To a man and a woman, God has given a wondrous gift; only a man and a woman can bring a soul into existence, a soul that was meant to know God and His divine love. Children of alcoholics find it very difficult, if not impossible, to know God. A prison of denial and cyclic dysfunction entombs them. Instead of love, they experience abuse, both physical and emotional, and neglect.
An alcoholic family has three simple rules: Don’t see, don’t talk, and don’t feel.
- Don’t see when daddy beats mommy when dinner is spoiled because daddy has come home late after spending most of the night in the bar drinking and having run out of money.
- Don’t see when mommy falls trying to climb the steps after a drinking binge.
- Invent lies about daddy being unable to work because “he has a bad back.”
- Invent euphemisms about mommy “needing her medicine.”
- Don’t feel fear when in the dark of night the front door slams open and daddy drags mommy off the couch, “smacks her around” and demands to be fed, and then hits her some more when the sandwiches and beer aren’t ready soon enough.
- Don’t feel disappointment when promised vacations and Christmas presents, like other families have, fail to happen. Enwrap yourself in a cocoon and don’t feel anything.
In this tragic bleakness, there is hope and help. If you know the family, look for the signs and trust your instincts. Look for the signs of physical violence, bruises, especially repeated marks on arms, face and backs of legs. Children don’t get bruises and welts on the back of their legs from “falling.” Look for the emotional signs: lethargy, withdrawal, clinging to a person or object, easily startled at a sudden noise.
The best strategy is to spread a “safety net” beneath the child, to catch him or her when they “fall,” and fall they almost certainly will. Be consistent. Children of alcoholics long for a caring adult (caring, not indulgent) who is consistent in their interaction.
Knowledge is power. Before a crisis, find out about help. Contact the Department of Social Services and ask about referrals and intervention. If you have any contact with a school, ask to talk to a school counselor, and ask how to contact a certified addiction counselor. If you have a personal physician, particularly one who is part of a group or network, consult them.
Speak out. Silence buys into the “don’t talk” rules. Even if someone threatens never to speak to you again because you have insulted his or her family, speak out and save the children.
There is always hope. Pray and ask God to protect innocent children.
Contributed by Jim Farley
Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams