Sunday, January 11, 2009

Adult Children of Alcoholics..........and me

I'm working on my post to answer the question on JIP's blog. It's a post that's going to take some "heavy" thinking on my part. So I thought in the meantime I'd post something that I've been meaning to post for quite a while.

Early on in my therapy I stumbled across the characteristics of adult children of alcoholics (ACOA). You might wonder what ACOA has to do with me but I clearly remember thinking the first time I read those characteristics it felt like someone had been following me around, watching my every move and making a list. That's how familiar those things were to me.

I found myself wanting to know more about this phenomenon so I began attending meetings of Adult Children of Alcoholics. They were free ( although a collection was taken to pay for coffee etc) and I found it to be a supportive group of people. Many of them had the same kinds of problems with relationships and stuff that I had. It was another form of support for me.

Then when my "other" memories began to emerge, I found myself with people who were there for me. Instead of thinking I was lying and telling tall tales, they believed every word. Their added support was very helpful in getting past my own denial as well as some of the programmed messages I had.

I don't know if other victims or survivors of abuse have utilized this available resource. It is certainly there and available. It's really amazing what that extra support can do to help work through important issues.
There were countless times I had "revelations" of family issues just sitting there listening to others talk. Identifying the problem in the first place is such a huge part of getting free, these occurrences always seemed to help me along in my process.

I must point out, however, there will always be those doing therapy or twelve step programs who are working the system instead of healing. It is important to be able to recognize those folks and not get drawn into their web. That kind of support will only keep one stuck.

I think one of the ways to identify such people is they always seem to be complaining about the same thing. Over and over, the details might be different but the underlying theme is the same........they are victims and it's not their fault. I always stayed clear of those people. Their opinions were not helpful and they always seemed to make me feel worse.

So now that I've shared a bit of my thoughts and history about ACOA in my healing process, I'm going to post those characteristics. I might add the wording in these is slightly different than the way I saw them those 20 years ago (My original copy is stuffed in that box I am still trying to unbury.) but the idea is still the same. So here goes..........

Characteristics of Adult Children of Alcoholics

1. Isolation, fear of people, and fear of authority figures.

2. Difficulty with identity issues related to seeking constantly the approval of others.

3. Frightened by angry people and personal criticism.

4. Have become an alcoholic yourself, married one, or both. A variation would be the attraction to another compulsive personality such as a workaholic. The similarity is that neither is emotionally available to deal with overwhelming and unhealthy dependency needs.

5. Perpetually being the victim and seeing the world from the perspective of a victim.

6. An overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Concerned about the needs of others to the degree of neglecting your own wants and needs. This is a protective behavior for avoiding a good look at yourself and taking responsibility to identify and resolve your own personal difficulties.

7. Feelings of guilt associated with standing up for your rights. It is easier to give into the demands of others.

8. An addiction to excitement. Feeling a need to be on the edge, and risk-taking behaviors.

9. A tendency to confuse feelings of love and pity. Attracted to people that you can rescue and take care of.

10. Avoidance of feelings related to traumatic childhood experiences. Unable to feel or express feelings because it is frightening and/or painful and overwhelming. Denial of feelings.

11. Low self-esteem. A tendency to judge yourself harshly and be perfectionistic and self-critical.

12. Strong dependency needs and terrified of abandonment. Will do almost anything to hold onto a relationship in order to avoid the fear and pain of abandonment.

13. Alcoholism is a family disease which often results in a family member taking on the characteristics of the disease even if they are not alcoholics (para-alcoholics). Dysfunctional relationships, denial, fearful, avoidance of feelings, poor coping, poor problem solving, afraid that others will find out what you are really like, etc.

14. Tendency to react to things that happen versus taking control and not being victim to the behavior of others or situations created by others.

15. A chameleon. A tendency to be what others want you to be instead of being yourself. A lack of honesty with yourself and others.

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