Are you a child of an alcoholic? Did you grow up in a home where a caregiver or family member had an addiction or compulsion such as gambling, drug use, shopping, overeating, sex, or relationships?
If so, you can probably relate to the feeling of not knowing what will happen next. Depending on the mood of the caregiver or whether or not they are sober or drunk, you will have a good or bad day. The unpredictability and inconsistency make it extremely difficult to feel safe and relax in your home. It can feel chaotic when there is constant arguing, verbal and physical aggression.
When this is the case, there is a lack of healthy attention given to the children in the family. Another word for this is neglect, which is a form of abuse. If you lacked healthy attention and care from the adults in your family, you may have difficulty in your adult relationships. You may have a tough time developing trust and intimacy.
It can feel scary to express how you feel, since you may have been punished or shamed for showing your truth. It can feel pretty humiliating and confusing to be rejected by the people who are supposed to care for you.
In her book, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Janet Woititz (1993) outlined 13 common characteristics that many children of alcoholics develop. All of these characteristics may not apply to everyone. Of course, you may have some but not all of them.
13 Characteristics of Children of Alcoholics
- Guess at what normal behavior is
- Have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end
- Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
- Judge themselves without mercy
- Have difficulty having fun
- Take themselves very seriously
- Have difficulty with intimate relationships
- Overreact to changes over which they have no control
- Constantly seek approval and affirmation
- Feel that they’re different from other people
- Are super responsible or super irresponsible
- Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved
- Are impulsive—They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
Although this is a brief list, her book does go into depth about each one and provides helpful tools for recovery. Recovery is a process of self-discovery and transformation. It is absolutely possible for each of us. We all need support, which takes many forms. Seeking professional help such as a therapist or even inpatient treatment facilities can be an enormous help, which can be covered by insurance. Attending Alanon or ACOA meetings are a great way to connect with a community of people who are recovering from the same issues.
**artwork by @sreejithpa