What is Caretaking?

Asking the question what is care taking could almost be tagged with what is the relevance of caretaking in the context of alcoholism or other addictions. Caretaking can often be seen in the same context as taking care of people, a healthy thing to be aware of someone else’s needs and helping them take care of them.

It is important to understand the term caretaking specifically in the context of alcoholic homes especially, but other dysfunctional families may give rise to many of the problems associated with alcoholism and other addictions.

Whilst it is always dangerous to generalise about families, is probably fair to say that anecdotal evidence suggests that many active alcoholics, and especially members of Alcoholics Anonymous grew up in alcoholic homes.

This may well be where one or both of the parents were alcoholics, or may well be what our Al-Anon refers to as generational alcoholism. This simply means that one or more of a families relatives may have been alcoholics, and the effect of this may have been passed down through generations.

The process of recovery from the effects of growing up in alcoholic home do not really depend upon identifying who the alcoholic was or when they lived. The issue is much more about the effects of alcoholism in an emotional context upon the family concerned.


There are a number of common features that seem to affect children who grow up in alcoholic homes.

They mostly seem to relate to a lack of boundaries, a sense of enmeshment within the family, and a huge sense of distorted responsibilities. It is very common for children who grow up in alcoholic homes to take on responsibilities that are way above their age, and are not theirs to take.

This is essentially what caretaking refers to in a recovery sense. The effect that it can have on children in the context of becoming responsible for things that they do not have control over can be hugely damaging, both short-term and long-term.

Caretaking has very little to do with actually taking care of people, but has a lot to do with children trying to fill a hole that should not exist but often does. Any child in any family needs a sense of safety in order to grow and lead any sort of decent life.

In an alcoholic home that is likely to be little safety, either of a physical or an emotional nature. This will often lead a child or children to try and create their own sense of safety by overcompensating for the parents.

This often defines their sense of self for life, and their whole sense of identity once they grow up.This process is known as caretaking, and needs to be identified in a recovery context once the alcoholic is sober. This is essentially a process of rebuilding their life and their inner world, that is about giving them any peace of mind and stability as adults, whether in rehab or elsewhere.