Been embarrassed at the behavior of someone you know after s/he drinks?
Poured out liquor to keep someone from drinking?
Threatened to leave someone because of too much drinking?
Called work to give an excuse for someone who could not work that day because of high alcohol intake the day/night before?
Felt angry that your family was not being taken care of because of high alcohol intake the day / night before?
Felt fearful at what would happen to you and/or your children if drinking continues in your family?
Gone looking for someone who you think is out drinking?
Called bars, neighbor, friends, looking for someone you believe to be drinking?
Increased your own alcohol consumption to keep up with someone who is a heavy drinker?
Wanted to move and "start over" as a solution to heavy drinking?
Been revolted by others' drinking behavior?
Been unable to sleep because someone has stayed out late drinking or not come home at all?
Resented the fact that there is heavy drinking occurring in your family or with someone close to you?
Felt hopeless about a drinking situation?
Cut down on outside activities so that you could keep an eye on someone who is drinking?
Nagged or gotten into quarrels with someone who drinks?
Felt that if the drinker would just stop drinking, everything would be okay?
For more information, contact an Al-Anon group near you. Al-Anon often meets at the same place and time as Alcoholics Anonymous. The telephone is most likely to be answered at around noon or 6 or 7 p.m.
FREQUENTLY SEEN CHARACTERISTICS OF ADULT CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS
A. We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.
B. We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.
C. We are frightened by angry people and any personal criticism.
D. We either become alcoholics, marry them, or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.
E. We live life from the viewpoint of victims and are attracted by that weakness in our lives, friendships and career relationships.
F. We have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility, and it is easier for us to be concerned with others rather than ourselves; this enables us not to look too closely at our faults or our responsibility to ourselves.
G. We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.
H. We become addicted to excitement.
I. We confuse love and pity and tend to "love" people we can "pity" and rescue.
J. We have stuffed our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feeling because it hurts so much. This includes our good feelings such as joy and happiness. Our being so out of touch with our feelings is one of our basic denials.
K. We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.
L. We're dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold onto a relationship in order NOT to experience painful abandonment feelings. We received this from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.
M. Alcoholism is a family disease and we become para-alcoholics and take on the characteristics of that disease even though we do not pick up the drink.
N. Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.
If you are an adult child of an alcoholic, find an ACOA group. Possibly members of Al-Anon will know where the nearest such group meets. Or possibly your United Way agency will have a central referral office.
Family roles taken by children of alcoholics:
FAMILY HERO (or super kid)
As an adult may become a workaholic; can never be wrong; marries a dependent person; needs to control and manipulate; compulsive; can't say no; can't fail.
SCAPEGOAT (or problem kid)
As an adult may be an alcoholic or addict; unplanned pregnancy; cops; jail; TROUBLE. The scapegoat takes the blame for whatever is wrong, and distracts the family from their other problems. Also called the Black Sheep.
THE LOST CHILD (Adjustor)
As an adult: Indecisive; no zest; stays the same; alone or promiscuous; dies early; can't say no.
MASCOT (or Family Clown / Placator)
As an adult: Compulsive clown; can't handle stress; marry a HERO; always on the verge of hysterics.
Another description is of the:
Responsible Child. Some children assume the role of the parent, by feeding and caring for younger brothers and sisters.
Adjuster Child. Children who simply accept whatever behavior a drinking parent dishes out. Many hide out and become quiet and withdrawn.
Acting-Out Child: Some children assume blame for their parent's drinking and deflect attention from family problems by creating problems of their own at home and school. (Same as Scapegoat or Black Sheep child.)
Placator Child: Children who ignore their own unhappiness to comfort others. Many become family clowns and try to cover problems with jokes.
Strong role identification is one reason why many adult children of alcoholics marry problem drinkers.
It's been called the "three generation" disease, passed from parent to children, to children's children. One in eight Americans grows up in alcoholic households. Home is often a tattlefield, and growing up is a struggle to cope with constant stress and embarrassment.
