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Young people affected by their parents substance misuse may feel that they cannot tell anyone
‘Have you heard about Lauren? She can’t control her drinking’. This is one of the latest storylines from EastEnders.
A book review
Children of alcoholics ‘It will never happen to me’ by Claudia Black
Dr. Claudia Black is a social worker who works in the field of alcoholism treatment and had been given the job to develop a family counselling programme. Due to this role she then started to see the children of alcoholics and gain a deeper knowledge of the family dynamics and history. Her book explains her findings helping the reader to gain a greater understanding of themselves and others.
In the first page of the book she clearly states that ‘I found over half of my alcoholic clients had been raised by alcoholics, as were many wives of men who were alcoholic. Every one of them had said, at some point in their lives, ‘I will never happen to me’. This particular sentence may touch a difficult area for the reader as it is suggesting their biggest fear that they may become an alcoholic.
The book clearly states the different roles that children of alcoholics take on and goes into detail of the problems that each of them will face. This is particularly helpful for the reader to understand how alcoholism has affected them and how to deal with the personality traits that they have developed. They are:
1) The Responsible one
‘Everything must be in order in my household or it brings great anxiety to me. The orderliness probably stems from the chaos I felt in my adolescent years. My parent’s house was always physically orderly, but human relationships wise were CHAOS.’
2) The Adjuster
‘Put me in any situation now and I can adjust. But please don’t ask me to e responsible for it or change it’.
3) The Placater
‘Whenever a family problem comes up, both sides will call me to settle disputes. I am called on to make many decisions, and I do them all alone. Many friends used to call them for advice as they felt I ‘know’ a lot and rarely have problems of my own’.
4) The Acting out child
This child is a mixture of all three and often displays problematic behaviour.
The challenging issues are then referred to which includes ‘Don’t talk, Don’t trust, Don’t feel’ which explores why and how the reader has developed this form of thinking. By being aware of this issue helps the reader distinguish the difference between trusting an alcoholic and the general public. Simply by the reader of having a greater understanding of why they don’t trust helps them build confidence in others.
The progression of the roles explores how the children then adapt their roles to adulthood stating how they deal with typical everyday situations. The relationship with alcohol is also explored stating that children of alcoholics drink like other teenagers; to have fun, curiosity, defiance and to feel grown up. However, the difference is children of alcoholics learn to drink to escape and most significantly drink with an extra belief – a belief that ‘it will never happen to me’
The authors words a gently complimented by poems and stories from children of alcoholics which not only implies the complex terms but really helps the reader grasp an understanding of how it feels to be a child of alcoholic. It also creates a feeling of community and belonging whilst reading the book as the reader often doesn’t feel alone due to Claudia’s gentle wording and direction.
Particular emphasis is applied to feelings such as the losses of the parent not always being present in the reader’s childhood. She explains that the loss if attention is due to the parent’s priority being alcohol. This lack of attention causes the child to enter the ‘grief process’ and thus explaining each stage and notifying the reader that with children of alcoholics the grief process is much slower than the normal grief experienced when loosing someone through the process of death.
Crying is also paid attention explaining that the child of an alcoholic often learns to either 1) learn not to cry or 2) They cry alone, very silently. Anger is popular emotion in the house of alcoholic family and Dr Claudia Black is fully aware of this and appreciates that for most alcoholic children it is the emotion that they are most ‘reticent to share’. She explains to the reader how the child should really feel and normalises the feeling of anger; a crucial lesson for all adults of alcoholic parents to learn.
It is a common to hear an alcoholic child say ‘it’s my fault that m parent/s drink’ and having a constant feeling of guilt inside them. This emotion is explored in great depth and clearly points out those children need to know that they do not cause alcoholism! Hearing and listening to these words result in two different responses; hearing can result in the person being questioned and the listener not being given the answer they wanted, however reading it equates to being told and then inviting them to read on and get a true understanding and explanation of why it isn’t their fault. This could be what is needed for the reader to put their guilt to rest. The author takes on the role of telling the reader what a parent should do to that child blaming themselves stating that they must be reassured, comforted and supported in the times of guilt and enforce positive behaviours and thinking. Blaming oneself for action that they have not caused is of course a negative pattern of thinking; something that should be discouraged.
Being a young adult of an alcoholic myself what makes this book so valuable is the title ‘Reshaping roles –for the young child’ which explores and explains to the reader that the roles they have developed into causes them to have “gaps”. Gaps are psychological voids which result from inconsistent parenting and the lack of appropriate emotional support; potentially causing major problems for the child in adult hood. Reading this section gave me a
Although difficult to come to terms with the initial statement overall this is an extremely helpful book for the reader to not only have a greater understanding of themselves, but also have an insight of how particular situations should have been dealt with. This allows the reader to differentiate between what they have been taught to do and what they should really do. This book gives a greater understanding of the personal traits of the reader and begins them on the road to moving further away from the traits created were created by their past and will gently guide them into the person they want to be. Definitely a recommended read.
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