Family Systems and Addiction: Children of Addiction

depressed young teen girl

By Cristina Utti MFA, MA

I cannot share at an AA meeting that my parents were alcoholics or addicts, because they were not. I am not a child of addiction, but my children are.

Their father is an alcoholic. After living with him drinking every single day and night for eighteen years, I got tired. I filed for divorce. When he left, I got on the pity pot. You know the one: poor me, poor me, pour me a drink. And that drink went on for almost two horrendous years, until I came into AA. So, my children have a double whammy: both parents are addicted to alcohol.

Throughout my younger years, I did not think that I had a problem with alcohol. I could have a drink or two and stop. Sometimes, I could not even finish a drink. This is why I could not understand why my husband had to drink until he fell asleep or passed out. Although I did not drink excessively the entire time I was raising my children, I did put them through a few rough years. When I got sober, September 25, 2007, my children were 15, 13, 7 and the babies, my twins, were 5 years old. I like to think that I did not affect the younger three too much, but to this day, they can still remember that I used to drink wine. For my older two, I will always carry a bit of guilt and regret. Living with an addicted parent must be hell. For many months I black-out drank. I recall those horrible mornings when I could not remember what I cooked for dinner, if the kids even ate dinner, if they did their homework, or if they brushed their teeth before going to bed. Most of the time, probably all of the time, they did do all of these things. Not because I told them to or was there for them but because my oldest daughter took control of the situation. And that was not fair to her.

“I remember her finding my wine under the sink and pouring it down the drain. Instead of gratitude for her trying to save my life, I argued with her for doing that, then went and bought more. I cannot even imagine my own mother ever drinking. Those years must have been awful for my children”

Now that I have a few twenty-four hours under my belt, I can see the vast difference between my younger three children and the older two. By the time my older two were the ages my younger three are now (16 and 14), they were into things that I wished they weren’t. My second oldest went from boyfriend to boyfriend by the time she was 16, probably looking for attention that she was not getting at home. I clearly remember the day I returned from work and found a Trident chewing gum wrapper on my bed. I do not chew Trident. Angelina did. To top it off, my oldest daughter went from a straight A honor student to not wanting to go to school at all. I knew she was partying, but what could I say when I was drunk every day? I knew then that I had lost control. Yet, that was not enough to make me stop drinking.

“My younger three have a mom. I may not be perfect, but I am sober”

They maintain good grades in school, have not gotten into smoking or drinking, and have friends that actually prefer to come over to our house to spend weekends. What a miracle! As for my older two, they went through some rough times. I am forever grateful that I got sober when I did. Those two are turning out okay. Amanda, my oldest, is a certified yoga instructor and making a life for herself, and Angelina is an art student in college. I can not give them back the years that I stole from their childhood, but I can give them a good example.

If you are a child of addicted parents, you can find help and understanding in groups such as Al-anon, Alateen, and ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholics). If you are a parent struggling with an addiction, or are now working a program, remember the best thing that we can give our children is a sober, clean parent. The promises of the twelve-step programs do come true if we just keep living them one day at a time!

Contact The Ranch at Dove Tree for more information on family systems and addiction at 800.218.6727. Our admissions professionals are available 24/7.