Even though you may not have inherited your parents’ drinking habits, there are traits of adult children of alcoholics and the important thing to know is that you are not alone if how you feel.
You could be still struggling in a number of ways. Growing up in a home where your parents were alcoholics is not easy for most children regardless of how young or old you are.
It is important to realise that you are not just behaving as a result of your parent’s drinking. It is a lot more complex than that. Your current life struggles as a result of your parent’s drinking could also be because of:
Your parent’s trauma that has triggered their alcoholism
- Emotional neglect before during and after their drinking – it is hard to get any emotions out of someone when they are only focussing on getting a drink when they are under the influence and even after for a while.
- Maybe having to hide your parent’s drinking and pretend everything is ok
- You may never feel you are a priority that you had to share your childhood with your parents’ alcohol use
- The chaos and unpredictability that alcoholism brings
- Also, there could be a lot of shame that you could feel around their drinking and how it affects you.
Adult Children of Alcoholics often face a number of personality and behavioral difficulties in adulthood. Each of these issues can make it harder to know how to find peace and balance.
Just one thing to remember is that you would have started some of those behaviors as a young child to help cope with what was going on at home. The problem is, as you got older, those behaviors no longer work for you.
Among adult children of alcoholics, these are some of the 10 Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics:
1. You have an addiction yourself – This might not necessarily be alcohol, but we can be addicted to many things including being addicted to our jobs, and relationships including sex, hoarding, shopping, gambling, and other legal or illegal substances.
2. You have been in relationships with people who have an addiction – this could be because you see, against your will, a dysfunctional relationship as normal.
3. You struggle to manage your emotions You may find that you can’t even say what you are really feeling. You may also suppress or deny your true feelings i.e. suppress anger so it comes out as anxiety or sadness. Or you may find it hard to control them so your feelings come out to others in an inappropriate way.
4. You often deny your feelings and the impact your parent(s) drinking has had on your life – there could be many reasons for this including that being in denial helps to protect you from feeling and seeing what is really going on. Or maybe you have been taught by your family to be in denial because they are in denial, so you learned it from them.
5. Can have a severe outer critic where you are very judgmental of others – By Severe outer critic means you could see everyone else as flawed and unworthy. This could happen if your experiences have shown you that people are too dangerous to trust. Byron Brown in his book, Soul without Shame: A Guide to Liberating Yourself from the Judge Within goes into what the Inner Critic and Outer Critic is
6. You can have a severe inner critic which is the voice in your head where you constantly criticizes, belittles, and judges yourself.
7. You don’t know how to set good boundaries – we struggle with the balance between either being too loose with our boundaries or being too inflexible.
8. Have a high tolerance for inappropriate behavior – Again this could be normal in your family where inappropriate behavior is displayed in your parents’ addiction or they could have a high tolerance for it as well.
9. You are a people-pleaser who constantly seeks approval from others. You also could get your self-esteem just from making others happy.
10. You Find intimate relationships difficult – you have a history of difficult relationships and struggle to find “the one”. Or you may have someone that is good for you but find it hard to be vulnerable and connect on an emotional level with your partner.
11. Have a disabled will where you find it difficult to decide what you want or need for yourself. This ties in with People pleasing where you rather just go along with what everyone else wants and either don’t know what you want for yourself or don’t know that you are worthy of having needs yourself.
12. Hypervigilance – this means an increased state of awareness that makes you very sensitive to your surroundings. This sensitivity can often be excessive and may interfere with your day-to-day life and relationships. This happens because you may have had to become aware of all the potential dangers of your parents’ drinking at a young age to protect yourself.
13. You only feel comfortable when you are in control and can often border on OCD traits – Because of the instability in households with alcoholic parents, children often feel vulnerable and helpless. Having control helps you to feel safe. This could include being a perfectionist.
What to do next
You don’t need to live with this forever. You can work through this at your pace.
Long story short, it is not about having perfect parents as none of us are perfect. It is about the relentless of these behaviors towards you. Many, in my experience, don’t realise this is happening as no one really talks about this plus on the surface your parents could seem like great people.
However, understanding what is happening to you would be the first step to helping you on your healing journey. When you become more aware of what is happening, you could then learn how to respond and what to do.
If you need support in this process of self-awareness and more support to learn how to respond, this is something I specialise in as a Therapist. Give me a call then we could talk through your needs and how I will help