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Does Growing Up In An Alcoholic Home Mean You’ll Become An Alcoholic?

There’s an old story which highlights the ways growing up in alcoholic home can have an effect on a child. Two sons grow up with an alcoholic father. One son grows up without ever touching a drop of alcohol. When asked why he doesn’t drink, the son says “I learned from my father.” The other son grows up an alcoholic. When asked why he became an alcoholic, the son says, “I learned from my father.” Alcoholism is based on many factors aside from becoming chemically dependent upon drugs and alcohol. Biological, psychological, social, and environmental factors all play a part. Genetically, one son may have a predisposition for alcoholism and mental illness while those genes passed the other son. However, both sons are affected by the alcoholism of their father. Anyone who grows up in a home riddled with alcoholism, drug abuse, or mental illness of any kind, is affected.

Developing Mental Illness To Cope

Depression, anxiety, codependency, addiction, PTSD- many mental illnesses and the subsequent substance abuse which can accompany them- are born out of a need to cope. The brain has an innate way of creating distance between what can and what cannot be handled. At a young age, there are many traumatic memories and realities which the young mind is not able to cope with. Instead, the brain finds ways to cope and get needs met in any way. Unfortunately, these ways are often dysfunctional. Still, they are a best effort on the part of the brain to cope and protect itself.

Codependency And Parentification

In many ways, when there is an alcoholic parent, a child becomes the parent. Whether they are taking care of themselves, the household, taking care of siblings, or taking care of the parent, they are put in a caretaking position. “Children mistakenly believe they did something that makes them unlovable or that caused their Mom or Dad to drink. They fantasize that if they could only be perfect, their parents would love them,” Sharon Martin, LCSW, for Happily Imperfect. “In reality, of course, their parent’s drinking wasn’t caused by them and they can’t fix it.”


You don’t have to repeat the patterns of your parents or be trapped by the past. Healing is possible. There is freedom in recovery. Harmony Place offers the best in residential treatment, concurrently transforming mind, body, and spirit. For a private consultation and more information, contact us today.