In Your Corner: Help for children of alcoholics

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared Feb. 12-18 “Honoring Children of Alcoholics Week.” From their flyer we learn that:

“An estimated 25 percent of all children in the United States are affected by or exposed to a family alcohol problem. COA (Children of Alcoholics) Week celebrates the recovery of the many thousands of children (of all ages) who have received the help they needed to recover from the pain and losses suffered in their childhood, and it offers hope to those still suffering from the adverse impact of parental alcohol and drug addiction.

“During COA Week, we acknowledge the millions of children affected by a parent’s substance use disorder and celebrate that there is hope and healing for these children now and throughout their lives.”

Family members who live with problem drinkers in Hawai‘i formed an organization to help them deal with the drinkers’ problems. It is Al-Anon Family Groups Hawai‘i. Their website is www.afghawaii.org.

Alateen is Al-Anon for youth ages 12 through 18. There is a brand new Alateen group starting in March. Contact  Kelly at 346-8903 or Mary at 346-6784 for more information. The only requirements for membership are that they are ages 12-18, and that they have a relative or friend with a drinking problem.

All meetings are anonymous and use only first names. Members are careful to protect each other’s anonymity.

They do not discuss religion or become involved with any outside organizations. They focus on solutions to the problems of their members.

Each Alateen group should have two sponsors who have been Al-Anon members for at least two years. Al-Anon is for adults whose lives have been affected by an alcoholic family member or close friend.

The sponsors don’t tell the Alateens how to run the meeting. They let the kids decide how to run the meeting, how often it will meet and how long each meeting will last. There is no fee.

If you are wondering if Alateen is for you, and you have a computer, go to www.afghawaii and click on the Alateen link on the left-hand side. When it opens ,scroll to the questionnaire.

It asks 20 questions such as: “Has someone’s drinking upset you?” “Do you stay out of the house as much as possible because you hate it there?” “Do you cover up your real feelings by pretending you don’t care?” “Do you feel neglected, uncared for or unloved?”If your answer is yes to any of these questions, Alateen might be for you.

Another handout, “Alateen Do’s and Don’ts,” offers some helpful hints for living with an alcoholic.

Some of the “do’s” for Alateens are: “Do remember you are not the only one with an alcoholic parent.” “Do learn all you can about alcoholism, a family disease.” “Do be honest with yourself and others.” “Do use your talents in ways that interest you.”

Here are some don’ts: “Don’t cover up for the alcoholic and take on responsibilities other than your own.” “Don’t try to make the alcoholic stop drinking — you can’t.” “Don’t argue with an active alcoholic.” “Don’t take it personally when the alcoholic blames you for drinking — any excuse will do.”

Youth on Kaua’i may also go to their school counselors for support.

Many times, teenagers think that they are the only ones living with a problem drinker, but one out of four  children in the U.S. have that problem. There are many. 

You might also be able to help a friend if you suspect that he or she is a child of an alcoholic.

Remember that you are not the problem, and that you deserve love, respect and good care.

• Contact Annaleah Atkinson with your questions or comments at aatkinson@haleopio.org.

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