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Adult Children of Alcoholics

Do You Ever . . . ?

  • Feel like you have to control everything around you?
  • Worry that your grades aren’t good enough?
  • Wonder what it means to feel “normal”?
  • Feel uncomfortable meeting people or making friends?
  • Feel depressed or anxious, without knowing why?

Of course, you may say, “Don’t all college students feel like this sometimes?”  But if you are like millions of other people in this country who grew up with a parent or parent figure who drank too much or used other drugs, you may feel this way more frequently or intensely than others. Just thinking about this might make you want to shout, “YES, that’s me.”

An estimated one-in-four college students grew up with a parent who abused alcohol or other drugs. Adding in other parenting figures, like grandparents, stepparents, guardians or parents’ live-in boyfriends or girlfriends, the number grows. That’s millions of students across the country, and without a doubt, some of them go to college with you.

If you grew up with someone who abused alcohol or other drugs . . .
Your attitudes and behaviors, and the way you see yourself & others, have been shaped by the experiences you had growing up.  While it may seem like ancient history, understanding your past can help you decide where you want to go and how you’re going to get there.

From your experiences growing up, you probably know first-hand that alcohol and other drugs sometimes made your parents:

  • Say or do things that seemed bizarre or embarrassing
  • Act unpredictably or illogically
  • Break promises
  • Be argumentative and even violent

Family life may have been chaotic and confusing. It may still feel that way.

Although no two people are affected by a parent’s substance abuse in exactly the same way, many children of substance abusers feel:

  • Guilt, shame, and anger about a loved one’s alcohol or drug abuse
  • Overly responsible for their family’s well-being
  • Uncomfortable sharing feelings and connecting with others
  • Concern about their own drinking or drug use
  • Isolated, anxious or depressed

These feelings can persist long past childhood.  They can stick with you after you’ve moved away from home, or just started living more independently.  But they don’t have to stop you from having a healthy productive life.

Chances are you developed a lot of survival skills as a child.  You can use these skills, along with new ones you develop, to deal with your feelings, create balance in your life and pursue goals that fulfill your needs.

Just remember: You didn’t cause your parent’s problem. You couldn’t control it or cure it then. And you can’t now. But you can cope . . .

Campus Resources

Center for Student Wellbeing
1211 Stevenson Center Lane
Nashville, TN 37212

University Counseling Center (UCC)
1120 Baker Building
322-2571 or 322-3414