An adult child of alcoholics is a person who has grown up with alcoholic parents. However, the issues they deal with are quite similar to families where there are other types of addictions.
Growing up in an alcoholic family is growing up in an environment that often features secrets, dishonesty, conflict, unclear roles, enabling behaviour, chaos and violence. Claudia Black, an expert on Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) says that the 3 main rules of such families are “Don’t trust, don’t feel, don’t talk.” Basically, deny reality.
It is important to understand the specific issues of Children of Alcoholics because there are patterns of behaviour that emerge from such families. As a result, children who grow up in these families grow into adults who have certain characteristics that cause difficulties in their lives.
Children of Alcoholics:
1/ Have difficulty with intimate relationships
2/ Suppress emotions
3/ Are either overly responsible or lack responsibility
4/ Have low self-esteem
5/ Judge themselves harshly
6/ Can’t handle conflict – repress anger
7/ Have issues of control
8/ Suffer from depression, anxiety and addictions
9/ Always seek approval and affirmation from others
10/ Have difficulty in telling the truth and being honest with themselves and others
Helping Adult Children of Alcoholics
In my work as a Toronto therapist with Adult Children of Alcoholics, I try to help them in a number of ways. They often have chaotic lives that contain many problems. However, when they are willing to face these problems and begin to honestly confront their lives, they are capable of making very positive changes. Steps that assist this process of change include:
1/ Understanding your story: Since alcoholic families are characterized by lies, denial and unreality, it is necessary to understand the truth of your family. Finding a safe and helpful place to do this is important.
2/ Learning the connection between your childhood and what is happening today.
3/ Becoming a member of a 12 Step Group.
4/ Grieving your losses
5/ Learning to experience and understand your feelings
6/ Breaking the silence – sharing your story with others
7/ Learning how to express anger and other emotions in a healthy manner
8/ Dealing with addictions and co-dependency
9/ Learning self care
10/ Letting go of control
If you are an adult child of an alcoholic family you have likely grown up with many problems that impair your life. Nevertheless, over the years, I see that people can overcome and positively manage this past. Truth is an essential part of this transformation, since the legacy of such a family often makes for a life of deception. There are places such as psychotherapy and 12 step groups where you can begin this process. With motivation and sincere work you can make the changes that can enable you to lead a healthy life.
Copyright 2004 -2017, Michael Greene, M.A., All rights reserved