Children of Alcoholics. Part 2

March 4, 2014

The last time I posted on this topic, a woman (working on her doctorate in psychology) gave us this little factoid:

An NIH study found borderlines had 2 to 3 x more alcoholism in their families of origin than other BH disorders.

This explained why so many of my broken relationships were with people who had alcoholism in their families. And also explained why so many of them showed signs of BPD.

Then I stumbled upon a site for ACOAs that provided a laundry list of ACOA traits. I share them with you:

We became isolated and afraid of people and authority figures.

We became approval seekers and lost our identity in the process.

We are frightened of angry people and any personal criticism.

We either become alcoholics, marry them or both, or find another compulsive personality such as a workaholic to fulfill our sick abandonment needs.

We live life from the viewpoint of victims and we are attracted by that weakness in our love and friendship relationships.

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 own faults, etc.

We get guilt feelings when we stand up for ourselves instead of giving in to others.

We became addicted to excitement.

We confuse love and pity and tend to “love” people we can “pity” and “rescue.”

We have “stuffed” our feelings from our traumatic childhoods and have lost the ability to feel or express our feelings because it hurts so much (Denial).

We judge ourselves harshly and have a very low sense of self-esteem.

We are dependent personalities who are terrified of abandonment and will do anything to hold on to a relationship in order not to experience painful abandonment feelings, which we received from living with sick people who were never there emotionally for us.

Alcoholism is a family disease; and we became para-alcoholics and took on the characteristics of that disease even though we did not pick up the drink.

Para-alcoholics are reactors rather than actors.

Tony A.

31 Responses to “Children of Alcoholics. Part 2”

  1. MovingForward85 said

    My ex had an alcoholic father. She portrayed all 14 of those traits. I can ‘tick’ off everyone one of those. Experienced them all a few times.
    Ps: waiting for your reply on your other blog mate. Thanks 🙂

    • MovingForward85 said

      Thats very scary. Alcoholic parents dont necessarily have to be slum dogs. My ex’s father was extremely wealthy and his drinking brought on extremely traumatic events toward my ex which caused her to become a bpd which she is even unaware of.

    • savorydish said

      I left a reply at the other post.

      • CompletelyOut said

        Couldn’t reply to the previous comment (stupid iPhone) but that was pure poetry and I’m stealing it, “emotional poverty.” Brilliant!

      • CompletelyOut said

        Ack, Sorry! (Again, stupid iPhone!) I’m logged in with the name I selected hen I found your blog in crisis. I much prefer my “real” name, ArmyChic.

    • savorydish said

      I think it’s important to recognize our own dysfunction in this dynamic. They were attracted to us for a reason. Birds of a feather flock together.

      Truthfully I can relate to some of these traits just not to the degree that an ACOA can. I don’t share the same fight or flight response to intimacy. I don’t block people’s phone numbers when they criticize me.

      I can feel their pain. I just don’t experience it to the degree that they do. I don’t feel that extreme fear that they do. Maybe that’s because I have worked on myself. Maybe they want what I have.

      You have to be willing to go through the period of self reflection. I have dug through my past to find my own pain. But the ones I loved are not willing to do the same.

      • MovingForward85 said

        Yes for sure. I totally agree. Im definitely not saying im perfect. I too show a few of those traits but as you mentioned, not even near the level to which my ex suffered. I STILL find it interesting and scary that I can look back and pick out those traits during the relationship we had. Its like looking at it as if it were a play script.

      • ArmyChic said

        RIGHT ON THE MONEY! Until we fix ourselves, we will continue to attract this type of person. Mainly because we present such easy targets. Sadly, we may take on some of the BPD characteristics – another reason to LEAVE and get help. It’s not unlike living with an ETOHic. The behaviors are CONTAGIOUS!

      • savorydish said

        I have long suspected that it is contagious. I don’t know what proof there is but I can attest to feeling psychologically damaged after such relationships.

      • ArmyChic said

        We know children of Vietnam Vets “caught” their PTSD. There aren’t very many studies with alcoholism as a contagion. I did find one that found it could be considered a contagion and able to be ‘transmitted.’ Children model the behavior they are exposed to. With the strong genetic link between addiction and mental disorders and the fact the children are nurtured in such an environment, children of alcoholics have nature AND nurture to fend off.

  2. naples104 said

    as I have written before, if you meet someone that you think you want to spend time with dont too close too fast, find out about the persons childhood, past relationships, stability at work… It is all of the variables that are contained in the equation of good or bad mental health. Being with a person that is not mentally healthy is a doomed relationship. I was married to an adult child of alcoholic parents and she was all of these things. I thought she could change and she did for the worse. We divorced when I could not take it any more and i raised our 2 children while she drank until she hit bottom.


