We all experienced less than ideal childhood situations, with one specific adversity as living with a parent with addiction.
Most adults who had a parent or parents who were alcoholic (or addicts) know that as children they were affected by the addictive behaviour. We can visualize, perhaps even getting flashbacks now, the reoccurring chaotic, confusing and soul-harming scenes that occurred.
Common characteristics of an alcoholic (and not limited to this adverse!) household include:
- Secrets and denial (of the problem, of feelings)
- Emotional dysregulation (outbursts, passive aggressive, withholding, inconsistent)
- Rationalizing, minimizing, justifying (bizarre thinking and ‘rules’)
- Blaming others (not taking responsibility, scapegoating)
- Parents not fully present (self-absorbed or distracted) emotionally or physically
- Children left to fend for themselves
- Abuse, neglect, abandonment
- Controlling figure; tip-toeing; walking on eggshells
What matters, regardless of the manifestation of the addiction, are the adaptations children and other members of the household had to make in order to survive or to gain any amount of control. These repeated adaptations became traits, and are often referred to as “The Laundry List” or The Problem. It is useful to identify how our childhood environment (see the bullet points above) specifically has affected us. Here is the list to consider.
- We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
- We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
- We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.
- We become alcoholics, marry them (or both), or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
- We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.
- We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our own faults, etc.
- We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
- We became addicted to excitement.
- We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”
- We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much.
- We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
- We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
- Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.
- Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
Claudia Black, a leading expert on adult children of alcoholics and author of It Will Never Happen to Me, says adult children of alcoholics (ACOA or ACA) grow up with three dangerous rules – don’t trust, don’t feel, and don’t talk.
ACOA become depressed, anxious and co-dependent, often unbeknownst as to the specific underlying origins.
The solution is to become your own loving parent by becoming aware of the ‘list’ and working on these traits as they show up in your daily life. Trauma and inner child work will address the repressed feelings and negative cognitions stored.
What did this alcoholic household incorrectly teach you about yourself (your sense of self, worth, lovability, efficacy etc.) and about the world (safe, abundant, joyful, etc.).
For more information: Google “Adult Children of Alcoholics”
Anything dealing with co-dependency (John Bradshaw, Melody Beattie).
I have posted “The Problem” and “The Solution” on my website.