Childhood is a time when needs are often often ignored, and family life centers around the drinking parent. The alcoholic household leaves emotional scars that can last a lifetime.
Denial is a key feature of the alcoholic family: Children learn early that the one thing most likely to cause distress and upset in the home is to openly name the problem. The confusion of denying the obvious and the struggle to look good for outsiders can trigger a number of emotional problems in children of alcoholics. (Also called the elephant in the living room. Everybody knows it is there, everybody has to walk around it, but nobody can admit it is there.)
The features include:
GUILT. The child may believe that s/he is the cause of the parent's drinking.
ANXIETY. Constant worry over the family's troubles and fear of fights or violence.
EMBARRASSMENT. The child is ashamed of the situation at home and frequently withdraws from friends or other family members.
CONFUSION. The drinking parent's sudden mood swings and unpredictable behavior and the absence of a regular daily schedule can cause fear and uncertainty.
INABILITY TO TRUST. Repeated disappointment, broken promises, and outright lies by the alcoholic parent may lead to problems in trusting others or developing close relationships.
ANGER. The child resents the drinking parent and may also be angry with the non-drinking parent for lack of support and protection.
DEPRESSION. Loneliness and a sense of helplessness over the family's troubles.
A variety of warning signs may signal a drinking problem at home, including:
Failure in school or truancy
Withdrawal from classmates and friends
Frequent physical complaints
Drug or alcohol abuse
Overly aggressive play
Overachievement and emotional distance from peers
SIGNS OF THE FAMILY DISEASE
(from How to Stop the One You Love From Drinking, by Mary Ellen Pinkham)
Many of the signs of alcoholism that the user displays are mirrored in the "alcoholic family" which also experiences PREOCCUPATION, RIGIDITY, INCREASE IN TOLERANCE (of alcoholic behavior) LOSS OF CONTROL, and DEFENSIVENESS.
When there is an alcoholic in the family, other members' preoccupation with the disease can take many forms:
*wondering where he is
* hoping the kids will be asleep when he gets home
* hiding the keys to the car
* hoping she's driving safely
* trying to limit social situations to those in which no liquor is served.
* driving around town looking for the car in bar parking lots
* calling around town looking for him
* trying to get him/her to talk to a clergyman or psychologist
* marking bottles or diluting their contents
* hiding or breaking bottles
* handling the family finances so he won't have drinking funds
* wondering how his/her job is going
* taking pictures of him when he is drunk, to show him how awful he looks
* leaving self-help books around the house.
* turning up the volume on public service announcements on alcoholism
* minimizing his/her drinking
* wondering when his/her good/bad behavior will start/stop
* changing your appearance to please him/her
* getting the kids to behave so he won't blow up at them
Co-dependents become RIGID and stuck in their own pattern. They may repeatedly try to control the user, try to protect the rest of the family from the consequences of the drinking, avoid social functions, cover up or make excuses for the drinker, blame the drinker, hold themselves aloof becoming a saint or a supermom, or a self-righteous know it all. The family may get into a set routine in which a child routinely sides with one parent or the other. Everyone will take on a specific role.
Over the years you may INCREASE YOUR TOLERANCE for how much of the problem you will let slide by. As the disease progresses, you may come to accept shabby behavior as being normal.
For the co-dependent LOSS OF CONTROL is a result of addiction to the alcoholic. The co-dependent now acts in ways that contradict his/her own values.
Lying to the alcoholic's boss
lying to family and friends
wishing the user were dead
expressing anger, then feeling remorseful
thinking of suicide
joining him/her in using chemicals
ignoring the pain or hurt of the children
abusing the children
abandoning spiritual beliefs
having an affair
THE ALCOHOLIC AND THE ENABLER You'd think that the chemically dependent person would look to the enabler as his helper, but he has tremendously negative feelings about himself, and unconsciously winds up projecting them on the enabler:
* If you cared about me more than you do about the kids and your family, then maybe I wouldn't drink.
* You can't control the kids, so I drink to relieve the stress.
