Afterward, when he saw the despair of his family, and reckoned up the money he had spent, the tears came into his eyes, and he began the long battle with the specter.THE JUNGLE – Upton Sinclair
After that they lived apart. She went to the priest and got a separation from him with care of the children. She would give him neither money nor food nor house-room; and so he was obliged to enlist himself as a sheriff’s man. He was a shabby stooped little drunkard with a white face and a white moustache white eyebrows, pencilled above his little eyes, which were veined and raw; and all day long he sat in the bailiff’s room, waiting to be put on a job.James Joyce.
Source: “I thought about the days i had handed over to a bottle..the nights i can’t remember..the mornings i slept thru..all the time spent running from myself.” ― Mitch Albom, For One More Day. | THE OLD PROVERBIAL RECOVERY
15 May 2016 Written by ROR StaffThere are many adults among us — many of whom you might not recognize — with intimate knowledge of what it’s like to grow up with an addicted parent. Sadly, there are also many people who love those adults and don’t know what it is like to have become an adult who was once a child raised amongst chaos. For many of us, our entire childhood was swathed in dysfunction. As development goes, the severe dysfunction of our childhood probably resulted in severely delayed or stunted emotional growth.Being the child of an addict is complicated, and we can’t always verbalize how so. Even if we’ve had enough therapy to buy our psychiatrist a boat, we still may not even know we are dysfunctional. Bear with us as we continue the work of figuring it all out.Here are the 10 things we’d like you to know — even if we can’t articulate them:1. We don’t know “normal.” Normal is a relative term, yes. But our normal is not on the relativity scale. Normal for us can include instability, fear, even abuse. Normal might be a parent passed out in their own vomit. Normal might be taking care of your household, your siblings, your parent(s), and very rarely yourself. This profound lack of understanding leads us to the conclusion that normal = perfect, and less than perfect is unacceptable. Perfect is a non-negotiable term — there are no blurred lines. It’s all or nothing.2. We are afraid. A lot of the time. And the fear is hidden — sometimes very deeply. We are afraid of the future, specifically the unknown. The unknown was our reality for many years. We may not have known where our parents were, or when they’d return. We might not have known if there would be dinner or drunkenness. While we may know now that those things aren’t likely to happen, that doesn’t make life any less terrifying. This fear may express itself in a number of ways, everything from anger to tears. We probably won’t recognize it as fear.3. We are afraid (part 2: children). We are afraid to have children and when we do, we are afraid to wreck them, like we are wrecked. If we can acknowledge our own damage, we definitely don’t want to inflict it on anyone else. We don’t really know how to be a parent. It’s actually panic inducing. We will second-guess everything we do and may over-parent for fear of under-parenting.4. We feel guilty. About everything. We don’t understand self-care. We don’t have clear-cut boundaries. If we stand up for ourselves, we feel guilty. If we take care of ourselves, we feel guilty. Our life is built on a foundation of I give to you and receive nothing. We don’t know how to receive.5. We are controlling. Because we don’t know normal, and because we are afraid, we may often seek to exert control over anything and everything around us. This can manifest itself in our homes, our work, or our relationships. We may often be inflexible. We don’t usually see this as dysfunction. We will likely frame this as a strength.6. We are perfectionists. We are terribly critical of ourselves — of every detail. Because of this internal dialogue of self-loathing, we are often sensitive to criticism from others. This is deeply-seated fear of rejection. Please pause, if you are able, and choose your words with compassion. We may have lacked for love. We need it.7. We had no peace in our childhood. We don’t know peace. This is ironic, because we believe only in perfection and yet we create chaos. Chaos, stress, unrest: these are comfortable for us. We feel at home in these circumstances, not because they are healthy, but because they feel normal.8. We are in charge of everything — even if we don’t want to be (but we always want to be). This manifests itself mostly in female daughters and especially the oldest female daughters of an addict mother (we have our own books, even). Because these women — like myself — have been forced to take on the responsibilities of the incapable parent(s), they will be the first person to take on everything — to their own detriment. Responsibility is the name of the game. And we will take responsibility for everyone; their emotions, their needs, their lives. In fact, it’s easier to take responsibility for everyone else than even ourselves.9. We seek approval. Constantly. Our self-esteem is exceptionally low. Our addicted parents were unable to provide the love and nurturing we required to form secure attachment. As such, we will seek that in all our relationships going forward. All of them. This need for approval manifests itself in generally self-sacrificing behavior. We will give to our own detriment. Please remind us to take care of ourselves, too.10. We live in conflict. We want to be perfect, but we can’t because we are paralyzed by fear. We want to control our surroundings, but we desperately want to be taken care of. We desperately want to be self-assured, because we know that’s the key to the control we seek, but we can’t be self-assured because we grew up believing we had no worth.If
Common ACOA traits include:Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves fiercelyThey may constantly seek approval and affirmationACOAs usually feel that they are different from other peopleAdult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsibleSome have difficulty having funAdult children of alcoholics take themselves way too seriouslyACAs have difficulty with intimate relationshipThey overreact to changes or circumstances over which they have no controlAdult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeservedAs a Counselor specializing in ACoAs, I’ll add one more. A bonus ACA trait. My favorite is: Adult Children of Addicts guess what normal is.
In the years since I researched and wrote Mean Mothers, I’ve talked to women about our shared experiences. Every woman’s story is different; perhaps the greatest commonality is the discovery that each of us is not alone, that we are not the only girls or women to have had mothers who can’t or won’t love them. The taboos about “dissing” our mothers, and the myths of motherhood which portray all mothers as loving, serve to isolate unloved daughters. That discovery lifts part of the hurt and burden, but not all of it. The following catalog of what can happen to a daughter who grows up without a mother’s love and support is derived from anecdote, and not a scientific survey; it’s not meant to be inclusive, either. Again, I write not as a psychologist or therapist, but as a fellow traveler.