The perception that most people have of an alcoholic is that of a homeless person living on the street and drinking alcohol from a brown paper bag. However, the truth is that many individuals across the UK are struggling with addictions to alcohol, and a large number of them know how to hide it well.
Many do not even realise that they actually have an addiction. They are fully aware that they like to have a drink but are convinced that they can stop at any time. These individuals may bury their heads in the sand to the way their behaviour changes while under the influence of alcohol, and it might take a long time for them to accept that they have a problem that needs help.
Effect on the Family
All the while, family members are suffering and are pleading and begging them to get help. In most cases, children of alcoholics suffer the most. They will see their parent change with every drink and they may become victims of verbal and physical abuse. Some kids become completely confused because they are too young to know why their parent has gone from being loving to abusive; many will think that they are to blame.
Older children may be embarrassed and ashamed of their parents’ behaviour and so will avoid bringing friends home for fear that their alcohol parent may be under the influence. Older children may, therefore, be reluctant to forgive their parent once they have been through rehab.
If you are now in rehab after a long alcohol addiction, you are probably keen to get your life back on track and may assume that everyone in your life is going to welcome you with open arms. While this may be the case for a number of your loved ones, you might find that your children are a bit more apprehensive about your recovery. You need to remember that they have suffered greatly because of your addiction and it will take time to earn their respect again.
Your children will no doubt have had many promises broken by you, so you will need to prove to them that this time is different. It is easy to say you are better, but proving it is the main thing.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to talk to your children and explain that you were suffering from an illness that made you do and say things that you wish you hadn’t. Your kids need to realise that alcohol affects the brain and makes people behave in a way that they would normally not.
You also need to ensure that your children know that they are in no way to blame for your drinking. Children, especially younger ones, will blame themselves when something goes wrong in their family. They need to know that they had nothing to do with your drinking and that it was an illness you had no control over.
Ease Their Fears
It is normal for kids to feel ashamed, fearful and embarrassed of an alcoholic parent, but many will feel guilty about these feelings. You need to make sure they know that it is okay to feel this way. Let them know that you understand, and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Try to ease their fears and convince them that you are working hard to stay sober so that you can all move forward together.
Get them to attend a counsellor with you if they are willing, as this is a great way for everyone to get their feelings out in the open. Counsellors can give reliable and useful addiction advice for any individual situation. The children may be angry and resentful, so it is important that these feelings are tackled so that you can begin to move on as a family.