Can your parents addictions still be impacting your mental health years later as an adult? Simply put, Yes most definitely. Let’s take a look at what some of the more common ways this can show up in your life can be.
Children of alcoholics and addicts often experience chaos, inconsistency, volatility, and unreliability. They may never know what to expect from one day to the next, making their home environment feel unsafe and scary. Children of parents who abuse drugs or alcohol have emotional needs that go unmet. Because those early years of brain development are so vital, living with a parent with an addiction can cause many issues later on in life. It can often lead children to troubling behaviors and an inability to properly care for his or herself as the they grow into adulthood.
Children of alcoholic and addict parents often feel they have to reject and deny their own feelings of sadness, fear, disappointment and anger in order to survive. Those feelings will eventually resurface, usually in adulthood, and cause a myriad of problems.
There are several common traits seen in children of addicts and alcoholics. These include isolation, approval seeking, low self-esteem, fear of abandonment, victimhood mentality, and a fear of authority. As the child grows, these ways of relating can become increasingly maladaptive.
In her book “Adult Children of Alcoholics,” Janet G. Woititz, Ed.D, established 13 traits one would likely develop having grown up with alcoholic parents. Adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) often:
-Guess at what normal behavior is
-Have difficulty following a project through to completion
-Lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth
-Judge themselves without mercy
-Have difficulty having fun
-Take themselves very seriously
-Have difficulty with intimate relationships
-Overreact to changes over which they have no control
-Constantly seek approval and affirmation
-Feel that they’re different from other people
-Are super responsible or super irresponsible
-Are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that they loyalty is undeserved
-People may tend to lock themselves out of a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences
-A person’s impulsivity can lead to confusion, self-loathing, and loss of control over their environment. In addition, the person spends an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.
Not everything on the list above will always apply in every adult child of an alcoholic or addict, though at least several likely will.
If you identify with the characteristics outlined above, you may find that seeking professional support or counseling will better help you understand your own struggles and how your experience as a child shaped you. Although beginning a program of healing may seem daunting, the long-term, life-changing rewards of committing to the process are limitless. Learning productive ways to cope with conflicts, and learning how to identify and express your feelings and thoughts in a healthy way can lead to a more fulfilled life and happier relationships with loved ones. It can also offer you a profound and empowering sense of freedom.