Addiction is an incredibly personal, internal battle between pervasive negative feelings and self-isolating practices. While these complex struggles are challenging to cope with, addiction is not a disease confined to an individual’s own daily life—families, friends, and coworkers are all affected. Children are some of the most affected by the disease, and its ramifications can impact them throughout their formative years and into adulthood.
Tackling addiction involves addressing not only one’s unique journey with drugs and alcohol but how it has affected others. Children are aware of addiction from a young age. Even without the vocabulary to describe their experience, they are still greatly affected. Understanding how addiction affects children is necessary to ensure their healthy future.
Addiction Is a Family Disease
Addiction affects entire families, from the direct impact of substance use compromising one’s ability to tend to responsibilities to creating a fragile and highly emotional atmosphere that causes others to “walk on eggshells.” Sadly, children are just as in tune with these effects despite their innocence and potential naivety. Navigating recovery from an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or any other substance or behavior means acknowledging how one’s family has been impacted.
Children Feel the Difference
The idea that children do not understand addiction is a misleading statement. Children are more aware of addiction than many may realize. Younger children may lack the proper vocabulary to describe the intricacies of addiction or the complexity of their emotions. Although, this does not mean there are no difficult feelings or impacts that have not already manifested.
Harboring a fragile home atmosphere intimately impacts children from a young age, shaping their perception of family, trust, and emotional development. Children of those suffering from addiction may grow just as detached from the world around them as those suffering from the disease. This impact creates an isolated emotional bubble and compromises their ability to connect with others or exercise other social skills.
Children may also realize that their home life is different from their peers throughout school or other social places, birthing feelings of confusion. The realization that their household lacks certain elements, such as emotional attachment or attention, can be incredibly traumatizing while dealing with daily life within the home. The emotional isolation, atmosphere, distrust, and other impacts of addiction are felt from a young age, long before a child learns the proper words to describe their situation, and can even be present from birth.
As children continue to grow, they will begin to understand better and vocalize the effects of addiction. This does not mean that a child is just learning about these direct impacts. Instead, they are feelings and thoughts that have been harbored for a long time as a child best learns to express the intricate, complex, and detrimental effects that addiction has had on them and their childhood.
A Compromised Childhood
Children of those suffering from addiction may also have their childhood compromised in a number of ways. Some may lack the resources or emotional development that may have otherwise been present if not for the continued effects of addiction. Others may forgo traditional childhood experiences such as celebrating holidays or birthdays if parents are not physically or emotionally present.
Children may also be forced to relinquish childhood to care for parents or siblings who may not have other emotional or supportive outlets due to addiction. They do not need an intimate understanding of the disease to feel its effects. This compromised childhood may also manifest in academic performance as a child is asked to balance their delicate home atmosphere, academic obligations, and any number of other stresses.
The Prevalence of Childhood Traumas
Addiction is a traumatizing disease for those suffering from it and those closest to them. While “trauma” is often thought of in terms of major destructive events, there are many ways in which trauma can manifest in a child. The emotional impact of addiction and the pervasive tension-filled and unstable atmospheres carry traumatic effects on children during their formative years, informing future behavior and social skills.
This dynamic, coupled with the mental images of one’s parent drunk or high, create a very complex mental and emotional state that impacts a child’s ability to process their stresses, perception of the world, and ability to trust and build meaningful relationships of their own under such destructive pretext.
Addiction is anything but an isolated disease, and children can be just as much a victim of the disease as those actively using addictive substances. Overcoming addiction means facing the unique ways families, loved ones, and children have all been affected. While rebuilding trust, exploring forgiveness, and creating a more positive relationship is possible, it all begins with an individual committing themselves to a life of sobriety for their sake and their children.
Addiction affects entire families, and we at Pacific Sands Recovery Center are prepared to help you address the unique way you and your children have all been impacted by alcohol and drug use. We can help you take the first step towards a sober future with our dedicated detox program and residential care and outpatient programs, all backed with proven therapeutic approaches customized to your needs and goals. We keep a small, intimate atmosphere to help you address your own unique story with addiction, developing the best skills for you while addressing ways to reconnect with family, friends, and loved ones. Recovery is more than addressing substance use with us–it means embracing a new way of thinking and living necessary to maintain a sober future. For more information on how we can help you, call to speak to us today at (949) 426-7962.