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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

How to Determine Whether or Not You've Been Affected by Another Person's Alcohol and Other Drug Use

ear Dr. Steve:

I’m a sophomore in college. My major is psychology. I recently took a class about alcoholism and drug addiction. We learned that alcoholism is a disease that affects not only the person who drinks but the whole family as well. There’s no question that my mom and dad both were heavy drinkers. I can think of many Saturday nights that were just plain scary. But I never thought about how their drinking may have affected me. The fact is I did the best I could not to think about their drinking at all. I spent more time trying to hide their drinking from everybody else. I never talked about it with my friends. I did the best I could to keep my friends away from the house so they wouldn’t see mom or dad drunk. I think I just did everything I could to block out their drinking. So how can I tell whether I was impacted by their drinking?

It’s true that chemical dependency, whether it be alcoholism and/or drug addiction, is a family disease. And those who were raised in the presence of alcoholism and drug addiction are vulnerable to being affected physically, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually.

But how best to determine how you’ve been affected? Let me suggest that you review the following questions from the official Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters website,  titled, Did you grow up in an alcoholic home?

The wording of these questions offer an insight into some ways children are effected by growing up in an alcoholic home, even years after they reach adulthood.

1. Do you constantly seek approval and affirmation?
It may be because you don't really know what normal is—you have to try to figure it out from the actions and reactions of others.

2. Do you fail to recognize your accomplishments?
What seems routine to you might be considered overachieving by everybody around you.

3. Do you fear criticism?
In childhood criticism often was accompanied by some form of abuse, verbal or otherwise.

4. Do you overextend yourself?
Just carrying a normal work load was never good enough. You had to do more to avoid the wrath of the alcoholic.

5. Have you had problems with your own compulsive behavior?
Without knowing it, you probably developed a pattern in childhood of approaching everything alcoholically.

6. Do you have a need for perfection?
One little slip up and the alcoholic might explode into anger. That deep-seeded fear can carry over into adulthood.

7. Are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly, continually anticipating problems?
The alcoholic always sabotaged the good times like holidays, birthdays, vacations, etc. Things never turned out the was the were planned.

8. Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?
People can become addicted to excitement. They find normal people and situations boring.

9. Do you still feel responsible for others, as you did for the problem drinker in your life?
There's always that nagging feeling that you were somehow responsible for the alcoholic's drinking. Maybe if you had done something differently...

10. Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?
You are comfortable in the caretaker role, but extremely uncomfortable doing things for yourself, like spending money on something just for you.

11. Do you isolate yourself from other people?
If they get too close, they may find out your secrets.

12. Do you respond with fear to authority figures and angry people?
The authority figures in your childhood were probably abusive. You expect the same from all authority figures. When the alcoholic became angry, it usually meant something extreme was about to happen.

13. Do you feel that individuals and society in general are taking advantage of you?
You grew up with someone who was an expert at controlling and manipulating everyone around them. Trust is not something that comes naturally.

14. Do you have trouble with intimate relationships?
Probably the only love that you saw demonstrated in childhood was the love the alcoholic had for the bottle.

15. Do you confuse pity with love, as you did with the problem drinker?
You may be attracted to people who need you or people you know that you can fix.

16. Do you attract and/or seek people who tend to be compulsive and abusive?
Again, normal people bore you and you don't understand them. You are more comfortable around people who you can relate to and won't judge you.

17. Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone?
It may be from your deep-seeded fear of abandonment. One way or the other, your alcoholic parent emotionally or physically abandoned you for the bottle.

18. Do you mistrust your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others?
How many times have you heard, “I'm sorry. It won't happen again.” But it did.

19. Do you find it difficult to identify and express your emotions? “
You were told that it was not okay to cry. You were never allowed to be angry and if you were you faced serious consequences or ridicule.

20. Do you think parental drinking may have affected you?
Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. But it would be extremely difficult to grow up around excessive drinking and not be effected.

If you answered yes to some of these questions, chances are you have been impacted more than you may realize by the family disease of alcoholism. To find out more, it would be a good idea to consult a qualified health care provider. Because you put so much energy into hiding your parents drinking from yourself and the world, you have not allowed yourself to examine what impact their drinking had on you while you were growing up. It’s likely that there’s much for you to learn about yourself, your feelings, and what impact your parents drinking had on you. Talking to a qualified healthcare provider can help you sort out fact from fiction as you attempt to clarify the impact that mom and dad’s drinking had on you.

To learn more about how alcoholism and drug addiction affects family members contact such organizations as:


Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
1600 Corporate Landing Parkway
Virginia Beach, Va. 23454
Tel # 757-563-1600
Fax # 757-563-1655
1-888-425-2666 for meeting information
Monday-Friday, 8am to 6 pm ET except holidays

Adult Children of Alcoholics
P.O. Box 3216
Torrance, CA 90510 USA
(message only)

Recover from chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs free. Learn how to in Dr. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.

Pathfinder’s Checklist

1.) Contact a qualified healthcare provider in order to explore in greater depth how your parents’ consumption of alcohol may have affected you.
2.) Learn as much as you can about the family disease of alcoholism.
3.) Attend either Al-Anon meetings or Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings.



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