Adult Children of Alcoholics: Patrick Kennedy Tells All In Memoir

While it’s true that many people live in a household so immune to the ill effects of alcoholism because it’s all they have ever known, Patrick Kennedy is speaking out about the effects of alcoholism in the family — even though his siblings disagree about the past — he recalls while growing up. It’s common that children in the same family may recall different pasts, due in part to different personalities, defense mechanisms, or perhaps a particular child bore the brunt of a parent’s alcoholism while others did not.

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A memoir called, A Common Struggle, released Tuesday by former Rhode Island Congressman Patrick Kennedy, told all about his family’s health and alleged addictions; although the accounts in his memoir were disputed by his brother Ted Kennedy Jr., a senator from Connecticut.

According to psychologist Robert Ackerman, such discrepancies in memories of children in the same family is not uncommon, and may lead to further pain and suffering as one sibling recalls a past that the other claims is false. According to Ackerman, none of the siblings may be actually lying or in denial; how they perceived the situation may actually be quite different. Siblings can have different experiences with a parent’s addiction, he says. In some cases, one sibling may not recognize the problem at all, due to a multitude of factors. According to Here and Now, the phenomenon of children recalling different experiences in an alcoholic household is very common. Ackerman, an expert on alcoholism and family life, speaks on this particular Kennedy memoir.

“You mentioned Patrick Kennedy and his ‘conspiracy of silence’. I’ve always talked about, if you’re living in an alcoholic family, addiction takes hostages. The stuff that really stands out the most is that it really has an impact in normal human development. Those things you and I should work on as we grow up – the development of trust, the development of intimacy with other people, a great sense of creativity, a sense of self accomplishment. When you’re second or third to a bottle or to OxyContin, it’s very painful. I was aware of this as a kid and I never said anything to anybody but I never felt that I was as good as the other children, like ‘wow they must have come from a really good home’ and I just was not about to share my home. And it’s not just about what’s happening to you – I believe the greatest impact, especially on children, it’s not what happened, it’s about what they’re missing.”

Many children may deny their parents’ addictions due to shame, particularly in a well-known family such as the Kennedys that has been fraught with tragedy and heartache, as reported by People. Gender also seems to play a role in how adult individuals recall their childhood — males often take up for their alcoholic mothers, while females denounce them. Meanwhile, females are more likely to overlook a father’s addiction, while a son is acutely aware. Some of these defense mechanisms are inborn, Ackerman explains, as children appear to be more critical of a same-sex parent.

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The medical community has long debated about whether alcoholism is a disease of addiction or a choice of addiction, as previously reported by the Inquisitr. There are genetic features that point to it being genetic, but environmental factors, such as growing up in a family with drinkers, having a Type A personality, and even having European heritage have been linked to risk factors.

One thing is for certain – nobody can dispute how painful alcoholism can be on a family. Ackerman says that “everyone has a right to heal.” For some, this may be a private matter. For others, sharing their story as they remember it may be extremely therapeutic, as it appears to be for Patrick Kennedy. Ackerman says that neither choice is wrong, it is simply a matter of what each individual must do to heal and move forward.

[Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images]