ACOA Meets BPD

April 4, 2014

The following article talks about the fear of abandonment in the context of ACOA:

Growing up with parental alcoholism can cause some children to become absolutely terrified of abandonment. Many times, the alcoholic parent physically leaves the family — or, if they remain, is emotionally unavailable — leading children to feel unworthy, rejected and abandoned.
As they grow into adulthood, their fear of abandonment can affect the relationships that they form. They find themselves holding on to unhealthy relationships or never allowing anyone to become close in the first place, out of fear of rejection and abandonment. These experiences, although common in adult children of alcoholics, can represent the outcome of a variety of developmental issues, however…

Unrealistic Fears
I still struggle, however, with feelings of fear that those I love will reject me or abandon me and I struggle with self-worth. I constantly feel that I need to be doing more in order to feel worthy. I work too hard, sacrifice too much, and have unrealistic fears. — Dragonfly

An Unhealthy Marriage
I suddenly ended an important healthy relationship and settled for an unhealthy marriage. I fear rejection and abandonment. I probably will need life long counseling. I’ve resolved many fears but it’s hard standing up for myself. — Emotionally Stunted

Often I End Relationships
I have constant approval seeking, fear of confrontation and trouble with romantic relationships. Most notably, I isolate myself from others when I am feeling bad. I also fear abandonment and often end relationships with others to avoid being left by them, in the future. — Marie

Filling the Empty Hole
I was confused and still, to this day, have serious issues with abandonment and trusting others, little self-worth, low self-esteem, emptiness and depression. I am 30 and doubt I will ever be able to fill the empty hole in my broken heart. — Erin

Feel Like I’m Unworthy
I can’t stand chaos, or when people get very angry. I never take time for myself because I feel like I’m unworthy. I have also put up with a ton of crap because I’m scared to be abandoned. — Anonymous

Sabotage Relationships
I have a really hard time with relationships because I have a fear of being abandoned because of my dad. Recently, I found a man that I really “let in” for the first time in my life at age 30. Unfortunately, I sabotaged that relationship because I have been made to be independent to a fault from being raised by alcoholics. I can’t accept that sometimes I need comfort too. — Jean

25 Responses to “ACOA Meets BPD”

  1. Marie said

    I’m so sad for them all and can empathize as well as sympathize. It is very difficult to overcome a painful childhood and learn to love yourself but it can be done. I hope all of these people are able to find love for themselves first as well as others that are healthy for them and good to them. Growing up in a nightmare is enough suffering for more than one lifetime without also living an entire adult life in misery. One thing an adult child of an alcoholic and/or BPD has to realize is…just because we had that kind of suffering and abuse as a child does NOT mean we are meant to live like that our whole lives just picking people who will also make us suffer more. We can become whole, healthy people and have wonderful, loving and healthy relationships. We definitely have to learn to identify the bad behaviour immediately in a relationship because, in a way, we are desensitized to it after having grown up in a violent and abusive home. Once the violence or verbal abuse starts from the person we are with, we have to be extra careful to make sure it sends up a red flag…that can be hard when you received that upbringing from your own parents as a child. Imagine your Mom and Dad call you bad names every day of your life and then you think that is what people who love you are supposed to do…even hitting you is ok because “you deserved it”. Even if you survive a childhood like this without a PD you still have quite a bit of work to do on yourself to be able to lead a happy and normal life.

    • savorydish said

      What kind of treatment would you recommend for someone who went through your experience?

      • Marie said

        It depends on the person and how badly damaged he or she is. Definitely you need to see a professional for a while (however long is necessary) to sort through everything that happened and learn what actions and behaviours towards you are healthy and appropriate ones to accept. You also have to make sure you have someone close to you who really loves you to support you…a relative or close friend (or both) to make sure you realize you are worth loving and treating with respect. Each person will need some amount of time to reverse the damage done but again each case is different. Maybe for a while that person also needs to look in the mirror and say “you are a good person, you are worth loving and I love you!” along with whatever else you were brainwashed with as a child. I was told I was stupid, retarded, etc so I spent my teens working that out.
        Bottom line, you can’t undo the damage on your own it’s impossible.

