When we say “substance abuse” many people immediately think of illegal drugs; cocaine, marijuana in IL, or heroin. What comes to mind is that you have to smoke it, snort it, or inject it outside of the allowances of the law. Those are the things that hurt children. Those are the things that lead to children witnessing inappropriate behaviors or leads a parent to addiction which later leads to the neglect of their children.
However, alcohol is legal. And, it is often seen as less of a problem because most people have had a drink or casually drink with friends every now and then. Having a glass of wine while out to eat with a group of adults is a horse of one kind. Perpetually drinking at home in front of children or leaving bottles within their reach is another. Additionally, sometimes its accessibility is the very thing that causes problems. It is perfectly legal to pick up a bottle of vodka at the grocery store, whether or not the consumer has a problem drinking.
Alcoholics end up having a major impact on their children. Read below for one woman’s personal story. To see the full article from AA click here.
When I was ten years of age, I was given a glass of whisky and drank it straight down. It burnt and took my breath. Throughout my drinking years I did not touch whisky again. At sixteen, I had my first experience of getting drunk. I used to work for a bottling company where my job was to put labels on bottles. I knocked off work one lunch time and proceeded to join next door’s bottle department for drinks. To this day, I cannot remember getting home.
From the age of seventeen, when I met the man of my dreams (or so I thought), until I was twenty five, a night life of social drinking and the birth of my daughter kept me out of danger of alcoholic drinking. At the age of twenty five, we moved and I got a job as a barmaid full time. Work was hard and drinks were free behind the bar providing you didn’t get caught. I then started to show the consequences of my heavy drinking, the work, my housework, being a mother, my social life.
I was admitted to the Melbourne Clinic with the DTs (delirium tremens) and hallucinations. I spent two weeks there and was discharged on medication. Back at my doctor’s I was told to go to AA, I said, “No, I’m not an alcoholic”. I then spent from the next seven years being a top-up drunk, bender drinker, social drinker, drying-out on the wagon, then back to alcohol. I introduced myself to the morning drink. Beautiful food was bought for the fridge and my daughter and I ended up eating baked beans.
For these children, raised by alcoholics, the consequences can be dire. They perform below other peers in school, report more conflict within the family, and are most susceptible to diagnoses of developmental disorders. NACOA says that, “Seventy six million Americans, about 43% of the U.S. adult population, have been exposed to alcoholism in the family. Almost one in five adult Americans (18%) lived with an alcoholic while growing up. Roughly one in eight American adult drinkers is alcoholic or experiences problems due to the use of alcohol. The cost to society is estimated at in excess of $166 billion each year. There are an estimated 26.8 million COAs in the United States. Preliminary research suggests that over 11 million are under the age of 18.” And even more importantly, “There is strong, scientific evidence that alcoholism tends to run in families. Children of alcoholics are more at risk for alcoholism and other drug abuse than children of non-alcoholics.” So yes, it is legal. It can still be used illegally, though, and can still cause great damage to children.
Yet, some children of alcoholic parents do become very successful. Take, for example, Billy Currington. He’s scored multiple number 1 songs, has signed a record deal with Mercury, and has written/demoed songs for other country musician greats. The song that first made Billy famous was one he’d written the lyrics for when he was twelve. The song, “Walk a Little Straighter Daddy” was written about his stepfather, who Billy said was a longtime alcoholic. Billy’s issues with his stepfather still linger, and in 2007 The Boot released an article saying in part, “Country crooner Billy Currington is parking his tour bus for the rest of the year in order to concentrate on therapy. The 33-year old tells PEOPLE magazine, as first revealed by Nashville’s Tennessean newspaper, that he endured more than a decade of abuse from his stepfather. He says the childhood trauma has ultimately resulted in his own issues with anger that linger today.”
The problem? Not all alcohol is bad. It can be consumed safely. It is socially appropriate at times. We’re certainly not advocating for prohibition (which really didn’t work to curb drinking problems anyway). What we are in favor of is knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol addiction (view below). Know when to get help if you need it. Don’t let your consumption affect the lives of your children.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Wanting to cut down on how much you drink or making unsuccessful attempts to do so
- Spending a lot of time drinking, getting alcohol or recovering from alcohol use
- Feeling a strong craving or urge to drink alcohol
- Failing to fulfill major obligations at work, school or home due to repeated alcohol use
- Continuing to drink alcohol even though you know it’s causing physical, social or interpersonal problems
- Giving up or reducing social and work activities and hobbies
- Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe, such as when driving or swimming
- Developing a tolerance to alcohol so you need more to feel its effect or you have a reduced effect from the same amount
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — when you don’t drink, or drinking to avoid these symptoms
-List of symptoms from Mayo Clinic