A Book Review -Children Of Alcoholics ‘It Will Never Happen To Me’ By Claudia Black

Todays piece is one I am pleased to be posting and is a book review written anonymously. It would be great to have more posts of this type. Books can have such a lasting impact and after reading this review, I think I will have to purchase this book myself. As ever, we would love to hear from you if you have something to share as a COA. Along with that, it’s always comforting to know that Nacoa is there for us, should we ever need them.

Dr. Claudia Black is a social worker who works in the field of alcoholism treatment and had been given the job to develop a family counselling programme. Due to this role she then started to see the children of alcoholics and gained a deeper knowledge of the family dynamics and history. Her book explains her findings helping the reader to gather a greater understanding of themselves and others. 

In the first page of the book she clearly states that, ‘I found over half of my alcoholic clients had been raised by alcoholics, as were many wives of men who were alcoholic. Every one of them had said, at some point in their lives, ‘I will never happen to me’. This sentence may touch a difficult area for the reader as it is suggesting their biggest fear that they may become an alcoholic. 

The book clearly states the different roles that children of alcoholics take on and goes into detail of the problems that each of them will face. This is particularly helpful for the reader to understand how alcoholism has affected them and how to deal with the personality traits that they have developed. They are:

  1. The Responsible one 

‘Everything must be in order in my household or it brings great anxiety to me. The orderliness probably stems from the chaos I felt in my adolescent years. My parent’s house was always physically orderly, but human relationships wise were CHAOS.’

  1. The Adjuster 

‘Put me in any situation now and I can adjust. But please don’t ask me to be responsible for it or change it’.

  1. The Placater

‘Whenever a family problem comes up, both sides will call me to settle disputes. I am called on to make many decisions, and I do them all alone. Many friends used to call them for advice as they felt I ‘know’ a lot and rarely have problems of my own’. 

  1. The Acting out child

This child is a mixture of all three and often displays problematic behaviour.IMG_0280

 The challenging issues are then referred to, ‘Don’t talk, Don’t trust, Don’t feel’ which explores why and how the reader has developed this form of thinking. By being aware of this issue helps the reader distinguish the difference between trusting an alcoholic and the general public. Simply by the reader having a greater understanding of why they don’t trust helps them build confidence in others. 

The progression of the roles explores how the children then adapt their roles to adulthood stating how they deal with typical everyday situations. The relationship with alcohol is also explored stating that children of alcoholics drink like other teenagers; to have fun, curiosity, defiance and to feel grown up. However, the difference is children of alcoholics learn to drink to escape and most significantly drink with an extra belief – a belief that ‘it will never happen to me’. 

The authors words are gently complimented by poems and stories from children of alcoholics which not only implies the complex terms but really helps the reader grasp an understanding of how it feels to be a child of alcoholic. It also creates a feeling of community and belonging whilst reading the book as the reader often doesn’t feel alone due to Claudia’s gentle wording and direction. 

Particular emphasis is applied to feelings such as the losses of the parent not always being present in the reader’s childhood. She explains that the loss if attention is due to the parent’s priority being alcohol. This lack of attention causes the child to enter the ‘grief process’ and thus explaining each stage and notifying the reader that with children of alcoholics the grief process is much slower than the normal grief experienced when loosing someone through the process of death. 

Crying is also paid attention explaining that the child of an alcoholic often learns to either 1) Not to cry or 2) They cry alone, very silently. Anger is popular emotion in the house of alcoholic family and Dr Claudia Black is fully aware of this and appreciates that for most alcoholic children it is the emotion that they are most ‘reticent to share’. She explains to the reader how the child should really feel and normalises the feeling of anger; a crucial lesson for all adults of alcoholic parents to learn.

 It is a common to hear an alcoholic child say, ‘it’s my fault that m parent/s drink’ and having a constant feeling of guilt inside them. This emotion is explored in great depth and clearly points out those children need to know that they do not cause alcoholism. Hearing and listening to these words result in two different responses; hearing can result in the person being questioned and the listener not being given the answer they wanted, however reading it equates to being told and then inviting them to read on and get a true understanding and explanation of why it isn’t their fault. This could be what is needed for the reader to put their guilt to rest. The author takes on the role of telling the reader what a parent should do to that child blaming themselves stating that they must be reassured, comforted and supported in the times of guilt and enforce positive behaviours and thinking. Blaming oneself for action that they have not caused is of course a negative pattern of thinking; something that should be discouraged. 

Being a young adult of an alcoholic myself what makes this book so valuable is the title ‘Reshaping roles –for the young child’ which explores and explains to the reader that the roles they have developed into causes them to have “gaps”. Gaps are psychological voids which result from inconsistent parenting and the lack of appropriate emotional support; potentially causing major problems for the child in adulthood.

Although difficult to come to terms with the initial statement, overall this is an extremely helpful book for the reader to not only have a greater understanding of themselves, but also have an insight of how particular situations should have been dealt with. This allows the reader to differentiate between what they have been taught to do and what they should really do. This book gives a greater understanding of the personal traits of the reader and begins them on the road to moving further away from the traits created were created by their past and will gently guide them into the person they want to be. Certainly a recommended read. 

One Comment Add yours

  1. I was very interested to see the book review of one of the books by Claudia Black. She was one of the first authors who helped me to understand how I had been affected by living in an alcoholic home and why I thought many of the things that I did which nobody else had understood.
    I went to a place called Broadway Lodge, Weston Super Mare in 1987 to attend a weekend course for those who lived with an alcoholic. It was the only ‘course’ I had and ever have heard of. It was there that I was given a lengthy booklist, which was a godsend. I had never seen anything like it and it included Claudia Black. All of the authors were American.
    Despite it being 31 years ago sadly I have never seen all of the books listed elsewhere, which are such a help to ACOAs and alcoholics. And I have not seen any help elsewhere in the UK, especially in the area where I live ( Kent & Sussex).
    I also have seen virtually no-where and nothing to help ACOAs in the South East of England. I was recommended to go to Al Anon…But it is not very relevant to children or ACOAs.
    Even a lot of trained counsellors do not understand the term ACOAs and issues that need addressing.
    It is a very sad situation when approximately 1 in 5 children are living in an alcoholic home, with no help & support.
    I would definitely recommend any books or work etc by Claudia Black.
    Plus anything by Janet G Woititzi.
    And MOST definitely anything by Tian Dayton…….she is a tremendous help.

    Any work with childten and ACOAs in the USA is far in advance to anything being done in the U K.
    Though nacoa is doing a very good job.

    Although reading a book does help a lot. And books by those who understand and have worked with ACOAs and realise fully their needs it also helps to have someone to speak to in person and to have a support group. Other people or even family & good friends do not understand the effects and ‘make up ‘ of ACOAs.


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