Alcoholic Childhood by the Numbers
According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, almost one in five American adults or 18%, lived an alcoholic childhood. Children of alcoholics present with symptoms of depression and anxiety greater than children of non-alcoholics. Overall, children of alcoholics encounter substantial physical and mental health issues than children from non-alcoholic families.
So What about Genes?
As cited from the National Institute of Mental Health, “Despite strong evidence for genetic susceptibility, no specific gene has been unambiguously identified for common forms of mental disorders. Many researchers believe that this is due, in part, to the critical role that the environment plays in modulating genetic susceptibility in mental disorders.” The study was based on their study with twins and the fact that both twins having the same genes, did not equal to both having the same mental illness.
What about me?
I have always wondered if there was a link between my alcoholic upbringing and my mental illness. Growing up with an alcoholic childhood, I was left wounded and numb because the home lacked the stability that I so desperately needed.
As a result of the fallout from the alcoholic in the family, relationships were strained at best. Something clicked with my older brother by the time I got to high school. He was staying at home and going to college. He ended up being my best friend since I did not trust anybody in high school. With the constant bickering and yelling at home, I often cried myself to sleep or attempted but failed to hide my tears and red eyes going to school.
My mom did her best. I cannot imagine living a life like she did – staying as long as she did. But I truly think she was dealing with her own mental illness. She was often depressed and uninvolved with the family.
With the alcoholic home, you walk around as if you are on egg shells. This is because you never know what you are going to walk into. A pleasant sit-down dinner? Or barbs being thrown at each other over mashed potatoes and peas?
My diagnosis is bipolar 1 with psychotic features, mixed episodes and rapid cycling. The psychotic features began at a very early age. When my bipolar manifested itself as a teenager, I became more outspoken and the family stand-up comedienne. With the pressure cooker about to blow at my childhood home and my brain’s chemistry altering, it is a miracle that I made it out of there alive.
Needless to say, the family environment is so imperative for a child’s development. The upheaval of a divorce. The caustic environment of an alcoholic home. The exhausting environment of frequently moving. The head-splitting environment of two screamers. The fearful environment of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. And then Heaven forbid, there is sexual abuse.
Parents, it is so important that you realize you have little or big eyes watching. You are the model by which they base the beginning of their life or run away from.
What does God think about the environment you grew up in?
God does not judge you based on what type of family you were a part of as a child. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you have been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5). Once adopted, we become His children (Romans 8:16).
When we become God’s children, we also become heirs of God. There is no such thing as being good enough or trying hard enough to get on God’s good side. You come as you are from an alcoholic home or a wonderful home. God is going to love you through any situation you encounter.
Living in an alcoholic home as a child, I was a people pleaser. I didn’t want to upset the apple cart, so I always did as I was told or as expected. As a result, I lived in a constant state of fear.
As I dive deeper and deeper into the pit of my past, working through the pain, swimming through the memories from an alcoholic childhood, I know that God sees me as one of His children, and accepts me as His precious daughter. I can now come to Him, crawl up in His lap and see Him as the Father I never had. After all, I am the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8).