Most of the adult children of alcoholics who I know, underestimate the effects of being raised in an alcoholic family. Perhaps it’s wishful thinking. Perhaps it’s denial. More likely it’s shame and simply not knowing that adult children of alcoholics (ACOAs), as a group, tend to struggle with a particular set of issues.
If you’re an adult child of an alcoholic, you feel different and disconnected. You sense that something is wrong, but you don’t know what. It can be a relief to realize that some of your struggles are common to ACOAs.
You don’t outgrow the effects of an alcoholic family when you leave home
If you grew up in an alcoholic or addicted family, chance are it had a profound impact on you. Often, the full impact isn’t realized until many years later. The feelings, personality traits, and relationship patterns that you developed to cope with an alcoholic parent, come with you to work, romantic relationships, parenting, and friendships. They show up as anxiety, depression, substance abuse, stress, anger, and relationship problems.
The effects of growing up in an alcoholic family are varied. Many ACOAs are very successful, hard-working, and goal-driven. Some struggle with alcohol or other addictions themselves. Others become codependent.
An alcoholic home is chaotic and unpredictable
Children crave and need predictability. Your needs must be met consistently in order for you to feel safe and develop secure attachments. This didn’t happen in your dysfunctional family. Alcoholic families are in “survival mode.” Usually everyone is tiptoeing around the alcoholic, trying to keep the peace and avoid a blow up.
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