Dysfunctional families may be found everywhere, and there are a host of what others refer to as those very “dysfunctions.” A prevalent ones is alcoholism. In some way or another most people and a great many families are somehow affected by alcoholism. Some like to pretend it does not have an actual affect on the family members or even upon themselves, but there is a wealth of evidence in its effects over decades and decades of research and most especially from those who have dealt with it directly over years.
Some of ”laundry list” as it is sometimes called of Adult Children of Alcoholics are things such as: those who feel isolated and afraid of authority figures, those who become approval seekers and, in the process, lost themselves, and those who have become afraid of angry people and any personal criticism. There is more than this small list, but the gist of it points to those who have suffered a great deal of trauma because of dealing with alcoholism within the family and primarily those who have one or more alcoholic parents. So, what is the Catholic perspective in dealing with these traumatic feelings of the past or even of the present?
The Catholic Perspective
Having an alcoholic parent(s) is not an easy thing to deal with at any age and especially for younger children, and those below the age of eighteen. Speak to anyone who has dealt with it firsthand, and all kinds of reactions may be encounter and/or expressed. There are even “roles” assigned to those dysfunctional family members such as the scapegoat, the lost child, the mascot, the hero, and more. In other words, not every family member is able to step back and look at the reality of the dysfunction within the family and see what is truly “wrong.” Poor communication techniques, blaming others, slander, and many hurtful words over years and sometimes decades become common place for the alcoholic family with seeming no hope for change or healthy relationships. The Catholic perspective is this: with the Lord even the most dysfunctional family can find hope. But how can this be accomplished?
How to find healthy boundaries within a dysfunctional family
Step one, sadly, is to take a big step back and examine the dysfunction, and sometimes to walk away even if for just a short while as an adult. Through examination, learning about alcoholism, and through prayer, families can find peace. This peace is only found through God, through trust, and through realizing that the family structure and relationships due to alcoholism were unhealthy. Boundaries are a particularly good things and putting up those boundaries aids in finding the right balance so that healing can take place.
Taking all of it to prayer and not giving up is the greatest way to find true peace and healing both now and in the future. It can be a rude awakening when dysfunctional families realize in the depths of one’s heart that their own family was what they call “messed up.” The good news is that God writes straight with crooked lines, and he can truly fix anything in his own time including the effects of alcoholism in a family. In prayer, God may reveal that putting those boundaries between you and certain family members is the best option at least for the short term and even for life. This is not always a dreadful thing, as in your constant prayer, the Lord will guide you and your family to his presence and true joy. The sacramental life is the highest form of prayer which includes attendance at Mass and offering up pain and suffering during all of one's prayer time.
Do not give up
Do not ever give up praying both for yourself and for your family. Do not fret if you still have ill feelings for some especially for those who are still in their addictions or what is referred to as a “dry drunk” which is someone who does not drink anymore but still has all the behaviors of an alcoholic. Intercede to Our Lady, to the saints, and to the Lord himself for your healing and for that of others. Seek support where needed and remember that healing takes time. Rest assured, that in his time, you will begin to feel the peace you desire. It is not automatic, and support is needed, but your Catholic faith will be essential in your healing from being the adult child of an alcoholic.