Can Parents’ Unrealistic Expectations Lead To Addiction or Alcoholism?

Can Parents' Unrealistic Expectations Lead To Addiction or Alcoholism?When people think of addicts, they generally picture some down-and-out individual with no skills or opportunities. She’s a beggar or a prostitute and probably not qualified for much more than that. While the media has often portrayed addicts in this light, reality paints a different picture.

In many cases, addicts are high-functioning individuals, oftentimes even overachievers. Some are able to accomplish-as addicts-things that many people can’t do sober. So if they have such seemingly bright prospects, why did they become addicts?

Many alcoholics and drug users are using and/or abusing because they seek an escape from a life they find unmanageable. But this isn’t just an explanation for adult addicts with adult problems. Many young people turn to substance use for the same reasons. They are seeking to escape the pressure, stress, and unrealistic expectations of their parents.

How Drinking Can Stem From Pressures at Home

Controlling parents often monitor their children very closely. They do this because it makes them feel safe, in control, and assured that their kids will turn out right. But ironically, the opposite usually happens. While the child may follow his parents’ rules, demonstrate obedience, and attempt to be the model child, inside a rebellion is underfoot. He’s playing by the rules, going after the straight As, staying involved at church, and taking home the sports trophies, but inside his world is falling apart.

Inevitably there comes a day when the young person snaps. The internal rebellion comes to the forefront and they seek a release from the build-up of pressure. This response can take a variety of forms. Some addicts will emerge slowly, hiding their occasional use of alcohol or drugs. Others pursue their cravings without restraint, binging whenever possible. Trouble with the law, sexual promiscuity, and even death can result.

Are We All Destined for Failure?

Does this mean all kids who live under controlling parents and high expectations are bound for a life of addiction? No. Nor are parents to be blamed when their kids turn out to be addicts. Despite the challenges of growing up in a high-pressure living environment, addiction is not entirely the result of environmental circumstances. The core problem is that addicts seem to be ill equipped to adapt and cope with the life circumstances in which they find themselves. Many kids grow up in difficult homes and many are able to adapt, cope, and rise above. The addict, however, cannot. The reason why is not fully understood. Genetic, environmental, and spiritual factors are all a part of the answer. There is no one cause and each addict must bear responsibility for her actions if she ever hopes to recover.

For many, this will sound daunting, but really it is more hopeful than it seems. Your circumstances have influenced you-even negatively-but they do not control you. God is in charge of your life if you will let Him be. His power to redeem covers even the most hopeless of circumstances. Truthfully, this is when he shows himself most glorious.

Though the Bible instructs parents to care for their children and not exasperate them, many parents don’t realize the effect that their expectations have on their kids. They wanted the best for you and they still do. That may not have been clearly communicated, you may not have felt their love or nurture, but high expectations are usually born of a parent’s desire that his kids would succeed in life and have every available opportunity. It is a noble wish, even if it isn’t always well executed.

If you are struggling with addiction, there is help for you. Go before God in prayer and confess your struggle. Ask for his forgiveness and guidance. Talk with your pastor, church elder, or Christian counselor about the problem and ask how you can get help. You may also seek a 12-step program in your area. If you are afraid of your parents’ response, know that these programs are completely anonymous-you can feel safe there.

Remember, despite your parents’ expectations for you, God’s greatest expectation is that you would know Him, love Him, and glorify Him with your life. He’ll never criticize your efforts-in Him you are more than enough.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Psalm 139:14