    • MovingForward85 said

      Hey Tom. Yeah , great advice. I guess im still pretty young (29) so its great to get advice from you and Savory. Learning a lot. Unfortunately when I first met the now…ex . I had no clue what a personality disorder was, nor what emotional damage an alcoholic parent can cause. My ex and I sat down after about 1 month and had a HUGE heart to heart conversation. Her dad was a really wealthy alcoholic whom had raped her etc and her mother became addicted to sleeping pills. So she was left to fend gor herself and sister at a young age.

      I was in a tough situation then I guess because I thought she was amazing and so strong to defend herself and younger sister. Little did I know the absolute emotional damage that causes in the future.

      I often wonder if it would have made any difference if myself and my ex were aware of her bpd?. I wasnt at the time and she still is not aware. Her psychologist has diagnosed her with depression only. How is that possible???? The psychologist knows her traumatic past. So either the shrink is absolutely useless or my ex has lied to me about her PD. I gather the former to be true cause one thing I do know is that my ex did not lie to me and really has no clue of her actions. Im glad im out of that toxic environment. Her dad was a sexually abusive alcoholic and unfaithful, her mom and brother have terrible depression and her sister has a more mild depression. Gandfather committed suicide too.

      Knowledge is definitely power. Im so glad I put a name to what I was experiencing with the ex. Thats why more people need to be aware.

      • ArmyChic said

        Did the psychologist discuss her diagnoses directly with you or did you rely on information from your BPD ex? We know how reliable that information is. Doubtful a doc would divulge HIPAA protected info, so I’m going with you got 2d hand info. And no, in my opinion, it would not have made a difference if she was aware of her diagnosis (and she may very well have been!). If she knew and chose not to address it, what hope is there in that? So sorry you went through this.

      • savorydish said

        Thank you. And none of these women were diagnosed. But all of them shared these traits. I got two of them to see a therapist. But that was a waste of time. They spent the whole time complaining about me.

      • MovingForward85 said

        Thanks ArmyChic for the reply. No, the doc did not divulge anything to me but my ex said that she had been diagnosed for depression. neither her nor her family said anything about a PD to me. Only depression. I mean… you can imagine how shocked I was to find out about BPD only after the break up.

      • savorydish said

        BPD is often misdiagnosed as depression.

      • naples104 said

        the challenge is that most people with a cluster B PD dont want to face that they have an issue, they are victims and have perfected the role to an art. Everything is someone else’s fault, they are pathological liars and very hard to treat. the easiest thing to do is medicate them with anti depressants which is not what they need and they either self medicate or go off the meds when they dont help. best advice is run and run fast in the other direction, do your due diligence on any one that you plan on being romantically involved with and if you keep picking mentally ill people to be your friends and lovers then get help because you need it too.


      • savorydish said

        Bingo. The traits posted here tell you that they react harshly to criticism. The past causes massive pain. If you go to the comment section of “Being Shut Out”, you will see this in action. My exchange with Salty Poems shows you how hard they fight to stay in denial. In one sitting, you can see how gaslighting and projection work to keep someone in denial.

      • savorydish said

        Tom, if you don’t mind, would share your own journey? What did your therapist help you to do? To make better decisions.

      • naples104 said

        I am happy to share, I have been married twice and divorced twice. I had a year relationship with a BPD after I was divorced the second time. So you should be asking why 2 marriages and one failed relationships. The first wife was an adult child of alcoholic parents and became an alcoholic her self as did her 4 siblings. She displayed all of the things that have been discussed here. I walked out one day and bought another house and moved my kids into that house before we even filed for divorced and simply told my ex we have to go. She understood as the ice made music in her glass of wine at 4 pm in the afternoon. I raised the kids for 4 years and they visited their mother and then she woke up and stopped drinking and has not touched booze in years but she is still a victim and never made any effort to address the issues of her life. But she does not drink and that is a blessing for us all.

        Along the journey I meet my second wife that was a woman that I just had to save. She is the product of a mother that married the same 2 men 4 times and she and the mother belong in a rubber room. I knew all of this going in but my need to save and fix was so strong that I was instantly drawn to her. So she mirrored everything I wanted in a woman and became the perfect mate on the surface, I was dragging her all over the world on business and she was being a good little BPD and being everything I wanted until the ring. Then she went out of warranty. Keep in mind I had my teenage kids with me and she was the surrogate mom until the ring. We got married and now she had tenure and had an exit strategy in mind which in the end cost me millions over time.


