Adult Children of Alcoholics:
The Laundry List
Fourteen Traits of an Adult Child of an Alcoholic:
- We either become alcoholics, marry them or both; or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfil our sick abandonment needs.
- 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 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 (denial).
- 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.
Tony A., 1978
How do I Set a Bottom Line for Tough Love?
A Bottom Line is a small step that makes your tough love stand a reality and moves you toward your goal.
Bottom Lines are new behaviours for you.
Avoid trying to do everything at once. Look to achieve small changes in how you and your problem person have been living.
Bottom lines are the hardest job you will undertake.
Not doing anything will keep you trapped.
You will need support to adhere to your Bottom Lines.
Work out something that you are willing to try – for just this week – not forever.
When you take a stand and establish a Bottom Line, your problem person will react to your new behaviour.
Give the Crisis Back to the Person Who Created it.
Your problem person has a choice how to respond; make choices available to him or her. They have the choice to respond positively or not.
They must take the Consequences.
- Make real demands with real consequences
- Communicate and share with other families
- Refuse to live in ways you do not want
- Refuse to live with people who mistreat you
- Be tough with yourself
We are not advising you to stop loving or caring about your problem person, but suggest that you stop treating your destructive problem person like a poor, helpless child. You are a person of worth whose feelings and goods are valuable. Your problem person must start to see you as a person whose love and respect must be earned.
- Require them to earn money which we give them.
- Refuse to buy them anything this week.
- Take them for a drug test when you suspect them of drug use and seek help of appropriate professionals.
- Action plan must be specific, such as – “I will contact …….. about admitting them”.
- Take their phone privileges away until they have improved their behaviour.
- Don’t engage when they start arguing with you.
- Discuss your feelings about their behaviour with close family.
- Buy an alarm clock for them and allow them to get themselves up and ready.
- Write a positive letter to them in treatment.
- Do something special with them on weekends.
- Refuse to clean up their room.
- Let them prepare their own meals if they won’t eat when you eat.
- Require them to arrange their own transport.
- Whisper when they try to argue with you instead of yelling at them.
- Prepare a list of things they do that ‘push your buttons’ (causes you to give them what they want against your better judgement).
- Arrange for a family member to go to school and sit with them in class (if in school).
- I will not accept rude, abusive or uncooperative behaviour – including verbal abuse
- I will not accept violence
- I will not accept the blame for my problem person’s problems or listen to accusations
- I will not accept lying
- I will not accept stealing
- I will not accept them taking the car without permission
- I will not accept school failure (skipping classes or school; not doing schoolwork)
- I will not be manipulated
- I will not accept them running away
- I will not allow my problem person to live at home until we have worked out a code of conduct
- I will not accept my problem person going to places which we don’t consider to be suitable
- I will not pay fines, hire lawyers or go to court to get my problem person out of situations s/he has created
- I will stand back and allow my problem person to deal with their own problems
Your role as a helper is not to DO things for the person you are helping, but to BE things; not to try to train and change their actions, but to train and change your reactions. As you change your negatives to positives in ways such as these, you change the world for the better:
- fear to faith
- contempt for what they do to respect
- to fit a standard image or expecting them to measure up or down from that standard – but giving them the opportunity to become themselves
- to develop encouragement
- panic to serenity
- false hope – to real hope
- driving to guidance
- self-justification to self-understanding
Self-pity blocks effective action – the more we indulge in it the more we feel that the answer to problems is a change in others or the world – not a change in us. Thus we become a hopeless case.
Exhaustion – is the result when we mull over the past with regret, or in trying to figure ways to escape a future that hasn’t even come yet. Likewise, setting up an image of the future and anxiously hovering over it for fear that it will or won’t come true uses all our energy and leaves us unable to live today. Yet living this day is the only way to have a life.
Love alone can create. Love and let be…
Remember: all people are always changing – when we judge them on what we believe we know of them, failing to realise that there is much we do not know and that they are constantly changing as they try. Above all, give them credit for having had many victories which are unknown.
Remember you too, are always changing – and you can direct that change constantly if you so desire.
Hello, my name is DRUGS.
I destroy homes, tear families apart, take your children and that’s just the start.
My name is drugs: I’m more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold, the sorrow I bring is a sight to behold. And if you need me, remember I’m easily found, I live all around you – in schools and in town. I live with the rich, I live with the poor. I live down the street and maybe next door. My power is awesome; try me, you’ll see.
But if you do, you may NEVER break free. Just try me once and I might let you go, but try me twice and I’ll own your soul. When I possess you, you’ll steal and you’ll lie. You’ll do what you have to just to get high. The crimes you’ll commit for my narcotic charms will be worth the pleasure you’ll feel in my arms. You’ll lie to your mother, you’ll steal from your dad.
When you see their tears, you should feel sad.
But you’ll forget your morals and how you were raised. I’ll be your conscience, I’ll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents and parents from kids. I turn people from ‘God’ and separate friends. I’ll take everything from you, your looks and your pride, I’ll be with you always, right by your side. You’ll give up everything – your family your home… Your friends, your money; then you’ll be all alone.
I’ll take and I’ll take…
Till you have nothing more to give. When I’m finished with you you’ll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned this is no game. If given the chance, I’ll drive you insane. I’ll ravish your body; I’ll control your mind. I’ll own you completely; your soul will be mine.
