One in Four Children is Affected by a Parent’s Alcoholism

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According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), one in four children in the United States is affected by a parent’s abuse of alcohol and other drugs. During Children of Alcoholics Week, taking place from February 8-14, 2015, Al-Anon Family Groups offer hope for these children, and for anyone else affected by a loved one’s drinking.

Strength and hope for friends and families of problem drinkers

Al-Anon Family Groups

After years of living with an alcoholic, I’d given up hope for myself and my family. I’d tried everything – tears, screams, threats, and leaving home. I’d even tried to kill myself, but nothing seemed to work.

Children of Alcoholics Week, February 8-14, gives voice to young people growing up in homes where one or both parents are suffering from alcoholism. “When I was little, I felt scared to death of my dad,” said Ethan, an anonymous member of Alateen, Al-Anon’s program for children and teenagers. “I never knew what he might do next because he was drunk most of the time. He used to hit my mom, my brother, and me. One day my mom left my dad. I became less physically afraid, but I was still hurting emotionally.”

Madison, another anonymous Alateen member said, “After years of living with an alcoholic, I’d given up hope for myself and my family. I’d tried everything – tears, screams, threats, and leaving home. I’d even tried to kill myself, but nothing seemed to work.”

“The disease of alcoholism has deep and long-lasting effects on more than just the alcoholic,” said Pamela Walters, Marketing Information Analyst for Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. “When children in their developmental years are faced with the extreme pressure of dealing with a parent’s alcoholism, they are at a disadvantage in life—likely to become alcoholics themselves, or to end up potentially marrying an alcoholic.” Walters said, “Al-Anon and Alateen meetings provide a safe environment for young people to share their feelings. They discover tools they can use to live happier and healthier lives, now and in the future.”

Walters added, “The barriers to a young person getting the help they need in Alateen or Al-Anon are real. We often hear that parents want their lives to be kept private, and they don’t want their children talking about the problems at home. In many cases, the young person is fearful to try an Alateen meeting.” “I was afraid that if I talked to people, they would judge me,” said Benjamin, an anonymous Alateen member. “I thought no one would care what I felt and that if my friends found out I went to Alateen, they wouldn’t like me anymore.”

Benjamin continued, “Eventually I lost my fears and began to believe that I actually did belong. Finally I found a place where no one judged anyone. It was the greatest feeling in the world.”

Al-Anon Family Groups are for families and friends who have been affected by a loved one’s drinking. Nearly 16,000 local groups meet throughout the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, and Puerto Rico every week. Al-Anon Family Groups meet in more than 130 countries, and Al-Anon literature is available in more than 40 languages. Al-Anon Family Groups have been offering strength and support to families and friends of problem drinkers since 1951. Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc. acts as the clearinghouse worldwide for inquiries from those who need help or want information about Al-Anon Family Groups and Alateen, its program for teenage members.

For more information about Al-Anon Family Groups, go to al-anon.org and read a copy of Al-Anon’s annual public outreach magazine “Al-Anon Faces Alcoholism 2015.” Find a local meeting by calling toll-free: 1-888-4AL-ANON.

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Pamela Walters