The week of February 13th marks the Children of Addiction Awareness week, formerly known as Children of Alcoholics Awareness week, a campaign led by The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) to raise awareness of children affected by parental alcohol problems. NACoA is now known as The National Association for Children of Addiction, as 1 in 7 people will experience a substance use disorder, and 18 million children are directly affected. COAs are more likely than others to have emotional, psychological, or physical problems related to their childhood. Many develop an alcohol problem and/or other addictive habits, and/or marry someone with an alcohol problem or some other type of addiction. COAs often learn special rules and roles, which include attempting to protect the family image, keeping feelings to themselves, not trusting others, assuming parental responsibilities, excelling at school, trying to make others feel better, adapting to situations in a detached fashion, or using negative behavior to attract attention. If these behaviors are not addressed, an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA) may have trouble expressing feelings, can’t seem to relax, are loyal to others beyond reason, are overly responsible, fear losing control, fear being abandoned, are overly self-critical, and have difficulty with relationships. In general, COAs have higher rates of stress-related illnesses and conditions, including ulcers, depression, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, tension, anxiety, and eating disorders. The positive news is that help is available, and COAs can be helped even when their parent continues to drink. It is important that COAs recognize the special risks they face, understand how past experiences may be affecting their lives, and get the kind of help that is best for them.
For more information visit NACoA and COA Awareness Week.