communities at large may have the opportunity to stop an AUD from developing early on. Alcohol use and prevention in adolescents is a common topic of discussion.

Even the effects an alcoholic parent(s) may have on a child in the early stages of development is worthy of debate in many circles. Yet, what is less commonly spoken of, are the adult children of alcoholics, who they are, and what they become.

Yes, indeed, many children who spend their early developmental years in a home where alcohol misuse is a common occurrence might develop an unhealthy relationship with drinking themselves. Of course, the range for unhealthy relationships with alcohol can vary significantly. Many children who grow up in a home with an alcoholic parent will grow to despise drinking and look down upon those who even socially consume alcohol in the future.

There are also instances where children of alcohol parents begin to misuse alcohol early in life and develop AUDs themselves. And still, there may occur cases where individuals who grew alongside drinking abuse behaviors may fear alcohol itself. Alcoholism and alcohol use disorders can have a wide range of significant adverse effects on children. The misuse of alcohol by a parent can leave a child with severe emotional trauma, mental anguish, behavioral issues and may, in some cases, result in physical hazards as well.

Of course, there are also populations of children who grow up in homes impacted by alcoholic misuse that may continue to grow and develop mentally and emotionally without any noticeable interference. Regardless of what an individual’s childhood relationship with alcohol resembles, the effects of abuse patterns will influence their lives in one way or another. The question to consider will remain: Are children of alcoholic parents different from other adolescents, and what becomes of them when they grow up?

What is ACA?

Inherently, children who grow up alongside an alcohol parent(s) are not different from other individuals their age. Of course, the experiences and events they are subject to live through due to their parent’s problematic drinking patterns will have some effect on them, usually emotionally, mentally, or behaviorally.

These effects will make children of parents with drinking disorders seem different from their peers, but in actuality, points to their intrinsic need for safety, encouragement, love, comfort, and guidance from an adult. A similarity with other children their age that their parent may be incapable of providing them with due to their AUD.

Wrestling with an alcohol use disorder directly causes trauma to the individual with the behavioral patterns. Similarly, watching an individual wrestle with an AUD firsthand can have devastating and traumatic consequences, especially if they are a parent. Many children who come forward about their parent’s struggle with an AUD may have the opportunity to engage in therapeutic practices.

Engaging in these therapies may help alleviate some of the effects of such traumas, heal, and hopefully prevent any other unhealthy relationships with alcohol from developing. Likewise, adult children of alcoholics may find similar supports.

Adult children of individuals with alcohol use disorders may suffer from a wide variety of personal damages, including:

  • An inability to trust others
  • Depression
  • Intense feelings of guilt
  • Difficulties with anger management
  • Low self-esteem
  • Challenges developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships
  • A severe diversion or replacement to alcohol

And in some cases, a developing or worsening alcohol use disorder themselves. Growing as a child in an environment where problematic drinking patterns can cause severe long-term conditions in adults who end up looking for ways to make sense of the experience and event they grew up with and around.

Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) is a twelve-step program or tradition that serves adult men and women of all ages who grew up in AUD or other severely dysfunctional home environments. The ACA program operates on the belief that all types of family dysfunction, including alcohol misuse, can perpetuate a climate conducive for neglect and abuse. The program takes the stance that such dysfunction is a disease, an illness. Without proper care, prevention, and healing measures taken, can breed an environment where familial dysfunction patterns continue to affect even the next generation.

As a result of these beliefs, and the desire to help encourage the healing process, ACA allows individuals to meet as an opportunity to share individual recovery stories and healing in an environment of mutual support and respect. Like drug and alcohol support groups, ACA meetings help members begin to open up about their past experiences, allowing them to evaluate and process the traumas they have lived through fully, begin to make connections with other individuals from similar circumstances, and ultimately, heal. They do this by working through the process of twelve-step alcohol addiction recovery phases, all the while working to build a community network set on supporting and encouraging one another before, during, and after the healing process.

Each individual who attends ACA meetings is subject to a different experience. Some individuals may find encouragement to continue working to prevent the traumas they grew up with become the same issues their children will need to grow alongside. Others will receive the support they need to pursue their healing, while still other men and women will feel fulfillment in sharing how they made it through recovery and giving other members tips on how to make it through the healing process.

Regardless of the reason for their being at these meetings, ACA meetings have proven they work to help families and children of alcoholics in their adult years heal. Every individual may work through therapy in different manners, but they all need support. ACA can help adult children learn from, cope with, forgive and ultimately heal from the trauma their dysfunctional family bestowed upon them at such an early age. Thus better equipping them to help their loved ones recover from addiction as well.

Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders

Whether an individual is struggling with addiction directly or watching a loved one suffer at the hands of substance abuse firsthand, alcohol and drug use disorders prove challenging for all of those involved in the impact. Luckily, addiction is a treatable disease. The road to recovery may prove to be a long journey, fraught with joyous and frustrating events and occurrences. The good news is, individuals and their family members seeking addiction treatment are not alone.

At St. John’s Recovery Place (SJRP), every treatment participant is treated like family. Traditional, alternative, and complementary healing services compromise the makeup of SJRP treatment programs for individuals, and family members outside of rehab are not forgotten. The SJRP team recognizes the challenges addiction puts individuals and families through, and as a result, works to support as many individuals through the recovery process as possible. Often this does not directly care for adult children of alcoholics but can include the initial aid of bridging gaps in familiar relationships through counseling sessions.

SJRP cares deeply about individuals and families. The company’s number one goal is to help people heal to live happy and productive lives once again. The road to recovery will look different for everyone, and it will have its challenges, but the effort each client and their family put into healing is worth every second.

To learn more about St. John’s Recovery Place, its treatment guides, family policies, and more, call 1-833-397-3422 today; it could be just the beginning of an enriching journey towards healing.