      • savorydish said

        Do you think that person can function in a relationship before this lengthy process?

      • Marie said

        Again it depends on the person and whether or not the damage has left them with a PD. In my case I could have a relationship but just needed extra TLC as I was sorting through things and I was not abusive towards the other person. Plus my grandmother was still alive and she was my rock.

      • savorydish said

        Interesting that your grandmother was loving while your parents were not.

      • Marie said

        Grandma didn’t have a PD and she wasn’t an alcoholic. She was a sweet but strong woman emotionally and a caretaker. She took care of many relatives in her house (rather than put them in a nursing home) until they died of cancer and other things. I helped her care for her last surviving brother, my great uncle, until he died of prostate cancer. Their mother and one of their brothers were alcoholics but neither she nor my great uncle liked to drink much. I think I must take after her (thank God) as I am shorter like her and love people. Both my parents had BPD plus Dad was an alcoholic…I don’t know if they even loved themselves let alone me and each other.

      • savorydish said

        My grandmother was my caretaker as well. I loved her more than my mom. My mom could be nasty and so could my dad. Neither of them drank. They just took their mood swings out on me.

      • Marie said

        I loved my grandmother more than anyone and I was her only grandchild so I was always “grandma’s baby”. When I was at her house I felt loved and I could be a normal, happy kid. My husband loves his father’s mother more than his parents also and his parents are both nice people. His grandmother is wonderful I love her as well and she treats and loves me like a daughter. The 3 of us were definitely blessed with angels in the disguise of grandmas! :o)

      • savorydish said

        Ps. I think you turned out well.

      • Marie said

        Thank you, you are always sweet! It has not always been easy but love is what makes the world go round not hate. There are many good people in the world, thanks for being another one!

  2. Marie said

    You are a nice person. From now on remind yourself that you deserve to be with a nice person too not someone who gets away with being nasty all the time or whenever they feel like it. I have a bad day a few times a year that’s it. A normal woman will not take everything out on the man she loves…,maybe just talk his ear off about what went wrong. :o)

    • savorydish said

      I will do my best. 🙂

    • savorydish said

      Having known my fair share of ACOAs, I have to say that you show remarkable self-awareness. I think most of them wander through life without connecting the dots. They can’t figure out why their relationships are failing.

      • Marie said

        My grandmother was ACOA and married a man who liked to drink and bet on the horses. She took control and was “the boss” and he followed what she said out of his love for her. She took his paycheck and paid the bills and made sure he stayed in line. Maybe having that type of role model, her love and her being a fellow ACOA to boot is what made the difference for me. I have always been self aware and aware of others. I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings and believe in treating others as I want to be treated. I believe that is not something that can be learned, either you are a nice person or you are not. I have learned from my husband, also a nice person, that if someone is not nice to me then I don’t have to be nice to him/her. We all know nice people get walked on if they allow it to happen. Maybe seeing my parents abuse each other day after day both physically and mentally as well as be the recipient of abuse made me more aware of others and determined to “break the cycle” of abuse.

      • savorydish said

        All this talk about PDs and abuse… But when it comes down to it, it’s really about common decency. But awareness is also key. None of us is perfect. But if we are aware then we have a better chance at keeping demons at bay. I think problems arise when people try to suppress the past and act like nothing happened.

