Last week we looked at the impact in adulthood of growing up in a home where alcoholism / addiction is present.
Common characteristics of adult children of alcoholics ACOA included
1. Guessing at what normal behaviour is.
2. Difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.
3. Lying when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4. Judging themselves without mercy.
5. Difficulty having fun.
6. Taking themselves very seriously.
Now to complete the list:
7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.
Having never known a “normal” relationship or family roles, they do not know how to have one, and do not trust others.
They learned that people are not trustworthy, and had their heart broken from an early age. They learned to shut themselves off from others to protect their feelings, as well as to protect their family.
8. ACOAs overreact to changes over which they have no control.
The child of an alcoholic lacks control over their lives much of the time. They cannot control when their parent is drunk, or that the parent is an addict to begin with. This produces anxiety. The adult child of an alcoholic craves control. They need to know what is going to happen, how, and when.
In the real world this control is not possible. If plans are changed, or somebody does something that they don’t like or feel comfortable with, all the insecurity of their childhood comes back, and the adult may over-react, leaving the other party stunned or confused.
9. ACOAs constantly seek approval and affirmation.
Children of alcoholics and addicts are used to continuously seeking approval or praise from their parent. They probably did not grow up with consistent rules, and could never make their addicted parent happy. They may be indecisive and unsure of themselves.
11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.
Once the child from an addicted family gets older and forms their own identity, they may either strictly follow a schedule and wants everything in order, controlled, perfect. They may struggle with anxiety, OCD, eating disorders.
The opposite result is the ACOA who is a party animal, developing an alcohol, drug, or other behavioural addiction. They live a life very much like their addicted parent, or they may “shape up” and get their life together, with the right support.
12. Adult children of alcoholics have very poor boundaries, they are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.
“Why do you put up with him?” Adult children of alcoholics/addicts are used to dealing with just that- an addict. They are used to taking care of an addict or seeing others take care of one.
13. They are impulsive, locking themselves into a course of action without giving serious thought to alternatives or consequences. This leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
Bringing order to chaos. Once they recognise and understand why they are this way, and that they are not alone, the adult child of an alcoholic can begin to heal. This is with the support of a therapist who can identify negative beliefs, and re-establish healthy boundaries.