Sobriety Navigator: Teenage alcoholics and isolation.
Teenage alcohol abuse is a telltale sign of illness in the family. It’s a cry for help, not just from the child abusing alcohol, but for the entire family system. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Even in the “nicest” of homes there is something, no matter how subtle, that is causing the child to self-medicate. There is an obvious breakdown in the family structure, or a lack of healthy nurturing, bonding, parenting and overall concern for the child.
When the good feelings from being loved and nurtured by a parent are missing, alcohol will immediately provide a euphoric high that makes a child feel connected, happy, carefree, safe and confident. This tragic substitute for good parenting will often rob the child of the natural maturation process and the ability to develop healthy coping skills, in addition to healthy loving relationships as an adult.
The child in an environment of neglect who copes by using alcohol is in serious, life threatening danger. The risk of alcohol poisoning or accidents while under the influence is very high.
Overtime, alcohol will become more than just the surrogate parent. It will become their best friend, their significant other or their surrogate spouse. The relationship with alcohol will, in time, overshadow all other forms of relationships and leave a person feeling lonely and even more isolated than before they started self-medicating. Closet drinkers will have a harder time seeking help because they are not hurting anyone but themselves. As a result of this pattern of drinking, they don’t let anyone get close to them, fearing exposure of their drinking habits and the overwhelming feelings of shame. This is the result of not being properly valued, loved, and cared for as a child. Children always blame themselves for the abuse and neglect visited upon them in a dysfunctional family system.
As an adult, if they do marry or have a significant other, they often end up leading a double life. The level of intimacy they allow is minimal and most certainly non-threatening.
Addressing the illness in the family can be very threatening to the overall family system. It requires a deep commitment by the adults to look at the unintended consequences of a severely dysfunctional family. Alcohol addiction affects the entire family. Ideally, it is addressed as a family illness. There are a variety of 12 steps programs to assist the entire family in healing, repairing and strengthening the family.
The Alanon 12 step program was designed specifically for the friends and family of the suffering alcoholic. This program brings new insight, perspective and solutions for understanding the disease of alcoholism and the alcoholic. It is also a wonderful support group for aiding the healing and recovery of the family system.
By Cynthia Peterson