        After telling me that she could not get pregnant and did not want children, (by now she was turning on all of us as her paranoia increased and the role she was playing as the ideal arm candy, (yes I was thinking with the little head, she was a runner up in Miss CT), that role was no longer sustainable. So she alienates the older kids and becomes pregnant with twins a year into the marriage and then all hell broke loose. She wanted a life with her kids and mine were out. Of course this caused huge issues but I am not connecting the dots at this point that I must have issues too. I was way too sure that it could not be me, had to be them, in reality if you are around crazy people all your life you are crazy too.)

        So the kids are born and shortly there after we split for 2 years and I file for divorce. Almost divorced I find out that I have an autistic son and I decide to move back in with her and try to make a go of it for the sake of special needs son. I do not regret that decision, he needed me at that time more than he needed his mother so I sacrificed for the greater good. We move to an Island in FL, dock in back yard on the Gulf of Mexico and life was ok, but the mental illness was really getting bad for her and was making me even more mentally ill also. The mental illness I suffered from and still do to a certain extent is co-dependence and I will tell you why later in the story. So we are in constant conflict, the house on the water the 30 ft boat in the back yard, the money we enjoyed were not enough for either of us. The end was ugly and she had multiple affairs and we divorced 5 years ago. I lost everything, the house, the boat and a piece of my sanity. Thank God I have the kids.

        So along comes the next project to save, a full fledged BPD that was a master at mirroring. If you do not know that term look it up. She was by far the most mentally ill person that I have ever met. She was brilliant at being a BPD. She had been married 4 times that I know of now, she lied and said twice, had abandoned her children, I did know that at the time, she had multiple affairs on all of husbands, had 2 drug addicted children that had been in prison, all of which I found out over time. She was the ultimate person to save. Living in a rented room at the time, broke and pathetic and perfect for the out of control co-dependent like I was. So we began in bliss, she was perfect and I was perfect and we told one another that for a while. Cluster B PD’s cannot have a sustainable relationship but they get in your mind and you cannot let go of the fixing, you become obsessive about it, you are never finished and a real co-dependent must fix someone.

        So we rock and roll and not in the musical sense for about a year and then it really gets bad. So I tell her its over. I could not not just let that go because she needed to be fixed and she was brilliantly sick enough to know that I could not let go so easily. BPD’s know their victim well and know exactly how to punish their subjects. I attempted to reconcile and she split and went black and found a new man in a few days, then threatened me with police action if I contacted her again, all the bad stuff you have read on here about with BPD’s happened to me with this woman. It was hell for that period of time and I was very depressed. Again retrospectively, i was not missing her as much as I was missing fixing someone, but that took time for me to realize.

        So I am suffering pretty badly at this point, retrospectively not because I really cared about her but it was my fear of abandonment from co-dependence was making me crazy, my project was gone and I was left without a project a very bad place for a co-dependent.

        I find this blog as I am googling her behavior and I begin to read and realize that I must be a bit nuts myself for having all of these crazy people in my life. So I learn all about Cluster B and co-dependence and now I know I have issues and if I dont seriously address them i am doomed to find another crazy woman to save and repeat all of the mistakes that I have made. By now I am out of houses and money all of which I earned on my own and gave away to these insane women, I come from nothing.

        I set out to find a therapist that specializes in Cluster B and I called the David Lawrence Center in south west Florida and they refer me to an expert in the area that treats only cluster B and the victims of Cluster B PD’s, I was very lucky to find him. We spend the next six months discussing BPD’s and their mental illness so I can understand how dangerous these people are and learn to not want them in my life. I read books on them and become well versed in splitting and blacking, lack of object permanence, the abuse that takes place in the home of a BPD when they are children and how they can never have a sustainable relationship. All of this knowledge I needed so I can let go and stop having euphoric recall of all of the fun things that I did with this woman which from an comparison stand point to a life time, they were mere seconds in the scope of a year. I am not going to go in to detail about BPD’s we all know what they do and what they are.

        So now I have all this great information but I am still broken and that is where the real work began. I went though what used to be called regression analysis and looked back into my childhood and what happened to me. I would have told you a few years ago that my father, and I love my father, was the greatest man ever to have lived and I adored my mother she passed on mother’s day this past year of Alzheimer’s. They did the best they could, had no money but provided for my sisters and I the best they could, and my sisters are really crazy, (I have no relationship with them and I will not go into them except to say that they abandoned my mother when she needed them the most during that horrible disease and that is why I have no relationship with them.)

