17 April 2013
Alcoholism in the Family Growing up everyone needs someone to look up to. For most, it is their parents. Parents teach their children how the world works and try to guide them in the right direction. Especially through childhood, parents are a child’s world. Kids learn through their parents how to react, talk, socialize, trust, and gain confidence. For most families this is a normal part of the parent- child bond. Some families don’t have it that easy though. For children who live in a family with an alcoholic parent, those simple guidelines are blurred. Lippincott Williams comments, “Alcoholism does not burst into the family as would a heart attack, rather it creeps slowly and silently until the time when it is finally detected” (1062). I could not agree more with this statement. Throughout my childhood, I never thought my mom had a drinking problem. She had a little self-control back then to not drink in front of me. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I learned my mom was an alcoholic and how much her drinking really had affected me. Alcoholism is a serious disease that affects every member of the family. Alcoholism is defined by the National Council on Alcohol as a primary, chronic disease defines alcoholism, with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development. It is a disease that takes over the mind and body. I once was told a perfect analogy for alcoholism by a family member of mine: you wake up with a song in your head; there’s no way it got there. When no one was singing it previously, you just woke up and it is there playing on repeat in your head. You go through the day with that song in your head, and you sing it over and over for who knows how long. No matter how hard you try or what you think about, you still find yourself humming that tune in your head. That is a great metaphor for alcoholism. Alcoholics wake up with a craving for alcohol from out of nowhere, and the only way to make that urge go away is to indulge in alcohol.
There are 14 million Americans that struggle with alcoholism most don’t even know it. It’s easy to brush off the feeling of being an alcoholic, saying everyone has a drink sometimes, or it helps the alcoholic relieve the stress of the day (“Coping” 450). The difference between someone who leisurely indulges in alcohol and an alcoholic is that alcoholics don’t have control over how many drinks they have; they build up a tolerance for alcohol, they don’t feel the effects until 5 or 7 drinks later, and they experience withdraws from not having alcohol in their system (Karola 250). Not only does getting drunk affect the alcoholic in the moment; it has long term effects as well. Alcoholics have a higher risk of getting liver cancer, brain damage, and it also weakens the immune system. Making the body more susceptible to illness (Karola 250). Alcoholics not only put themselves in danger; they put everyone else in their family in danger as well, physically and emotionally. I always knew my family was different from my friends’ families. At school events only my dad and sister showed up but not my mom. My other friends and their moms went shopping together, and I would be embarrassed to be the only one with my dad so I would not join them. These little details all build up over time. In Children of Alcoholic Parents, the author helps describe this situation: “The whole family becomes socially isolated and retreats from life of the outside world. This only intensifies the child’s low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness” (Williams 1062). As I went into middle school, I noticed this happening more and more. In the summer when all of my friends were at pool parties, their moms were always within reach sitting on the deck. At birthday parties where parents helped make food and set up events together, I noticed my mom was never or rarely there. My dad tried to be there as much as