How Alcohol Affects Children

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I thought I was a very good mother. All of my daughter’s physical needs were met every day. She was always clean, well-fed, and dressed nicely. I read to her every night before she went to bed. So, when she suffered severe separation anxiety when I enrolled her in preschool when she was three, everyone, including myself, believed that it was simply because she was an only child who had spent nearly all of her time, up to that point, with me.

Soon there was another problem, however. Her teacher noted that she was very bossy; every act of play with the other children had to be dictated by her. If another child “changed the rules”, she would immediately act out by hitting or even biting them.

I took her out of the preschool program, thinking she just wasn’t ready for a school environment, and tried it again when she was a year older. I enrolled her in the local school district’s Pre-K program when she was four. Her separation anxiety came back with a vengeance, and I had to come back and pick her up at least twice a week, because her teacher simply could not settle her down.

It wasn’t until she asked for some wine to serve at a tea party with her dolls that I even considered that my drinking could be affecting her. I had been drinking regularly since her father died when she was two. It was how I spent my “me time”, was how I rationalized it, when I had really been self-medicating to ease my pain. Everything in her life was revolving around my need to drink, and I didn’t even know it.

After the tea party incident, however, I decided to do some research online, and what I learned was shocking.


I read that her separation anxiety and control issues were a direct result of my drinking. I remembered all of the mornings I overslept or ran late due to staying up late the night before getting drunk. I never knew how I was going to feel in the morning, and neither did she. I was often short-tempered with her until I got in that first drink, and many times she was late for school.

What really scared me into making a change was when I learned about all the negative effects growing up with an alcoholic parent could have on her adult life. I learned that the longer she is exposed to my alcoholism, the more problems she is likely to experience due to developing low self esteem and becoming a poor judge of character.

Anxiety and depression, lack of intimacy and trust issues, constantly seeking approval while being terrified of abandonment, and feeling like they are different and fearing confrontation are just some of the lifelong effects children of alcoholics experience.

I found a 12-step program, started attending meetings, and soon realized that I needed to attend rehab. My husband’s mother was thrilled to look after my daughter. I had pretty much cut her out of our lives after he died. Seeing her was too much of a reminder of him being gone. I didn’t realize how much not having a relationship with her grandmother was hurting my daughter.

My daughter is five now. She and I both attend therapy sessions once a week, she is doing well in school, and enjoys seeing her grandmother on a regular basis.

If you are a parent with alcohol or drug abuse problems, I urge you to seek treatment. You could very well save your child’s life.

The Anaheim Lighthouse is a modern and effective addiction treatment center in Southern California. To talk to us about treatment options at our affordable drug and alcohol rehab that fit your needs, call (877) 959-2711.

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