        So what did mom and dad do to Tom that was so bad? I had shut out years of physical and emotional abuse that was disguised as discipline. Was it bad like i had bruises and injuries, no but the method raising children at that time was harsh and justice was swift with the back of hand, straps across your legs and butt and a great deal of punishment. Lots of fear instilled.


        I will ask you to understand via research that you need to do, the attachment theory. Briefly what it says is that your relationship with your same sex parent will decide whom you pick and how you act with the opposite sex later in life.

        I was emotionally abandoned by my father, keep in mind he loved me and thought he was doing the right thing, but what he was doing was abandoning me when I needed him the most. My mother was the tough one and she would order my father to physically discipline us and he was afraid of her. He would come home from work on the railroad, we would have acted up as kids and 5 minutes into the house the punishment would start. No hello, no hugs and kisses, a strap, a paddle a back hand, no dinner and off to bed. later after a few cocktails he would come to say the apologies and the I love you… I had blocked all of that out for the most part and this therapist drew it out and it was painful. This took months. I said so many times as a child to my self, if I ever have children I will never hit them and I have 4 children and I have never hit them.

        So I then realized that mom and dad had choices, they could have talked to us/me, reasoned… but they chose harsh punishment as we screamed please no no… They may have gone to jail today for the actions of then.

        I picked the people I picked as mates in my adult life because the mind goes to the place that is most familiar not necessarily comfortable. Most familiar to me was abuse. I so wanted to fix my father and his relationship deep in the recesses of my mind as unfinished work, ( who has been dead for 30 years), so I could regain the relationship I had been looking for my entire life. I placed everyone’s needs in front of mine because I wanted to prove to my mind that i can fix this person who was in my mind at that time, my father, sounds weird, I thought so too until I understood the attachment theory.

        When I believed that theory and understood the power of it, I became almost instantly free. I still have issues and fears of abandonment but I know how to address them. I am involved with a very successful woman that does not need me to fix her. I get paranoid every now and then because I have nothing to fix and the whole abandonment issue creeps into my mind but I beat it back and say to my self, Tom you cannot fix the relationship you had with your father and stop trying, what you are feeling now is not about the issue you think it is it is about your childhood. I realize then I am not being abandoned and I return to sanity.

        I hope this helps.


      • savorydish said

        It helps a lot. Thank you. My story echoes yours without the marriages and kids. I have intentionally avoided both given my past relationships.

        I also had parents who believed in corporal punishment so I know how traumatic that can be. It permanently changes your biochemistry which is why so many of us grow up confused. I know this is where the damage began.

        I have been aware of their abusive tendencies since my teen years. There was no denial on my part. I have made attempts to make them aware but as you might guess they are firmly in denial.

        I am also aware that I am reliving my past. I know I am trying to fix my parents through my women. I know all the things that are wrong with me and my relationships but yet the journey to fix myself has been a long one.

        But that it is why my relationships last only a year or less. On some level I am aware of the dysfunction but I cling on for the sake of fixing my childhood. So it is a constant battle between my rational side and my emotional side. But usually it destroys itself.

        Those women can not handle being with a man who speaks about their dysfunction. So they run. Rather than face the Truth or the Past.

        Thank you for sharing. It always helps to know we are not alone.

      • naples104 said

        SD, it is because of you that I sought help. Without finding your blog I would never have understood that it was me too. It is likely useless to tell your parents what they did, its too painful for them and they will say you cannot cope which has nothing to do with what happened. The woman that I am with now was married to a man that suffers from narcissistic PD and has issues that she has confronted and over come. I think those of us that are victims of our childhood and failed relationships have to be with others that have experienced the same or they and we cannot relate. I dated about 100 women before I met her. Most were no more than one date but I spent hours on the phone playing psychologist. I have just enough information to know who to stay away from and why. I was lucky or at least I have been up till now. I dont know if this will last but I hope it does. If it does not I will be very sad but I will survive. I can be alone i prefer to be in a relationship though.


      • savorydish said

        I am pleasantly surprised that the blog has helped others. I like to think we are healing together and sharing stories that we would not otherwise share with others. You sound like a survivor and that gives me hope.

  3. ArmyChic said

    I’m torn regarding the laundry list. It feels a lot like a list of excuses rather than a list of characteristics that need to be changed. It almost enables the bad behavior. I’m working on my DNP in psychiatrics, not psychology. Gotta medicate these folks. 😉 This is an old study, too old to be used in class, but it’s a good start. I found the following article to be extremely interesting, as well. Clearly the evidence is there, borderlines are more likely to have experienced alcoholism in their families of origin and to become alcoholics themselves. Vicious, vicious cycle.

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