While reading “Who Are the Real Victims of Alcoholism” in my college textbook, I could not help but thinking of my own experiences as a child growing up with an alcoholic father. This essay was written by a student named Meredith Newmon Blanco. In her essay, she makes several strong claims on how children who are raised by alcoholic parents will grow up facing many troubling obstacles. Some of her examples are physical and emotional abuse, lack of structure and discipline, and a childhood that is filled with fear.
Although alcoholism is a tremendous problem in the United States, not all children grow up suffering from a variety of problems due to the fact that they were raised by alcoholic parents. Children, who are raised by alcoholic parents, are exposed to many different types of environments while growing up. Blanco states, “Children in homes with alcoholics grow up with inconsistency and disciplinary fluctuations”. (pg 52) Children are not only raised by their primary care giver, but by the community in which they live in.
This means that children have many social relationships other than their parents.
Daycares and schools are a place where many children spend a majority of their day. While in these facilities, the children are in an environment that is stable, structured, and socially enhancing. The teachers and caregivers in these facilities play an important role in the development of the children who are attending. If the facility is lacking in discipline and structure, this can contribute to many behavior problems displayed by the child.
There are several children who do not attend these types of facilities and do spend a majority of their day at home with their alcoholic parents.
However, there are also several characteristics that may contribute to the children’s success, including the ability to obtain positive attention from other people. This includes extended family members like grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even cousins. Children may also obtain positive attention from peer relationships as well. Through these forms of positive attention, children living with alcoholics are able to gain communication skills, a caring attitude, and a desire to achieve success.
Children thrive on routine and research has shown that children with alcoholic parents are less likely to become alcoholics as adults, when their parents consistently follow through on plans and maintain rituals like holidays and regular mealtimes. When alcoholic parents maintain these routine rituals, this can help provide their children with emotionally stable. Some research findings suggest that children suffer negative emotional consequences due to parental alcoholism. However, larger a proportion of these children function well and do not develop serious problems. Children of alcoholics experience higher levels of conflict within the family.
Their development is delayed, and they are four times more likely than other children to develop alcoholism” (Blanco pg 54). Researchers have reported that many children from alcoholic homes develop neither psychopathology nor alcoholism. (NIAAA) Recently, a longitudinal study was done in Hawaii over children born to alcoholic parents. The researchers reported that only forty two percent of the children developed serious coping problems by the age of eighteen and fifty nine percent did not develop any kind of emotional problems.
My childhood was very happy and full of structure. My family did many activities together on a regular basis. I experienced no extreme conflict with my parents and had normal sibling disputes with my brother. There were things about my family that I did not discover until I was around nineteen years old. My father was a severe alcoholic, spending hundreds of dollars a week in liquor. He was what is considered a functioning alcoholic.
“The functioning alcoholic is the alcoholic who can hold down a job, pursue a career or care for children while continuing his or her alcoholism. (Neill) My father was very active and well liked in his community. He made a lifelong career out of being a truck driving to support his family. Growing up as a child, I was unaware of his problem with drinking. To my knowledge, my father only drank socially. Sometimes, there would be cans of beer in our refrigerator for months before my mother would throw it out. Only on occasion, would I notice a liquor bottle or two in the cabinet. As I grew older, I began to learn things were not as blissful as they appeared.
My parents struggled quite a bit with their marriage. However, they still maintained structure and bliss. They would fight quite often, but never in front of my brother and I. As a child, I cannot remember a single argument between the two of them. I was extremely close to my father and favored him over my mother as a child. He was always available for me whenever I needed him. I held him very high on a pedestal and would do anything for him. He was my best friend. I feel that the way I was raised really shaped me as a person.
I turned out to be a very well disciplined adult, who in no way, is a dysfunctional member of society. Now that I am almost in my thirties, I have experienced situations with my father that has exposed me to just how bad his drinking truly is. My father is self destructing before my very eyes with each passing year. My parents divorced about three years ago due to my father’s infidelity. Over the past three years, I have seen him become a pathetical liar, a mantic depressive, violent towards others, and has distant himself from his family.
Some of these things my mother dealt with throughout my entire childhood. My father is still a functioning alcoholic. He is still very well liked in the community, holds his truck driving job, and is even helping to raise his new wife’s child. Many are unaware of his severe drinking problem. My father taught me self discipline and emotional control when I was a child, and those valuable lessons are now helping me as an adult with the challenges of watching my best friend fade out of my life.
I credit so much of who I am to how he morally shaped me. Those lessons he taught me as a child are what I am using now to prevent him from negatively impacting me or my family. Blanco’s statement, “Children of alcoholic parents suffer from a variety of problems directly linked to their parents alcohol abuse” (Blanco pg 54) really showed her ignorance to the situation she was writing about. My alcoholic father has helped me become a strong, positive, independent, outgoing, and optimistic person.
Much of your ability to succeed comes from the way you deal with life. Having a positive mental attitude is indispensable for success and happiness. You are constantly faced with challenges, difficulties, and problems every day of your life. They are unavoidable and one of the inevitable parts of being human. Never the less, as you draw upon your resources to respond effectively to each challenge, you grow and become a stronger person. Now that I am an adult, I feel my father’s current actions are just another life lesson for me.
Sometimes, things in life are not always what they appear, but how these challenges shape you as a person is for you to decide. Every human being is capable of making their life what they want it to be.