Core Issues of
Children of Alcoholics
The phrase Adult Children of
Alcoholics (ACOA) refers to those individuals who were adversely impacted by familial
alcoholism. An ACOA is an individual who experiences a recognizable, diagnosable reaction
to familial alcoholism. These individuals are particularly vulnerable to certain
emotional, physical, and spiritual problems.
are identifiable core issues that ACOAs experience. Control is one such
issue. The fear of loss of control is a dominant theme in their lives. Control dominates
the interactions of an ACOA with themselves as well as the people in their lives. Fear of
loss of control, whether it be over ones emotions, thoughts, feelings, will,
actions, or relationships is pervasive. ACOAs rely upon defenses mechanisms such as
denial, suppression in order to control their internal world of thoughts and feelings as
well as the outward manifestation of those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
A second core issue is trust. This is directly
attributable to being raised in an environment of chaos, unpredictability, and denial.
Repeatedly told to ignore the obvious, deny their own feelings, and distrust the accuracy
of their own perceptions ACOAs eventually begin to distrust not only other people
but their own feelings and senses as well. Father is passed out on the couch, moms
face is buried in a bowl of soup yet nothing is wrong.
A third core issue is avoidance of feelings. In the
alcoholic family, the child's (COA) expression of feelings is typically met with censure,
disapproval, anger, and rejection. Often the child is told explicitly, "Don't you
dare say that to me; don't even think it!" or "Don't upset your mother. You have
to be more understanding. In other words, COAs are taught very early that it
is necessary to hide their feelings. Hiding their feelings leads to not even have any
feelings as they master the art of repressing, denying, or minimizing them.
fourth core issue is overresponsibility. ACOAs come to believe they are
responsible for what is happening in their family. This is because blame is so much a part
of an alcoholic family"I drink because the kids are out of control. This
just feeds a childs already existing self-centeredness. Because of these childhood
experiences, COAs grow up believing they are responsible for other's emotions and
actions. Because children do not know that the alcoholic drinks because the alcoholic has
lost their choice to drink, they begin to believe that they are responsible for their
drinking because of their bad behavior and therefore they are responsible for
the alcoholic to stop drinking. Therefore a COA may decide that the way to end the
bickering and drinking is to be a model child. Another reason that ACOAs develop a
sense of overresonsibility is that children in alcoholic families often times become the
family counselor or even a substitute parent for the absent alcoholic.
fifth core issue of an ACOA is that they tend to ignore their own needs. This
likely stems from the fact that their emotional needs continually took a back seat to
alcoholism, chaos, and emotional and physical violence. All too many ACOAs equate
acknowledging their emotional needs with being vulnerable or even weak. Feeling vulnerable
also is equated with being out of controla state if being which an ACOA finds
intolerable. Along with feeling vulnerable and out of control, acknowledging their
emotional needs may make an ACOA feel dependent, inadequate, or even worse than those
states, forever in debt to the person who met their needs.
chemical dependency and its toxic impact on family members. Raise your
children to choose to be alcohol and other drugs
free. Learn how
to in Dr. Frischs, Psy.D. Recovery book series.