What Does It Mean to be an Adult Children of Alcoholics?
Dear Dr. Steve:
thirty-two years old. Ive held the same job for the last seven years as a computer
programmer. Im married. My wife is wonderful. My two kids are great. I coach my
sons soccer team. Im the leader of his Boy Scout troop. I volunteer at my
church. And Im a member of our towns volunteer fire department. Im out
there man. Im functioning. It would seem that I have everything going for me. But on
the inside, its a whole different story. Im a walking time bomb. I feel like I
could explode. I find myself feeling angrier and angrier. Then there are times Im
driving in my car and I begin crying uncontrollably for no good reason that I can figure
out. My wifes been great to me. We never ever fight, I see to that! I love my wife,
but I know I keep her shut out. There are times, when, I guess you could call it terror,
the thought of her getting close to me, of really letting her in, terrifies me. Last
weekend I was on a retreat with other men from my church. I finally broke down and started
talking about these things and more, my life in general, what I went through growing up.
The leader of the retreat told me I should investigate something he called Adult Children
of Alcoholics. Sure, my dad drank, but was he an alcoholic? I dont know. Anyway,
what does his drinking twenty years ago have to do with me crying in a car when a song
comes on the radio or wanting to throw my life away and run off and live in the mountains
story is not uncommon by any stretch of the imagination. For the sake of discussion, let
me talk in broad generalities in order to explain the concept, Adult Children of
Alcoholics, to you. Bear in my mind, what I am about to say is an explanation, not an
indictment. If you dont see yourself in this explanation, then you have the answer
to the questions that you brought back with you from your church retreat. If you do see
yourself in any part of what Im about to say, theres much that you can do
about how youve been feeling lately.
off, alcoholism and drug addiction is a family disease. Alcoholism affects not only the
person who drinks but the family members as well. The disease of alcoholism thrives in an
environment of enabling, denial, and secretiveness. It is not unusual to spend ones
childhood in a household where alcoholism and drug addiction exists but is never
of denial, secretiveness, and enabling, excuses are made, explanations are invented, lies
are perpetuated about drinking and the person who drinks. All of this deceit has an impact
on each family member. Reality becomes warped, feelings become disregarded, family members
are taught never to talk about what theyre feeling, never to trust themselves, their
feelings, their perceptions, nor anybody outside of the family. All too often children in
this kind of environment go off into their adult lives, never acknowledging to themselves
or having acknowledged by others the reality of what went on in their childhood and the
impact of what went on in their childhood had on them.
family organizes their emotions around the presence of alcoholism and the ongoing denial
of alcoholism, family members adapt to the family alcoholism. Often times this adaptation
takes the form of rigid roleswe call them survival roles. These roles are
wonderfully adaptive in regards to surviving in ones family of origin, but
paradoxically are the source of emotional and developmental dysfunction in their adult
lives. This explains how one can be highly, highly functional as an adult when it comes to
work, community service, and the day to day running of their lives and yet emotionally and
developmentally, on the inside, these same highly competent adults, remain stuck in the
emotional fallout from yesteryear because of what took place from being raised in a family
that was emotionally organized around alcoholism.
the fallout? Let me provide you with a partial list of characteristics that describe who
an Adult Children of Alcoholics might be. Adult Children of Alcoholics:
at what normal is.
2.) Have difficulty in following a project through from beginning to end.
3.) Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.
4.) Judge themselves without mercy.
5.) Have difficulty having fun.
6.) Take themselves very seriously.
7.) Have difficulty with intimate relationships.
8.) Overreact to changes over which they have no control.
9.) Constantly seek approval and affirmation.
10.) Feel that they are different from other people.
11.) Are either super responsible or super irresponsible.
12.) Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that loyalty is undeserved.
13.) Tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration
to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion,
self- loathing, and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend
tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.
characteristics are, of course, general in nature and do not apply to everyone. Some may
apply and others not. And there are still other characteristics which are not on this
list. But if any of these sound all too familiar, you may benefit by learning more about
the phenomenon, Adult Children of Alcoholics.
can imagine, it is impossible to tell you from the letter that youve written what
you should believe. However I would encourage you to look further in to the subject of
Adult Children of Alcoholics. Go to your library and read books that explain in much more
detail than I possibly could in this space Adult Children of Alcoholics, check out the
relevant articles on this web site, engage the services of a knowledgeable, qualified
healthcare provider. Just know that if something doesnt feel right about what
youre going through emotionally, trust that and dont stop your searching for
answers until you feel as good about who you are on the inside as you do about who you are
on the outside!
information about Adult Children of Alcoholics, contact:
P.O. Box 3216
Torrance, CA 90510 USA
from 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 seriesFrom Insanity to Serenity.Pathfinders
1.) Alcoholism and drug addiction are family diseases.
2.) All family members are effected by the disease of alcoholism.
3.) One can continue to be affected by family alcoholism even after theyve left
their home and are well established in their adult life.
4.) There are identifiable characteristics that can be attributed to being raised in an
5.) These identifiable characteristics can erode ones emotional and spiritual
well-being not matter what the circumstances of ones life may be.
6.) Youre not alone in what youre going through. Theres a community of
people who come together to break down the denial and heal the wounds that have been
fermenting for years.