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Dr. Steve Frisch, Psy.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in
Chicago, Illinois and Northfield, Illinois.

You can contact Dr. Frisch, Psy.D. at
(847) 498-5611.

Recover 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. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series.

What Does It Mean to be an Adult Children of Alcoholics?

ear Dr. Steve:

I’m thirty-two years old. I’ve held the same job for the last seven years as a computer programmer. I’m married. My wife is wonderful. My two kids are great. I coach my son’s soccer team. I’m the leader of his Boy Scout troop. I volunteer at my church. And I’m a member of our town’s volunteer fire department. I’m out there man. I’m functioning. It would seem that I have everything going for me. But on the inside, it’s a whole different story. I’m a walking time bomb. I feel like I could explode. I find myself feeling angrier and angrier. Then there are times I’m driving in my car and I begin crying uncontrollably for no good reason that I can figure out. My wife’s 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 don’t 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 by myself?

Your 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 don’t 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 I’m about to say, there’s much that you can do about how you’ve been feeling lately.

First 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 one’s childhood in a household where alcoholism and drug addiction exists but is never acknowledged.

Because 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 they’re 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.

As a 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 roles—we call them survival roles. These roles are wonderfully adaptive in regards to surviving in one’s 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.

What is 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:

1.) Guess 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.

These 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.

As you can imagine, it is impossible to tell you from the letter that you’ve 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 doesn’t feel right about what you’re going through emotionally, trust that and don’t 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!

For more information about Adult Children of Alcoholics, contact:
P.O. Box 3216
Torrance, CA 90510 USA
(message only)

Recover 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. Frisch’s, Psy.D. Recovery book series—From Insanity to Serenity.Pathfinder’s Checklist

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 they’ve 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 alcoholic family.
5.) These identifiable characteristics can erode one’s emotional and spiritual well-being not matter what the circumstances of one’s life may be.
6.) You’re not alone in what you’re going through. There’s a community of people who come together to break down the denial and heal the wounds that have been fermenting for years.



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