August 30, 2020

You Grew Up With A Problem Drinking Parent, Right?

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Typical Personality Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Almost 15 million people struggle with alcoholism in the United States. Less than half of those who suffer receive treatment. Those who suffer do not suffer alone though.

Alcoholism transcends beyond those who are suffering the disease. Growing up with the disease present in the home can lead to difficult-to-manage traits of adult children of alcoholics.

These traits can make it hard for children of alcoholics to cope with adulthood and more. Let’s take a look at some of these behaviours and traits and how they shape those who suffer.

The Laundry List

In 1978 “The Laundry List” was published by writer Tony A. which gave life to the group Adult Children of Alcoholics. The ACoA laundry list has since been used to identify the traits and behaviors of children who grew up with an alcoholic in the home or close family.

As the name implies there is a multitude of traits that can arise. There are 14 main traits of adult children of alcoholics. These behaviors and traits make managing normal adult tasks challenging and in some cases frightening.

Let’s explore some of these traits and how they affect the children of alcoholics.

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Fear of Abandonment

Children of alcoholics develop an intense fear of abandonment. These fears often affect adult relationships and intimacies. This trait can lead them to try to manipulate and control situations to avoid negative outcomes.

This fear of abandonment often manifests itself as a fear of losing control. They fear if they lose control they will lose the people that they care about or their lives will somehow become worse.

Marrying or Becoming an Alcoholic

Often children of alcoholics will marry or become an alcoholic or both. In other cases, they may find themselves attracted to other compulsive personality types such as workaholics or thrill junkies.

They find themselves frequently attracted to those who are emotionally unavailable. In doing this they will often take on the role of ‘the rescuer’ and continue to neglect their own needs and overly invest in their partner’s issues.

The children of alcoholics will often confuse love and pity making it difficult to discern healthy relationships from toxic relationships. They are often dependent personality types who will do anything to stay in a relationship regardless of the circumstances.

Excessive Guilt

Studies show that guilt can lead to physical and mental health issues. Unfortunately for adult children of alcoholics, they suffer from severe guilt in many cases. Losses that may have been experienced were most likely not handled appropriately so depression often manifests in adulthood.

These guilt feelings make it hard for them to stand up for themselves and often leads to denial of emotions.

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Trust Issues

Growing up in a household where lies, deceit, and secret-keeping were the norm makes these adults have severe trust issues. If the alcoholic parent was often mad or angry while drinking they may be fearful of normal anger in others. As a result, have trouble trusting that their peers and partners are not mad at them.

Broken promises in childhood give them the sense that they should not trust anyone or take anyone for their word.

Harsh Self-Criticism

Many of these adults will take themselves very seriously and find it difficult to cut themselves any slack. Low self-esteem can lead to feelings of inadequacy. They may have deep feelings of being not good enough or strange.

These feelings can make it difficult to develop lasting friendships or meaningful relationships. Despite being well off or competent in the eyes of their peers they may judge themselves harshly.

Approval Seekers

These adults seek constant approval in every aspect of their lives from relationships to careers. They become people-pleasers and are devastated if they disappoint someone.

This behavior leads them to become fearful of criticism and making others angry. Many adults will become perfectionists or overachievers to seek approval.

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Victim Mentality

In adulthood, they may continue to develop relationships where they are put into situations where they are victims. In other cases, they may use their childhood to manipulate or control their friends or partners by playing the role of the victim.

A lack of understanding of emotional maturity can lead to both passive and aggressive victim mentality. Many of these adults will seek relationships and friendships based on the viewpoint of the victim.

Loss of Emotion

Showing emotions such as sadness or anger are difficult for these adults. In childhood, there may have been repercussions for showing these emotions so they will often stuff their emotions to protect themselves.

They fear powerful emotions due to their childhood experiences. It may make it quite challenging for them to express even positive feelings such as joy. They will often use this behavior of numbness to compartmentalize difficult to navigate feelings of inadequacy or intimacy.

The Traits of Adult Children of Alcoholics

Identifying the traits of adult children of alcoholics is an important step in coping with childhood trauma.  These behaviors are an endless cycle if not disrupted, and without help, they can be passed down again and again.

The children of alcoholics who grew up in a dysfunctional home are often affected very deeply. Due to their childhood environment, they have difficulty seeking help or coping with their feelings.

At my Quit Drinking Bootcamp when I ask the room who has a parent that was a heavy drinker, most of the people there put their hand up. Some worry that this implies that their drinking is hard wired or genetic. I believe that the more likely explanation is ‘social conditioning’. Your parents drinking behaviour has been implanted in your subconscious.

The good news is, my stop drinking course is very effective at removing these deeply embedded routines.

If you would like to learn more about how you can stop drinking or if you would like to learn how to help someone you love sign up for today’s free quit drinking webinar.

Do not put it off again, do it today!

Craig Beck - The Stop Drinking Expert


About the author: Stop Drinking Expert - Craig Beck ABNLP. ABHYP. DhP. is an internationally renowned, specialist alcohol cessation coach and quit drinking mentor. Using his experience as a former problem drinker, combined with professionals qualifications, accreditations and practice as an addiction therapist, ICF licensed coach, master practitioner of NLP and master hypnotherapist. Independently respected and rated. Not a substitute for professional medical advice.

Craig Beck

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