Unfortunately, many children of alcoholics and addicts have not been given secure base to venture into the adult world.The focus on addiction in their families, rather than on the developing needs of children, often causes these children to feel shameful and anxious rather than confident and secure.
These children learn to adapt to life rather than learning how to live their lives. Without connection to an emphatic and nurturing other, children in these families frequently feel like imposters, often hiding their insecurity, fear and lack of self-worth behind a mask of confidence.
Many live out the legacies of their childhood years feeling fearful, unlovable, out of control, and unworthy. They lick their wounds in silence, often feeling like children emotionally when they are thirty and hyper-responsible at the tender age of five.
Trauma has been described as any experience that within a short period presents the mind with a stimulus too powerful to be assimilated or mastered in a normal way. The stimulus (internal or external) results in the child experiencing a state of helplessness.
The chronic trauma of living in any family where the focus is on an addiction, rather than on the needs of the developing children, place at least three burdens on these youngsters as they grow up: first, the repeated experience of the trauma itself; second, the effects of the trauma on personality development; and third, the need to re-experience the feelings and/or memories of the original trauma in order to integrate it and work through.
There are those individuals who use denial, repression, projection and other defenses to function but do so in a restricted way. They have learned how to "survive" but have difficulty "living" their lives. They often find themselves in environments that emotionally replicate those of their childhoods---environments that demand the defenses they have learned to exist behind while they attempt to achieve mastery of their pain. They have great difficulty when the demands of the environment exceed their ability to "defend," or when people in their lives want to get close to them, expect true connection and intimacy with the, and expect them to "live" and experience new things rather than merely "survive."
The goal toward which we can all move, there are those who are willing to re-experience the pain of the original trauma and work it through, finding their voice and gaining emotional freedom from the constraints of the past. Such working through (grief work) is the essence of the healing process. This involves talking through and identifying aspects of the trauma and and is accomplished with one caring person with whom one has worked hard to establish trust.
Taken from After the Tears,
Jane Middelton-Moz & Lorie Dwinell