Children of alcoholics urged to take responsibility PTC

December 06, 1992|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Adult children of alcoholics need to take responsibility for their emotional health, sociologist Robert Ackerman told an audience of about 25 people Friday at the North Carroll High School in Hampstead.

A professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Ackerman is known internationally for his work on how alcohol affects families. He helped found the children of alcoholics movement.

"I will not, in any circumstance, allow people that I work with . . . to bash parents, and to trash parents, to look for blame for the misery of their life outside of themselves if you are now an adult," Dr. Ackerman said.

He was in Carroll County for a seminar yesterday designed to teach teachers how to help students with alcoholic parents. The seminar was sponsored by the Carroll Community College Institute for Drug and Alcohol Abuse Education and the Mountain Manor drug treatment program.

An adult child of an alcoholic might brood for years about how alcohol always ruined the family's Christmas celebrations, Dr. Ackerman said, before realizing that "you can have any kind of Christmas you want."

"You can either keep complaining about all the ones you didn't have, or the ones you have now, or you can go do something about it," he said. "But don't blame anybody, don't accuse anybody, because, you want to know something? You're in charge of your Christmases."

In his talk, titled "Let Go and Grow," Dr. Ackerman said adult children of alcoholics must let go of some strategies they developed in childhood to cope with their parents' alcoholism.

Many of those strategies can backfire in later life, he said.

For example, many alcoholics' children learn young to try to take control of situations where adults abdicate responsibility. But if the adult child of an alcoholic tries to exert control over a spouse, the marriage may fail.

Many children of alcoholics have very low self-esteem, Dr. Ackerman said.

"The number one barrier to change and growth," he said, "is the inability to receive."

He said children of alcoholics should remind themselves that they have a right to exist and a right to ask for help, whether or not the alcoholic seeks treatment.

Dr. Ackerman also said some adult children of alcoholics misunderstand the idea of the "inner child," or the innermost spiritual self.

"It is the adult who takes charge," Dr. Ackerman said. "A wounded inner child often keeps the adult from seeing the truth."

l Dr. Ackerman called upon adults to defend the rights of minor children of alcoholics to receive treatment. In 32 states, he said, these children cannot get treatment without parental consent.

Dee Wright, of the Carroll Community College Institute for Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said Maryland is one of those 32 states.

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