Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA’s)

childChildren that grow up in a family where alcoholism is present tend to develop differently than children that are raised in an “average” household. They are not sure what to expect from their alcoholic parent and they learn to live in a world where chaos and confusion are normal. These ACOA’s eventually develop patterns of survival skills to cope with their unstable lifestyles, and these habits create issues in adulthood.

There are a few common characteristics of ACOA’s:

  1. They are extremely fearful of losing control in their lives. This fear impacts their relationships with other people, as well as themselves. They generally like to be in control, and to avoid vulnerability, and these tendencies greatly affect how they live their lives.
  2. They usually have issues with trust as well. “Repeatedly told to ignore the obvious, deny their own feelings, and distrust the accuracy of their own perceptions, ACOA’s eventually begin to distrust not only other people but their own feelings and senses as well.”
  3. They often feel uncomfortable expressing their own feelings. When they were younger, their feelings were probably met with disapproval and that teaches them that it is safer to keep their thoughts and emotions to themselves.
  4. They often become over-responsible and strive for perfection. They may set very high standards for themselves, and be overly critical if they fail to meet them. When they were younger, they may have blamed themselves for the alcoholic’s problems and the yearning to make things better may never go away.
  5. They generally avoid taking care of themselves and spend their time caring for other people instead. They may consider satisfying their emotional needs as being weak or vulnerable, so they tend to avoid them altogether.

ACOA’s may also fear abandonment, be more prone to compulsive behaviors, and/or struggle maintaining intimate relationships.

Unfortunately, what ACOA’s come to learn is that alcoholism (and other types of addiction) affect more than just the person addicted; it is a disease that can have everlasting affects on all of the people surrounding it.

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