Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I decided to blog about something very near to my heart in honor of recovery month. In fact, I am not sure if most of my friends even know this about me. I like to think that I am pretty open, but it does take me a while to warm up. One of the reasons that I majored in Chemical Dependency Counseling in college was because it holds a very dear spot in my heart. I am an Adult Child of an Alcoholic, and it has undoubtedly shaped me into who I am today.

After having a few conversations with other ACOA's I realized that this was not something I talk about too often. I wanted to relate to the many friends I have who are also ACOA and let them know that although some of us may not feel comfortable going to ACOA meetings and support groups, we are not alone. Many of us face the same struggles on a day to day basis. My hope is that in speaking about some of the characteristics that I most identify with as an ACOA others may be able to open up about their life as an ACOA.

Characteristics of ACOA
1. They feel they must be in control of behavior and feelings at all times. This desire to control may be an overreaction to growing up where active alcoholism is present. This tendency to want to be in control at all times is grounded in fear. If all aspects of their life cannot be controlled, it will automatically get worse.

Control is one of my biggest issues involving my life today. Losing control is an emotional roller-coaster with me!

2. ACOA’s struggle with intimate relationships. Being intimate requires releasing some control and being vulnerable. This is difficult. Love is often expressed as rescuing people or trying to fix others problems, rather than being a partner. A survival skill growing up may have been the need to hide feelings and not express them for fear of consequences.

I do not know if I have ever been in a relationship where I haven't been trying to rescue and save my partner!

3. Perfectionism, heightened sense of responsibility. Children in alcoholic families learned that if they were ‘perfect’ they might get positive attention. In many cases whatever they did was not enough. comes from how they are viewed by others. They can be extremely self-critical, never attaining the ideal of how good they ‘should’ be.

Self-esteem is purely based on pleasing others.

4. A tendency toward compulsive behaviors. Being a child of an alcoholic increases the likelihood the child will become addicted to alcohol. It is also noted however, a tendency toward other compulsive behaviors such as gambling, sexual promiscuity, disordered eating or addictive relationships.

I have had every single one of these issues besides alcoholism and drug addiction.

5. Abandonment fears. I believe this stems from the learned uncertainty in childhood of not knowing what was coming next, a hug or a slap. Adult children often believe that any relationship, no matter how bad or abusive, is better than none at all. Often they will do anything to hang on.

"Because if this relationship doesn't work, I would be alone forever."

6. Judge themselves without mercy. There is no excuse for failure or disappointment.  

7. Overreact to changes over which they have no control.

8. Constantly seek approval and affirmation. Because unless we are pleasing someone we are not doing enough. Is it good enough, did it make you proud, what would be better?

9. Usually feel that they are different from other people. Nobody could ever understand what I have gone through.

10. Super responsible or super irresponsible.
I seem to take on odd responsibilities that have nothing to do with me but that end up consuming my time and energy.

11. Extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved. Because next time they will change and it will be better. They would never hurt us again with their behavior. This time its different.