Hope for Children of Alcoholics

May 7, 2014

One man describes his journey from living in denial to getting the help he needed:

For many years, I denied that there was any effect from growing up in a household where alcoholism was present, telling friends “I got out OK, it didn’t bother me.”

Yet by my early ‘30s, I constantly struggled to cope with life. I finally admitted to myself that, when I was growing up, my parent’s drinking had affected me. I couldn’t develop intimate relationships or even let people get close. I needed everyone to approve of everything I did. I was really frightened by anger – especially my own! Authority figures – and that was almost anyone but me – frightened me terribly!

If I received personal criticism, it was devastating. I was overly responsible, couldn’t stand up for myself, felt like I was stuffing my feelings, had a low sense of self esteem. I was terribly dependent – if I got focused on someone, I would cling to them to avoid feeling abandoned – and I felt abandoned all the time anyway. Things were spinning out of control, and only getting worse.

Finally in 1983, at age 33, I did something about it. I went to a 12 step meeting for people who were living with an alcoholic, because that seemed like the closest fit to what I would have experienced. After the meeting, a woman – who I had never seen before and haven’t seen since, but who was an angel for me, said:

“You know, there’s this new group for people who grew up with alcoholism.
It’s called Adult Children of Alcoholics.”

As soon as I heard that, just the name of the group resonated with me for some reason. I explored the resource, and started reading the “characteristics we have in common as a result of being brought up in an alcoholic household.” I was blown away – it was describing my world!

One Response to “Hope for Children of Alcoholics”

  1. jhan1969 said

    People who grew up in alcoholic/drug addicted households are prime candidates for relationships with Cluster B’s. Not all of them, but most of them. (I was one of them.)

    Or, people who grew up in Cluster B households. Let’s not forget them.

    It’s all about trying to have that CORRECTIVE EXPERIENCE. ‘I’m gonna make this crazy-ass person love me, and when I do, I’ll finally get the love I didn’t get from my crazy-ass parent. I’ll show the world that I really AM loveable and good!”

    We go out and find BROKEN PEOPLE, because they’re just like the broken parent we had. If we can make the broken person love us, it will be just like our broken parent loved us!!

    The problem with this formula is that the past is what it is, and you CAN’T CHANGE IT. You can’t use someone like a ratchet set and travel back in time and make all the bad stuff that happened to you UN-HAPPEN. You have to acknowledge the bad past, accept it for what it is, feel the hurt and the anger – ALL OF IT – and move on. And understand that the people in your past – parents, siblings, whatever – did the best they could with what they had to work with and you can’t do anything about it now.

    NOTHING. You can do NOTHING about the past . . . except reconcile yourself to it. That is the first step towards getting rid of CO-DEPENDENCY.

    And speaking of CORRECTIVE EXPERIENCE: my theory with Borderlines and sex is that a lot of Borderlines use SEX as a CORRECTIVE EXPERIENCE. I had a gut feeling about that with my borderline ex. Sex for her started to feel like she was trying to ‘fix’ something. Maybe ‘fix’ the sexual trauma she suffered as a child. Like if she had enough sex with the ‘right’ person, she could make the trauma go away.

    CORRECTIVE EXPERIENCE. I am really fascinated with this notion. It’s like were all trying to ‘fix’ something bad that happened to us in the past. The problem is . . . most of the people around us today had NOTHING to do with our pasts! So why should we use THEM to try and ‘fix’ it?

    We used the borderline as a corrective experience, and they used us as a corrective experience. A match made in heaven, right? Or hell. No wonder why we tried to stay.

    My old therapist put it best: ‘You can’t use someone else to fix your past. It doesn’t work that way.’

    Every time I got into a relationship with a nut-job, that’s what I was trying to do. Fix my past. Make it like it NEVER HAPPENED. But it DID happen. I couldn’t make it go away. The harder I tried, the more it came back and bit me in the ass. It was only when I FACED MY PAST, HEAD ON, that I no longer got into relationships with crazy and abusive people.

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