The nightmare I’ll give you while lying in bed, the voices you’ll hear from inside your head. The sweats, the shakes, the visions you’ll see; I want you to know these are all gifts from me. But then it’s too late and you’ll know in your heart that you are mine and we shall not part. You’ll regret that you tried me – they always do – but you came to me, not I to you. You knew this would happen. Many times you were told, but you challenged my power and chose to be bold. You could have said no and just walked away. If you could live that day over, now what would you say? I’ll be your master; you will be my slave, I’ll even go with you when you go to your grave. Now that you have met me, what will you do?
Will you try me or not? It’s all up to you.
I can bring you more misery than words can tell. Come take my hand, let me lead you to HELL.
If you think this could help someone, somewhere, why don’t you do what I have just done and copy and paste.
Addiction & Survival:
How The Disease Of Addiction Originates
Addiction & Survival: In a dysfunctional family where there is alcoholism, drug addiction, eating addiction, work-aholism, sexual addiction, gambling addiction or any other addictive disorder, the members of the family develop defence mechanisms and survival techniques on an unconscious level that make it possible for them to live in the system.
For example, if a ten-year old child lives in a family where Dad is a rage-aholic and throws things when he gets angry, children will probably develop behaviours that enable them to survive in the home. They probably know with ninety-five percent accuracy when Dad is about to rage and what precautions to take to feel safer. It may involve hiding in a closet, emotionally detaching by reading fairy tales, or it may be to eat so as not to have to feel the rage or tension in the home.
When these children grow into adults, they will take with them those survival skills that enabled them to survive. They may find themselves in situations similar to those they grew up in. Many of us from dysfunctional families are still using survival techniques from childhood in our present-day lives, but it may not be effective anymore. What it does is keep us from knowing ourselves.
The disease of addiction is a survival technique. Some may find it useful, dealing with the many unspoken feelings of fear, loneliness and shame that were not safe to share. We also may have discovered that even though our family situation was chaotic, we could control how we felt. We began to realise that there were ways to control how we appeared to the rest of the world on the outside – if we are acceptable on the outside, maybe we would begin to feel acceptable on the inside. To be in control gave many of us a false sense of security by keeping us from feeling the pain around us.
I realised that this false sense of self kept me walled away from who I really was. If the wall began to crack, the feelings of pain, shame and fear could quickly be covered by using. A substance of choice became a best friend for many years. But eventually the friend that once kept us safe and insulated began to turn on us and we were trapped in a way of life that was void of any hope for growth.
The shame of the addiction perpetuates the addictive behaviour.
I found that with alcohol I could control my addiction and feelings about my addictive behaviour. In time, I lost also to alcohol. Addicts may achieve sobriety and recovery from one substance, but find that another is becoming a problem. Switching one addiction for another is called cross-addiction. As long as we fear our feelings we will continue to cover them up.
In most families there are unspoken rules. These rules are also developed on an unconscious level and were the rules our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents grew up with. These rules perpetuate the cycle of shame that can make us vulnerable to addiction and its continuation.
Don’t Talk About What is Really Going On
When unresolved issues in a family are not discussed, they will be acted out by the members of that family. Everyone is aware that there are a number of problems in the family, but nobody feels safe enough to talk about it.
If it is ignored, it will resolve itself. I have seen seriously addicted individuals continue to live their life in their disease while the entire family denies that there is a problem – reality is not visible. If it is not discussed, it does not have to be explored. For those who are aware that there is a problem, there still may be some resistance to addressing the dysfunction, such as “I know I’m addicted, but if I talk about it, I will hurt and probably have to change”.
Certain Feelings are Not Acceptable
In this second family rule feelings are the enemy, especially feelings of anger, sadness, shame, guilt and pain. Some may even fear that their feelings will either become overwhelming and out of control or that feelings will kill them. If a small child grows up in a family where Mom loses control and rages every time she is angry, the child may grow into an adult who fears his own anger and the anger of others. When he does feel anger, he will probably try to cover it up or ignore it. Human beings were given feelings for a reason; if we do not process how we feel about what is going on around us with our feelings, they will come out in a dysfunctional manner. Getting angry does not mean losing control and raging.
Research is beginning to find that many physical illnesses are related to an inability to process feelings and deal effectively with the stress that is created by not listening to how we feel.
In a healthy family all feelings are accepted and validated.
If we are allowed to feel our feelings, we can pass through them and learn from the experience in the process. If we are denied our feelings, they will eventually come out in some form that may not be appropriate. Addiction kept me from dealing with feelings of anger, shame, unworthiness and fear.
Don’t Trust – The World is not a Safe Place
This third rule means many have an extremely difficult time with trust because it is not acceptable to talk about what is really going on around us or to experience all our feelings in a dysfunctional family. We find it difficult to trust ourselves, others and sometimes even a Higher Spiritual Power.
For example, if Mom or Dad breaks promises and denies the problems in the family that are difficult and painful to expose, children learn not to trust. In a dysfunctional family, members also learn to discount their own perception about what is taking place.
Children may also view Mom and Dad as the Higher Power because they provide food, clothing, shelter, nurturance, love and emotional support. If parents are not emotionally available for their children, the children may develop a concept of a Higher Power that cannot always be trusted to be available. Children use magical thinking: if Mom is unavailable, the children may begin to believe she isn’t available because they are bad. The children’s feeling of shame begins to build within to become a shame core. They may act out with eating disorders, using chemicals, fighting at school, sleeping difficulties or regressing to earlier behaviour such as bed-wetting.
Many of us believe that one day everything would be fixed if we just ignored it. It is hopeful we eventually discover that we have a responsibility to ourselves to break these family rules. It does not have to do with not loving our families or blaming them, but instead with learning how the family system has impacted our lives. Many of us are not capable of making changes within our lives until we know what we need to alter.
Beginning to explore the patterns in our family system is an appropriate place to start.