It’s no secret that addiction can wreak havoc on one’s life – job performance, personal responsibilities, and important relationships all fall by the wayside when someone develops a substance use disorder. Unfortunately, the ramifications may be more severe than many people realize. Perhaps the most salient example of this is that those who grew up in a dysfunctional, alcoholic home tend to develop a similar constellation of personal traits. These individuals may become terrified of losing control, avoiding substance use for their entire lives, or they may become alcoholics themselves. For these reasons, it is important for those affected by a loved one’s substance use to seek their own recovery.
Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics
There are a few signs that you may be an adult child of an alcoholic. If you’re in any way unsure about whether the events you experienced point to this conclusion, there is a diagnostic questionnaire available for your use. Some general indicators are constant parental arguing, avoiding bringing friends to your house because of dysfunction at home, or feeling responsible for others’ wellbeing before your time.
A combination of traits, also called “the laundry list,” has been provided by the Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization. If you identify with any of the below, you may want to pursue your own path to recovery.
- Have become isolated and fearful of people, authority figures.
- Became approval-seekers, losing one’s identity in the process.
- Frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
- Either become alcoholics, marry them, or both. May also find another compulsion (such as being a workaholic).
- Feel like a victim in life. Attracted by that weakness in our relationships.
- Have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility as it is easier to feel concerned with others than for oneself. This enables one to avoid self-evaluation of one’s own faults.
- Feel guilty for standing up for oneself, rather than just giving in.
- Have become addicted to excitement.
- Confuse love and pity – tend to “love” people one can feel sorry for or “rescue.”
- Have “stuffed” feelings from a traumatic childhood, losing the ability to feel or express them because it hurts (denial).
- Harsh self-judgment and low self-esteem.
- Have become dependent personalities, terrified of abandonment. Will do anything to hold onto a relationship and avoid abandonment.
- Alcoholism is a family disease, and one will be affected by it and take on the characteristics of it, even if one does not develop alcoholism.
- Being a reactor, rather than an actor.
Resources for Adult Children of Alcoholics
There are a few ways to seek help as an adult child of an alcoholic. The first is to find individual care. This usually takes the form of therapeutic intervention, either as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or rational emotive therapy (RET). Talk therapy can make an incredible difference and will allow those affected by addiction to finally work through the events of their childhood.
Participation in group programs can be especially helpful because addiction is so isolating for family members. It often thrives in an environment of secrecy and avoidance, which places a great deal of pressure and guilt on the child of an alcoholic. Find a meeting near you by browsing ACA’s resources; there are also online meetings and telephone conferences to choose from. In meetings, members share what is happening in their lives, build a personal support network, and practice personal boundaries.
Tools of recovery include…
- Attending group meetings
- Calling others in the program to discuss issues
- Reading educational literature
- Hearing the experiences of others
- Gaining clarity on one’s own experiences
- Defining and enforcing boundaries
- Employing 12-Step philosophies
- Removing harmful influences
- Reconnecting with one’s inner child (“true self”)
- Building a support network
- Performing acts of service
By actively pursuing recovery from a loved one’s addiction, individuals learn how childhood experiences shape behaviors, attitudes, and choices that are made in adulthood. It is never too late to resolve past issues related to a parent’s substance use. It is never too late to choose happiness and serenity.
Addiction is a Family Disease
At Lakeside-Milam, we understand that substance use disorders impact the entire family unit. This is why we encourage those affected by a loved one’s alcoholism to reach out and seek help for both themselves and the addict. Our family education programs help all family members to reach a shared understanding of the disease of addiction, which in itself can help to alleviate past stressors and confusion surrounding a parent’s behavior. If your parent is still in active addiction, it is not too late to get help. To learn more about our addiction programming and family support services, call 1-800-231-4303 today.