Adult Children of Alcoholics and am I one? Alcoholism causes damage not only to an individual, but also to family members. One out of six people in the U.S. had a drinking problem in 2011, according to PubMed Health. Children who grow up in a household with one or more adults that are alcoholics are at risk of depression, alcoholism and other substance abuse problems. How can we identify those who are in need of help for the recovery of the abuse and trauma due to living the life with an alcoholic caregiver?
Similar characteristics and personality traits are developed in the homes of children with alcoholic parents. It’s important to look at the similarities of these traits so we have a better understanding when it comes to seeing if you can or cannot relate.
Losing control and Fear
Adult children of alcoholics want to maintain the control at all times over their own behaviors and feelings. There is also a strong desire to control others around them. This stems from fear not from intentional desire to cause pain or hurt to anyone or themselves. They fear if they give up this sense of control their lives will become hectic. Much like the powerlessness they felt growing up in the home.
The Fear of Their Emotions and Feelings
Adult children of alcoholics want to hide their feelings. The two most common emotions to hide are anger and sadness. As children they were not able to express these two very common emotions. The flip side of hiding emotions is that they do not experience the full spectrum of feelings. They shut out the fear and in return give up the positive emotions: joy, fun and peace.
They Avoid all Conflict
Adult children of alcoholics fear those in authority. They avoid angry or aggressive people. Personal criticism is hard to take. People who are assertive are seen as angry. They are constantly seeking the approval of other people and lose their own identity in the process. Isolating is common and perceived as safe.
Adult children of alcoholics are extremely oversensitive. They get their self esteem or identity from the judgments of other people around them. This creates a compulsive desire and need to be perfect and are hard on themselves.
Lack the ability to have a Good Time
Adult children of alcoholics find it hard to let lose and have a good time. It is very stressful for them. Being in the spotlight where others may see them is not ideal. They become fearful and are afraid of others being critical of them.
High Levels of Self-Criticism / Low Self Esteem
Adult children of alcoholics weigh themselves down with very harsh and critical internal dialogue. They develop a low self image and have little to no respect for themselves. They were not modeled how to love themselves in the home. No matter how good they are at something, the inner critic is constantly beating them up.
Denial is their Response
If the adult child of and alcoholic starts to feel threatened, instantly they deny everything. The home environment was unstable. Fear was established and many times blame was placed on the child. They learned quickly on to use denial as a thick wall that goes up.
Intimacy is Difficult
Adult children of alcoholics are very fearful of intimacy. They feel lost, out of control and powerless with another. It is hard to identify feelings. It is even harder to express and communicate their needs. Who did they learn from? Nobody growing up.
The victim mentality is Strong
Adult children of alcoholics tend to be very passive or they are aggressive victims. They see themselves as separate “done wrong”. They attract others with the victim mentality. Those give each other validation that they are perceiving the world correctly. The cycle goes on and on.
Chaos is more comfortable than Peace
Adult children of alcoholics become instantly addicted to high levels of chaos, turmoil and drama. This what was modeled in the home. How would peace and calmness feel? It would frighten them. This chaos cycle keeps the adult child of and alcoholic in the cycle of perceiving they must control their surroundings.
Suffering from Abandonment
Adult children of alcoholics become scared at the though of being abandoned. They will go to great length to save the relationship no matter how toxic it is.
Individual Counseling, and starting to get involved in a 12 step program such as ACOA is the best way to start the healing process. In therapy you will be able to work on the underlying fear. It is fear constantly keeping you in heightened states of anxiety. You will see clearly the role you played in your childhood. You were the receiver of toxic shame. It does not identify or define who you are.
Adult Children of Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12 step program that helps you to recover with others who suffer from the same fears and anxieties. You will join with others who speak your language. Real healing can happen. Therapy and combined support groups will help you to address:
If you can relate to this article and think that you could benefit from counseling, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can live a full and passions filled life.