According to the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), this past week, Feb. 8-14, was Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week.
NACoA stated on their website, “The people hurt most by drugs and alcohol don’t even use them; they are the children of alcoholics and other drug dependent parents.”
The website also stated that roughly one in four children under the age of 18 have had or currently have a parent suffering from addiction.
A Keene State College junior, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that she is one of those children that grew up with an alcoholic parent.
The student said because her parent was drinking a majority of her childhood, she didn’t recognize this behavior as abnormal.
“My idea of ‘normal’ was having a dad that was drunk all the time. I didn’t know any better,” she said.
“I thought that having a dad that drinks and yells a lot was how things were supposed to be,” she continued.
Despite the hardships she endured as a child, the student said she believes that experience helped shape who she is today.
“I still love my dad unconditionally. He’s sober now and his choices when I was a kid don’t make me hate him in any way, they just make me view certain things in a different and more mature light,” she explained.
The student noted that a part of her wishes she had taken up the substance abuse/addictions minor that KSC offers.
Casey Robinson, a senior enrolled in the substance abuse/addictions minor, describes the minor as starting with the fundamentals of alcohol and other drugs while eventually working its way up to drug treatment methods or drug abuse prevention.
“Through the process you learn so much about addiction, behaviors, counseling and dependence, which is really interesting,” Robinson said.
According to the KSC academic program overview, “The program provides students with the theoretical understanding of addictions and an introduction to counseling, treatment and related practices.”
The program overview explains that the minor focuses not only on the practice regarding care in addictions, but also research and theory.
Robinson noted that working in and learning about substance abuse gives her a sense of reward in knowing she has the ability to help someone who comes to her with an addiction problem.
“It’s important to me to help people with their problems with addictions and getting them on the right path to a healthy, sober life,” Robinson said.
Senior Carolyn Hall stated she also joined the minor to make a difference in peoples’ lives.
Hall said, “If I could help one person overcome the disease of addiction, that would make having this minor worth it to me.”
She continued, “Drug and alcohol addiction affects individuals, families and the societies with which they reside in all different ways.”
Kristina Pappas, a KSC senior, said she decided to minor in substance abuse/addiction because she believes addiction is a major and growing issue.
“People think it’s okay to just ‘try the drug once’ but in reality, so many addicts say that that’s what they thought [at first] too,” Pappas said.
“I hate hearing about more addicts overdosing due to drugs or alcohol. I really don’t think people really understand the severity of what it means to be an addict,” she said.
Pappas explained that she hopes to utilize her minor by working with the youths to educate them on all aspects of addiction and to possibly steer them away from a life of alcohol or drug-related dependency.
Hall stated that she too wants to help today’s youth–but more specifically, today’s children.
“Given the opportunity to work with a child who comes from a background of having alcoholic parents would be a great way to make an impact on someone’s life before it’s too late,” Hall explained.
“It would be pretty amazing to make a difference in someone’s life while they’re young, and possibly prevent them from making the same mistakes that they watched their parents make,” Hall added.
Robinson expressed enthusiasm for Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week as she views the issue as one that is often overlooked.
“I think a big problem is when children or young adults don’t know where to turn for help,” Robinson said.
She also added that this particular awareness week allows children to realize they are not alone and have opportunities to reach out for help.
Hall added that a child that knows he/she is not the only one going through this type of situation and is willing to reach out for support is more likely to avoid addiction later down the line.
Hall explained, “Children of alcoholics don’t just have to struggle with the problems surrounding addiction for one week, but every week out of the year.”
“This is something that will be with them for the rest of their life and they deserve all the support they can get,” she said.
Claire Hickey can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org