* If you took better care of yourself, maybe I wouldn't need the bottle for companionship.
Chances are, the more difficult it is for you to label your feelings, the more advanced the
alcoholism. As the chemically dependent person has become sicker, so have you.
Here is a list of descriptive words that might help you to define your feelings:
abandoned, afraid, ambivalent, anxious, apathetic, apprehensive, ashamed, awkward,
bored, cheated, contemptuous, defeated, defensive, despondent, disappointed, discontent,
discouraged, disturbed, down, dull, embarrassed, empty, exasperated, fearful, foolish, forlorn,
frustrated, guilty, helpless, hopeless, hurt, impatient, inadequate, indifferent,
inferior, insecure, intolerant, irritated jealous, let down, lonely, miserable, misunderstood,
nervous, numb, obligated, pained, provoked, pushed, put out, regretful, rejected, resentful,
robbed, sucked in, trapped, tricked, uncomfortable, unhappy, unloved, unsure, unworthy, used, worried.
* Codependents feel trapped, depressed, and alone.
* Codependents feel embarassed by the behavior of their chemically dependent family members--and feel that that behavior reflects on them.
* Codependents are easily influenced by what others say, or do, and by what others might be thinking or feeling.
* Codependents let others tell them how to feel, dress, and behave.
* Codependents work hard to keep other people from being upset with them or disappointed in them. They may lie or distort the truth to avoid making others angry.
* Codependents hide their less than perfect behaviors (like making mistakes, swearing, smoking, or overeating) from family members.
* Codependents can be afraid to leave home for fear that something will happen to someone they love.
* Codependents feel obligated to take care of other people. They feel guilty when they ask for something for themselves. They give up their own wants and wishes to make other people happy.
They give up their own wants and wishes to make other people happy. On the other hand, they try to control other people in order to get what they want without having to come right and ask for it. (If this sounds confusing and complicated, that's because it is!)
IS YOUR PARENT'S DRINKING AFFECTING YOU?
1. I feel like I get blamed for everything that goes wrong.
2. I feel like I take care of everyone and no one takes care of me.
3. I often feel afraid when people get angry at me.
4. I often feel guilty even when I haven't done anything wrong.
5. I worry about my parents' alcohol or other drug use.
6. I sometimes pour out bottles of alcohol I find around the house (or add water to dilute them.)
7. I daydream almost all the time.
8. I often feel depressed for no apparent reason.
9. I lie about may parents' d & a use.
10. I try hard to do everything right.
11. I often feel lonely and rejected.
12. I have found drugs or alcohol that my parents have hidden.
13. I often have trouble concentrating, so my schoolwork suffers.
14. I'm afraid to ride in the car with my parents when they've veen drinking or using.
15. I feel guilty about my parents' drug use--as if it's somehow my fault.
16. I try to hide the fact that my family seems different from other families.
17. I make excuses for my parents when they've been using.
18. Sometimes I just want to give up.
19. I sometimes get embarrassed by my parents' behavior, especially when they've been drinking or using other drugs.
20. I worry a lot and have trouble sleeping.
21. I sometimes feel ashamed for my family.
22. I hate holidays because my parents always get drunk or high.
23. I don't believe the promises my parents make to me.
24. It scares me to be around my parents when they've been using.
25. I want things to change.
Kid using drugs? Consider TOUGH LOVE (r)
A self-help program for parents, kids, and counselors
P.O. Box 1069, Doylstown, PA 18901 (call) 1800-333 1069
The Ten Beliefs of TOUGH LOVE:
1. Family problems have roots and supports in the culture.
2. Parents are people too.
3. Parents' material and emotional resources are limited.
4. Parents and kids are not equal.
5. Blaming keeps people helpless.
6. Kids' behavior affects parents. Parents' behavior affects kids.
7. Taking a stand precipitates a crisis.
8. From controlled crisis comes the possibility of positive change.
9. Families need to give and get support in their own community in order to change.
10. The essence of family life is cooperation, not togetherness.