“The psyche cannot tolerate a vacuum of love. In the severely abused or deprived child, pain, dis-ease, and violance rush in to fill the void. In the average person in our culture, who has been only “normally” deprived of touch, anxiety and an insatiable hunger for posessions replace the missing eros. The child lacking a sense of welcome, joyous belonging, gratuitous security, will learn to hoard the limited supply of affection. According to the law of psychic compensation, not being held leads to holding on, grasping, addiction, posessiveness. Gradually, things replace people as a source of pleasure and security. When the gift of belonging with is denied, the child learns that love means belongin to. To the degree we are arrested at this stage of development, the needy child will dominate our motivations. Other people and things (and there is fundamentally no difference) will be seen as existing solely for the purpose of “my” survival and satisfaction. “Mine” will become the most important word.”
― Sam Keen,
Because I believe that codependency is the breeding ground for addiction, I would like for everyone interested in helping addicts to be aware of the characteristics of children growing up in families with addiction. I also believe that that applies to most of us. Understanding that addiction can be about money, power (which is what codependency is about), religion, sex, etc. as well as substance abuse (food, legal drugs, illegal drugs, alcohol, etc.) shows how wide-spread addiction is.
Anyone who has worked in a workplace with a “good daddy/mommy” or a “bad daddy/mommy” knows this experience also. I have trouble with rage addicts because I grew up with a father addicted to rage–he was a rageaholic. So I have to keep a close check on my codependency around them as I have a basic desire to kick them in the behind–in a ladylike way, of course. But judgment hurts me as well as the other so I try to remember to pray for tolerance when in the company of someone who wants to control me with his/her anger.
The following sites have good references to the ACA/ACOA characteristics. Don’t be surprised if you identify with a few of them.
(1) My favorite ACA site is the home site for Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization. On this site, a reder can find a meeting, buy the ACA literature, learn more about ACA, and read daily meditations strengthening recovery. From the introduction to ACA: ”
“Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) is a Twelve Step, Twelve Tradition program of men and women who grew up in alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional homes. The ACA program was founded on the belief that family dysfunction is a disease that effected us as children and affects us as adults. Our membership also includes adults from homes where alcohol or drugs were not present; however, abuse, neglect or unhealthy behavior was.”
“We meet to share our experience and recovery in an atmosphere of mutual respect. We discover how alcoholism and other family dysfunction affected us in the past and how it influences us in the present. We begin to see the unhealthy elements of our childhood. By practicing the Twelve Steps, focusing on the ACA Solution, and accepting a loving Higher Power of our own understanding, we find freedom.”
(2) Codependents Anonymous is the CODA site. This site includes a great list of characteristics centering around denial (“perceive myself as being completely unselfish and dedicated to the well being of others”), low self esteem pattern (“I do not ask others to meet my needs or desires”), compliance (“I am extremely loyal, remaining in harmful situations too long) and control (“I have to be “needed” in order to have a relationship with others.
(4) A current blog post about why some ACOA’s thrive in the addiction and the characteristics they learned from being in the addiction. Great article and I recognized why creativity has been my salvation.