The following facts alone give pause and
reason on the subject:
In the US, twenty million children are experiencing
physical, verbal and emotional abuse from parents
addicted to alcohol and/or drugs. This is tragic when we
consider that childhood is the foundation
on which our
entire lives are built. When a child's efforts to bond with
an addicted parent
are thwarted, the result is confusion and
intense anxiety. In order to survive in a home devoid of
healthy parental love,
limits, and consistency, they must
develop "survival skills" very early in life.
In a chaotic, dysfunctional family, the lack of external
control through consistent loving discipline results
inability to develop internal discipline and self control.
They learn not to depend on their parents to meet their
needs - instead, it is all up to them.
And, because they
can't trust their own parents, they become generally
suspicious and mistrustful of all human beings.
are defenseless against the projection of blame and often
feel responsible for parents' addiction.
"little adults" that feel compelled to accept
responsibilities well beyond their years.
If any of these questions sound familiar, a 12 step recovery
program might help:
1. When difficulties occur, do you need someone to blame
even if it is yourself?
2. Do you feel uncomfortable or draw a blank when asked what
it is you really want?
3. Does a dark cloud of despair or a creeping depression
sometimes seem to appear from nowhere to weigh you down?
4. Do you feel guilty or selfish whenever you say "No"?
5. Are you lonely and isolated? Do you feel like an outsider
in the midst of a crowd?
6. Can you identify only one or two extreme feelings, such
as anger or fear?
7. Do you think in black and white terms? Is life either
wonderful or miserable, with little in between?
8. Are you numb or flat, with no extremes in your feelings
9. Does your memory fog out or have giant holes where you
10. Do you feel suicidal or have a need to hurt yourself or
11. Do you tolerate unacceptable behavior even after you
have said you won't?
12. Do you have difficulty relaxing and having fun? Would
you not recognize fun if it hit you in the face?
13. Are you frequently impatient with yourself or others?
14. Do you think you are the only person in the world you
can depend on?
15. Do you feel compelled to do things for other people that
they could do for themselves?
16. Do you do things you don't want to do, rather than risk
disappointing other people.
17. Do you have difficulty trusting your own perceptions and
need to prove you're right and others are wrong in order to
18. Do you feel embarrassed or ashamed because of someone
19. Do you startle easily?
20. Do you think the best way to take care of your needs is
not to have any?
Children of Addicts:
Adapted from the book Adult Children of Alcoholics by Janet
Geringer Woititz, Ed.D.
There are some general characteristics which seem to crop up
again and again in the adult children of alcoholics.
same characteristics can be present in the adult children of
other kinds of addicts,
and, indeed, in the homes where
various kinds of dysfunctionality occurs.
In fact, many of
us will be able to recognize some aspects of our own
personalities in these characteristics,
whether alcohol was
present in our homes or not. In homes where parents were
to control/dominance issues, or where various
types of abuse may have occurred, one can find similarities
in the patterns of behavior in children from these homes and
the children of alcoholics.
The truth of addicts is they
don't just jeopardize their own happiness and life, but the
lives of those who care about them.
Knowledge is power when we can recognize certain truths
about ourselves or others,
we can then take positive steps
to change those behaviors, and to make our
experience of life and relationships more positive. Consider
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts guess at what normal
behavior is, not realizing that "normal" is a myth.
shouldn't be pursued what should be sought after is
something that feels healthy, which will vary as people
Children of alcoholics/addicts have difficulty following
from beginning to end they may have had
few role models on how to plan, implement, and complete a
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts often lie, when it
would be just as easy to tell the truth.
Lying was a part of
the family system they grew up in.
It was used by family
members as a way to preserve the peace, to avoid conflict,
and perhaps to protect other family members.
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts judge themselves
And why not? They were probably constantly
criticized while they were growing up.
The don't know how to
cut themselves slack, to chill, to give themselves a break,
or to forgive themselves the normal mistakes we all make.
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts have a hard time having
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts take themselves very
Fun and spontaneity were often repressed in childhood it could provoke a scene.
It could be unpleasant.
Seriousness was less likely to get them into trouble.
Children of alcoholics/addicts have trouble with intimate
They learned how to be emotionally reserved
with a parent who could (possibly)
hurt them in so many
As children, they could feel loved one day,
and rejected the next.
As adults they have to unlearn
and learn how to let others become
emotionally close to them.
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts overreact to situations
over which they have no real control.
They grew up with no
control over their environment, and as adults, they cling to
the control they have.
They feel more competent than others
to make decisions, and have a hard time trusting another's judgement.
Children of alcoholics/addicts constantly seek approval and
affirmation from others.
They grew up insecure. In
childhood, the message wasn't one of unconditional love
it's tough to accept positive remarks from others,
the person desperately wants to hear it and believe it.
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts have a hard time
They assume everyone is at ease except
They don't realize how many people feel just as they
do, have experienced many of the same things.
feels different, isolated, though in fact they are a part of
a large club!
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts are either
irresponsible, or incredibly responsible.
alternate between these states).
They take on huge tasks, or
else they walk away from a big responsibility.
adults, these people will take on a large task not because
they are overly confident,
but because they fear if they
don't take it on, everyone will "find out" that they are
Procrastination is often an escape
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts are intensely loyal
even when it is obvious that their loyalty may be misplaced.
They learned in the home to stick things out, that
relationships are difficult,
and that once you are in them
you have to stay with it (even when better instincts
indicate they should leave).
Adult children of alcoholics/addicts are impulsive.
didn't see modeling of "thinking through the consequences of
my actions" when they were a child.
They didn't see the
parent learn from his or her own mistakes.
So in the
person's own adult life, they can fling themselves into one
activity after another,
one buying spree after another,
relationships, projects, etc.,
and then spend a lot of time
cleaning up after the ensuing mess.
compulsivity it's one of the aspects of their own behavior
can most trouble the adult child of an
One strategy here is to learn ways to
delay taking an action when feeling driven by an impulse.
is important to buy some time to think about the
consequences of the actions being contemplated.
help with this and other behaviors.
Having someone to talk
to, even if they aren't a therapist, can be helpful.
meaningful activities to turn to in place of the impulse,
can also help.
Success may come with a variety of methods.
There is always cause for hope.
We have the capacity to
think, to generate positive thoughts and encouragement for
to reach out to friends, to create a healthier
environment for ourselves and those who love us.
make the mistake of thinking we can heal our
That is up to them, and them alone.
If they make a choice to become sober,
we can be loving and
supportive, we can be encouraging, but we can't force
sobriety on them.
If they never find sobriety, we mustn't
think that it is our fault, that we somehow failed them.
This is a victory or a defeat that has to be fought out by
the alcoholic/addicted person themselves.