Growing Up in a Home Controlled by Alcoholism Means Growing Up Learning to Shut Down Our Feelings

I like to bring the posts of other bloggers about a topic for recovery to my readers. Emotional sobriety comes very slowly but it begins by accepting whatever emotion we are running from.

1.  Syd (one of my favorite bloggers because he posts from his AlAnon experience) has written a great post about growing up with alcoholism. He is not an alcoholic yet he has recognized that he took on the same emotional characteristics of someone who is alcoholic.

From his blog, I’m Just F.I.N.E.–Recovery if AlAnon, he writes: “Adult children of alcoholics”:

“There is a check list of characteristics that those of us share who were brought up in an alcoholic or other type of dysfunctional household.  Isolation, unease with authority figures, people pleasing, sensitivity to criticism, difficulty in intimate relationships, fear of abandonment and rejection are just some of the traits that are developed to cope with alcoholic dysfunction.”

“Sadly enough, many children who grew up in alcoholic homes also become alcoholic or marry one. It is what we know how to do–seek out the familiar–even if the familiar is hurtful.  I can think back on so many relationships that were not right, largely because I was attracted to those who were most familiar, yet the most injurious to me.”

“We really grew up with such a sense of responsibility that there was scarce time for childlike fun.  I know that I would escape through play from the anxiety that was always just below the surface.  Lives are lived in fear of being found out.  So we learn to hide feelings and the truth from others. We lived life from the standpoint of victims, and became reactors. I know that I did what I could to drive people away so that they would abandon me because I wanted to be the victim.”

“It is amazing really what alcoholism does to those who don’t even drink.  I took on all the characteristics of the disease without ever being alcoholic.  When the characteristics of an adult child of an alcoholic were read tonight,  I recognized the “old” me in every single line.  But the “new” me who has been in recovery for four years now sees that there has been a behavioral change.  I no longer exhibit every characteristic.  That indicates to me that there has been a profound change in how I view others  and myself since coming to Al-Anon.  Yes, I still have a fear of abandonment, but it is not as crippling a fear as it once was.  I see that my relationship with others has changed for the better.  I am no longer wanting to solve their problems or accept responsibility for their actions. And I have learned to appreciate who I am at last–imperfect but okay. ”

“Ask yourself these questions and see if some resonate with you:”

  • Do you constantly seek approval and affirmation?
  • Do you fail to recognize your accomplishments?
  • Do you fear criticism?
  • Do you overextend yourself?
  • Have you had problems with your own compulsive behavior?
  • Do you have a need for perfection?
  • Are you uneasy when your life is going smoothly, continually anticipating problems?
  • Do you feel more alive in the midst of a crisis?
  • Do you still feel responsible for others, as you did for the problem drinker in your life?
  • Do you care for others easily, yet find it difficult to care for yourself?
  • Do you isolate yourself from other people?
  • Do you respond with fear to authority figures and angry people?
  • Do you feel that individuals and society in general are taking advantage of you?
  • Do you have trouble with intimate relationships?
  • Do you confuse pity with love, as you did with the problem drinker?
  • Do you attract and/or seek people who tend to be compulsive and/or abusive?
  • Do you cling to relationships because you are afraid of being alone?
  • Do you often mistrust your own feelings and the feelings expressed by others?
  • Do you find it difficult to identify and express your emotions?
  • Do you think someone’s drinking may have affected you?

“Just remember that we didn’t choose this disease.  We were simply in the way of it.  And we learned about it over many years.  Now I am undoing all that has been harmful to me.  It takes time–One day at a time.”

2. From Woman Anonymous 7: Family of origin and self-esteem issues:

“I’d stayed up too late last night (watching Battlestar Galactica in bed on my iPad!,) gotten up early, and had a long day. As we waited for the check, Mom asked how my day was and I mentioned that I was pretty bushed. She thoughtfully offered to go to hobby group with Son. Since she’d accompanied him a few times before I didn’t think he’d mind.”

“But when I told him Mom was going with him instead of me, he began to protest and continued to beg me to go as we made our way to the parking lot. I was surprised, and torn because as we approach the end of Son’s single digit birthdays, I have a limited number of such opportunities left.”

“He continued to cling to me and whine (not too passionately, but stubbornly nonetheless.)”

“My mom absolutely couldn’t tolerate it.”

“As I listened to Son’s faux-whining and gave further consideration to my decision, she immediately tried to shut him down – I think in my defense, although I hadn’t asked to be defended.”

“It’s okay, Mom, he just wants me to go with him,” I said, soaking in the feeling of Son’s arms wrapped around me in his attempt to obstruct my progress toward departure. But she kept offering alternatives and telling him to stop being upset.”

“I quickly lost my patience and told her the conversation was between me and Son, and to stop involving herself in a discussion that didn’t involve her.”

“And then came the truly astonishing, revealing part of the conversation:”

Son: You have to go, and that’s that!

Mom: Stop that! She said she’s tired. Do you want her to drive while she’s tired and get into an accident?

Me: Mom!! Stop trying to make him feel guilty!! Stop trying to make him feel responsible for things that he’s not responsible for!

Mom: Well he has to know the circumstances!

“Oh my god, how instantly she can transport us to another universe!”

Me: But that’s COMPLETELY MADE UP!!! That hasn’t happened, and it’s not going to happen!

“But she couldn’t see it.”

“She doesn’t understand that she was trying to make him feel guilty for wanting me to come with him to hobby group, and she doesn’t get the concept that she’s teaching him to feel responsible for everything that happens in the world.”

“If you want your mother to come with you to hobby group when she’s tired, and then she does, and then she has an accident, it will be your fault for begging her to go.”

“She can’t see that she’s teaching him to try to anticipate how things will turn out and then shape his desires, needs and feelings around that, as if anyone can really anticipate the future.”

“She can’t grasp that she’s telling him that he has the power to keep his mother alive by not expressing what he wants in that moment.”

“No wonder I’ve lived most of my life unable to validate my feelings, needs and desires in a healthy way.”

Photo credit.

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