Children need roots or wings to become confident and secure adults who are capable of forming healthy, fulfilling relationships.
Many children of alcoholics and addicts have not been given a secure base from which they venture into the world.
The focus in their developing families was on addiction or neglect or abuse rather than developing the needs of the children.
The shift away from the child’s needs often create shameful and anxious feelings rather than connection to an empathic, encouraging and nurturing parent.
Many of these children live their lives adapting to life rather than living life. Survival becomes more important and often emotional growth and development are unimportant concepts as the child only wishes to get through uncomfortable or negative feelings.
The childhood inheritance becomes one of hiding, hiding fear, insecurity, feeling unlovable, unworthy, and out of control internally, licking their wounds in silence. Many lack self-worth and hid behind a mask of who they really are, often not sure themselves because the focus has been on the substance and the addict and the enabling parent rather than the children.
Many children of alcoholics, addicts, and dysfunctional family systems live their lives feeling like they are hiding behind a mask, that they are imposters often feeling like they are emotionally children at the age of thirty or forty.
The Looking Good Family
The entire family learns to function in a system of alcoholic/addict denial.
It is like living in a home with an elephant in the living room; nobody acknowledges it is there.
The elephant is fed every day. Sometimes it is quiet, funny, loving and pleasant.
Without warning, it loses control. Everyone works to quiet the elephant, each family member feels responsible for its behavior. No one acknowledges that the elephant exists, or talks about what it is like to live with it. Children grow up in pain, doubting their own perceptions, feelings and experience tremendous guilt for not caring for the elephant properly, for not learning to control it and somehow make it happy.
As adults, they think they see an elephant in the livings rooms of their own homes.
The elephant is never discussed … maybe it isn’t here?
The child may, at times, deny that the problem existing in order to alleviate the emotional pain or to take time out from thinking about the situation. All children in stress need
‘an emotional vacation’ and denial is one way to create a ‘time-out!’
Healing and Resiliency
Resiliency is the ability to survive a painful family or traumatic experience with
amazing grace, turning what could be a tragic life experience into gifts of creativity, spirituality, humor, tenacity, compassion, wisdom, and strength.
There are solutions to recreate balance, safety and security back into a life. Many issues in therapy can be resolved to bring back emotional resiliency and trust and self worth.
Some of those may be:
Understanding the normal response to an abnormal life.
Breaking through denial.
Building a cognitive life raft.
Building an emotional safety net – building a relationship with the child within.
Therapy begins with connection filled with the heroism which each individual does not realize. That heroism is that they survived a family system that did not provide all the internal care they needed!
Psychotherapy…is a process by which clients partake on a journey into the unknown, joining therapists in exploring the past, living fully in the present, and becoming the creative authors of the future chapters of their lives.