How to Break the Cycle of Alcoholism, Abuse and Neglect

All too often, adults who struggle with substance abuse and addiction were neglected or abused as children. Although most grow up to be excellent parents who don’t abuse their own children, the risk is higher than for parents who haven’t experienced abuse and neglect. Studies indicate that approximately one-third will grow up to repeat the dysfunctional cycle they experienced in childhood.

Childhood abuse and neglect leaves deep scars that cause people to feel they are worthless, damaged, and not deserving of love and respect. Adults who were abused typically have difficulty managing stress and regulating their emotions. They struggle when it comes to making mature decisions and frequently are unable to fully trust other people. The more severe the abuse, the higher the risk of problems in the future, including substance abuse addiction, severe mental illness and serious health problems.

Yet, abuse and neglect continue to be widespread. In the United States, it is estimated that one in four people have experienced at least one episode of abuse at some point during their childhood. Women who experience childhood abuse are at heightened risk of suffering abuse as adults, and are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Without intervention, the cycle is likely to continue from generation to generation, especially for parents coping with poverty, unemployment, stress, mental or physical illness.

Although parenting can be extremely rewarding, it can also be exhausting and stressful, even in the best of situations. Adults who were victimized as children often have the best intentions with their own children. However, adults who grew up with non-nurturing parents haven’t learned to nurture their own children.

Awareness is the First Step to Breaking the Cycle of Abuse and Neglect

It’s never easy to come to terms with a childhood surrounded with abuse and neglect. However, failure to deal with a difficult past increases the chance it will be repeated. On the other hand, adults who learn to deal with the pain of abuse and neglect, however, painful, are less likely to repeat the cycle.

If you experienced abuse and neglect as a child, it’s possible to break old patterns of abuse and addiction. The sooner you begin, the better your chances of breaking the cycle. Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance, which can help you learn to:

  • Grieve for your lost childhood and mourn what can’t be relived.
  • Heal old wounds by seeing a therapist or joining a support group comprised of people who have survived similar experiences. Don’t let concern about stigma stand in your way; it’s more important to learn ways of coping with difficulties and stress in a positive manner.
  • Realize that everybody is worthy and deserving of love, including you. The abuse or neglect is not your fault.
  • Develop your parenting skills. Take parenting classes, read books, talk to parents you respect.
  • Set clear boundaries with your children and other adults. Learn how to enforce your boundaries fairly.
  • Learn to control your anger if you have trouble keeping your emotions in check.
  • Address your substance abuse issues. Don’t hesitate to enter drug and alcohol treatment or rehab, if necessary.

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