      • Marie said

        I think it’s better to face our demons and defeat them and only keep the ones at bay that absolutely can’t be beaten. In college I was not always comfortable around drunk people but I learned that only some are mean drunks others are just funny. You can’t ever escape your past because it is part of what shapes you. I think each person has to decide which parts of the past to hang on to during development and which ones to let go. I decided to be an honest person…although my mother accused me of being too honest…so I guess I surpassed her lessons. LOL Ah, the joys of BPD parents. When someone has a PD I don’t think they are able to make choices about who they can or can’t be especially if they are not in treatment. I had to go to therapy because of my mother not as much my father. Looking back except when I was really little and scared of him when he was drunk I preferred my father’s drunken indiference with occasional verbal/physical abuse to her constant hate and physical abuse which only worsened as I became older. She knew as soon as I became an adult she would lose control over me and that really drove her crazy. My dad seemed to want me to be independent and get away from her and that I guess was one way he showed me he loved me in his way rather than use words to tell me. It was a very strange dynamic. Again, I can’t say enough about Grandma, without her who knows how I would have turned out. I believe there are many self-aware ACOA’s out there leading great lives. You seemed to have met several who are very different.

      • savorydish said

        Well, ACOA is just a label. It can’t possibly encapsulate everyone’s experience. What I have learned is alcohol is just an indicator that there is something else going on. How people react to alcohol is a big indicator. I have a few drinks and I start hugging everybody. I’m a fun drunk.

        But when someone drinks and they become mean and nasty, I know something went horribly wrong. They are wearing their inner-child on their sleeve. The darkness comes out and I know it was hiding all along. That’s not the alcohol talking. That’s their past creeping out.

      • savorydish said

        I wonder if your mom resented you. Maybe your dad cared more for you than her.

      • Marie said

        They were definitely 2 peas in a pod and had their own kind of love for each other as twisted as it was. I think because of the PD she would get jealous easily because she wanted to be the center of attention. I know she was jealous that I got to go away to college something she was not allowed to do. When I drink a few times a year I never get drunk and I always get relaxed and giggly…never mean.

  3. Anonymous said

    I had a girlfriend who was a very sweet and loving girl. Yet she had very deep emotional issues.
    She always treated me like a king. In fact, from all the men she had in her life, I think I was the one she most revered and treated the best.

    Yet, she came from an abusive home and very dysfunctional family. Unfortunately, she never managed to face the issues with her family or even accept their dysfunctions.

    Even though she adored me, in the end she decided to leave me and marry one of the most ugly and stupid guys I’ve ver seen in my life.

    She blocked all contact with me and she seldom has any contact with her old friends anymore.

    She has two daughters and lives in an horrible marriage. Even though she was once a very independant and free woman. That all changed as soon as she turned 30.

    Only the Lord knows if she will ever find the strength to leave her fake marriage. Time will tell.

  4. toughmat said

    Lots of posts lately, I like it. Jhan always resonates with me when he comments, as did Michael. Tom as well, but I havent seen him here in awhile. Well, my ex as I said was diagnosed with a treatable version of leukemia. We have been in touch via text since her diagnosis about 3 weeks ago. I can tell she is using it as a hoover, although I dont think she realizes her tactical nature. Its just what she does. She wants to see me, so she pushes for it. Today she invited me on a trip with her even though I havent seen her in almost 10 months. She said “no touching, talking about the past, etc.” God, I would love to, but I kept telling her Im not ready to see her and I cant. She pushed a bit and I could tell was upset. She kept saying she doesnt get why my reasons which included it not being fair to either of us, I have more healing to go, and that it would bring a lot of hurt back if we saw each other right now. She kept saying Im not making sense and said “maybe its just easier for you to be vague” which got really frustrating but I tried to stay calm and re-explained even clearer followed by “Im sorry if youre not understanding, but I dont have anything left to say”. She said ” no need to get defensive, but thanks for finally telling me”. I told her I am not being defensive (thats nothing new that accusation that Im being defensive…geee I wonder why I sound defensive anyways?) but that Im stating that I tried to explain it and cant any better than I did. She wrote “ok” and that was it. How dumb am I to think that we can just text like buddies without things eventually escalating or going back to silence? It was a good indicator that some of her issues and ways of being (impulsive with the trips and saying one thing and meaning another still have a ways to go in terms of healing).

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