Children of Addicts Calling Hotlines for Love and Support

In the United Kingdom, well-meaning children’s advocates took a compassionate step and extended a helping hand to children suffering from addicted parents.

Now, counselors for the hotline established by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) are regularly reading bedtime stories to callers as young as five years old who are calling in because their parents are too inebriated to tuck them in.

The calls are not always as benign as a simple bedtime story: one young caller required assistance to call emergency services when her intoxicated mother locked herself in the bathroom overnight. When the paramedics arrived, they found the woman had died.

Sobering Statistics

In the United Kingdom, where the Nacoa addiction hotline is run, statistics from a parliamentary group show there are 2.5 million children of alcoholics.

In the United States, nearly 14 million adults abuse alcohol or are alcoholic. Several million more adults engage in risky drinking patterns that could lead to drug addiction.

There are an estimated 28 million American children with alcoholic parents. This figure is staggering when it is considered that at least 11 million of those children are minors (younger than 18 years of age.)

Breaking the Cycle

Everyone has choices in life about whether or not to use potentially addictive substances. Some people, however, may have a genetically based tendency or a predisposition that creates an addictive personality. Addiction to alcohol has been found to have both genetic and environmental causes.

The risk of becoming an alcoholic is greater for children raised in alcoholic homes. This fact holds true whether the alcoholic parents are biological or adoptive.

In addition to a predisposition to alcoholism, children growing up in these chaotic homes have issues such as: not knowing what is normal; difficulty with emotional relationships; tendency to be impulsive; being either excessively responsible or lacking in responsibility; desperately seeking approval and affirmation; suffering from chronic anxiety; lacking self-discipline; fear; and mistrust for authority figures.

There are a number of alcohol and drug addiction hotline options for those seeking to break the cycle of addiction.

A study by the drugs charity “Addaction” suggests that instead of expensive treatment at rehabilitation centers, sending a worker into the home was more effective. They examined six types of treatment, including their own Breaking the Cycle program, which helps make sure children are sent to school and fed, as well as looking after addicted parents.

Volunteers of America offers intensive outpatient services as well as specific models of treatment for women parenting children. As stated on their website, “Volunteers of America assists women to break the cycle of addiction while at the same time learning to become better parents. Children are also considered in the treatment process and are given specialized materials to assist them in living healthy lives.”

Other support groups and rehab hotlines exist, including faith-based groups such as Confident Kids.  Clearly, what is needed is more support for the kids themselves, particularly considering the likelihood of their becoming addicts in turn without intervention, and perpetuating the cycle.

Often the biggest problem for these children is not having anyone they trust with whom they can talk openly about how they feel and what they are experiencing. The opportunity to do this in a safe atmosphere can be immensely healing on its own.

It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and in the case of dysfunctional families damaged by substance abuse, it can be considered the responsibility of anyone who cares for the future generation, to find a way to break the cycle.

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