Coping as a Child of an Alcoholic


Many people can tell you that they didn’t leave their childhood struggles behind when they entered adulthood. The period of adolescence can be a formative time that has a lasting impact on a person, especially when that person is the child of an alcoholic.

Recognizing how much your parent’s addiction affected you can be difficult. You may not want to come to terms with the way your personality and/or perspective on life has been molded by the experience of living as a child of an alcoholic. If you’ve experienced anxiety, stress, depression, codependence, anger problems, or substance abuse issues of your own, it’s possible that these symptoms may have been caused by environmental factors of your childhood.

You may have spent your childhood taking on multiple roles or responsibilities that would normally be handled by adults, such as taking care of younger siblings, paying bills, or making meals. In households ruled by addiction, there is often little predictability, which can be difficult for children to deal with. You may have known that something was wrong, but felt unable to express it, or ashamed of the fact that your family was different from others

Overall, there’s no doubt that growing up as the child of an alcoholic is a taxing and life-changing experience. Although this experience doesn’t define you as a person, it’s often true that it has an impact on the adult you become.

According to Sharon Martin, LCSW, there are nine common struggles for adult children of alcoholics:

  • Resistance to change
  • Issues with trusting and opening up to others
  • Feelings of loneliness and shame
  • Low self-esteem
  • Perfectionism
  • Avoidance of conflict
  • Being highly-sensitive
  • Being overly responsible
  • Anxiety

If you’re experiencing these issues, you aren’t alone. A professional counselor or therapist can work with you to help you overcome any traumas you may have experienced throughout your childhood. Recognizing the emotional impact of living as a child of an alcoholic can be tough, but beginning your recovery and learning healthy ways to cope with the common struggles listed above is worth it.