“To grow up to be a whole person [people]…need the experience of true acceptance, they have to know that they are truly seen…; they need to stumble and sometimes fall and to be greeted by a…smile.” -Elan Golomb, Ph.D.
Many families are touched by the detrimental effects of alcohol and other drug use, abuse and dependence. Many children grow into adulthood having a difficult time putting a finger on exactly what is wrong but they know something (or many things) are not working in their lives. Many struggle with financial difficulties, chronic unhappiness, relationship challenges, loneliness, sexuality concerns and dysfunctions, intimacy issues and issues with social skills. Adult children of alcoholics and other drugs tend to look similar to children of narcissistic, or self absorbed, parents.
The following is known as “The Laundry List” of traits of adult children of alcoholics (published in 1978 by Tony A.):
- Become isolated
- Fear people and authority figures
- Become approval seekers
- Be frightened of angry people
- Be terrified of personal criticism
- Become alcoholics, marry them or both
- View life as a victim
- Have an overwhelming sense of responsibility
- Be concerned more with others than themselves
- Feel guilty when they stand up for themselves
- Become addicted to excitement
- Confuse love and pity
- ‘Love’ people who need rescuing
- Stuff their feelings
- Lose the ability to feel
- Have low self-esteem
- Judge themselves harshly
- Become terrified of abandonment
- Do anything to hold on to a relationship
- Become “para-alcoholics” without drinking
- Become reactors instead of actors
Adult Children and Relationships
Many adult children have challenges in their interpersonal, social and romantic relationships. They often find themselves ‘getting lost’ in the relationship, unable to see where they end and the other person begins. At the same time, they may feel a distance present in the relationship that leaves them feeling unsatisfied, confused and irritated. Adult children are often attracted to workaholics, alcoholics, narcissists, or other types of addicts, which leave them feeling a sense of hollowness internally.
Adult Children and Substance Use
Some adult children find that they struggle themselves with addiction issues. Children who grow up in a home where alcohol is abused or over-used, are four times more likely to misuse alcohol themselves. Please check out this page, if you feel this might apply to you. Although some adults who grew up in a dysfunctional household choose not to drink or use other drugs, some of the common traits listed on this page can still be experienced. This is considered ‘para alcoholic’ behavior, or behavior that mimics that of alcoholics or addicts. Some of these traits may include: issues with developing effective coping skills, exhibiting denial and codependency, poor problem solving skills, immaturity and entering into dysfunctional relationships.
Denise Renye, M.Ed, M.A., PsyD ~ Licensed Psychologist PSY28096