Childhood is a precious experience. According to popular psychology, the first seven years of life is formative. This is when our most prized and held beliefs are formed. Whatever happened in those seven years, have formed who we are today. And growing up in an alcoholic home, will leave alcoholic children in roles that would cause a life of pain. For more information on childhood trauma as a cause for addiction, click here. There are two types of alcoholic children. The first type are children of alcoholics, who are still growing up. These people will eventually turn out to be the second type of alcoholic children. They are adult children of alcoholics, who are adults today, but have not fully grown up due to a fearful past. Whether they are children or adults, alcoholic children all face the same traits of living in fear. At the same time, these traits are not limited to those living under the tyranny of alcoholism. But, anyone living under any fear-mongering family system. For example, children brought up in strict religious households. Or, children of other addicts. For more information on strict religious upbringing as a cause for concern, take a look at our article on "Religion and Codependency." In these situations, love and care were constrained or conditional. Hence, they too, share these traits.
Personality Traits of Alcoholic Children
Alcoholic children will exhibit these personality traits out of fear. They were brought up with conditional love. They do not know their own worth. These children began to develop these traits to survive an alcoholic family system. It's not their fault that they have these traits. Many alcoholic children blame themselves for living with these traits. But, seeing their history and upbringing, it's time to accept the past and move on in recovery. The first step in doing so; is by recognising that these traits exist. They are as follows:
Alcoholic children are a cauldron of fearful expressions. They fear losing control, are afraid of their own emotions, and any sense of authenticity. They see any expression of truth as a form of confrontation. This is tied to how the "truth" was perceived in the family system. An alcoholic parent would not want their children to know the truth. It's because he/she thrives in denial of his/her alcoholism. And hence, the fear of death or "hell" was doped into these children so that such truth would never be exposed. All this was done so that the alcoholic parent could continue in his/her addiction unabated. Thus, their children became victims of such power-play at home. Read more on the addict's denial, by clicking here.
Alcoholic children will feel guilty for having fun. They see life as being about protecting their well-being from scorn. In the past, having fun was possibly disruptive to their alcoholic parents' sense of well-being. Hence, they were scolded for having any good time. Their sense of guilt and shame has never dissipated since. Thus, even feeling joy and excitement are things to be hushed and smothered. This translates in adult children of alcoholics as a reservation to not pursue their deepest and truest dreams. Many will sabotage a higher paid job or a greater opportunity at success due to their feelings of inherent guilt and shame.
Alcoholic children are attracted to alcoholic or forceful personalities. They see that abuse and stringency are powerful expressions of love. These children confuse love with abuse. In the past, they saw that the strength to control and dominate the family was a useful blessing, even though it was hurtful and harmful. It may explain why daughters of alcoholic fathers choose abusive, alcoholic husbands. Dominance becomes a much prized virtue over lesser and weaker traits like nurture. Another word for this warped view of love is called codependency. Read more about it here.
Alcoholic children are more comfortable with drama than with peace. Their lives have been riddled with family ups and downs. Rarely have they had the peace of mind that most children who live in nurturing homes, enjoy. Hence, they will over-dramatise situations so that there is upheaval. To know more about why this is so, take a look at this article. Dramatisation of events helps to take away the painful fact that an important loved one is an alcoholic.
Alcoholic children will find that they suffer from various physical illnesses. Possibly, this has been the physical response to living in a stressful situation. Alcoholic children may be suffering from chronic illnesses. For example, asthma, arthritis, or even addiction or alcoholism, itself. The result of living in fear begets a life of illnesses.
As mentioned before, alcoholism or addiction could become the fate of alcoholic children. They become like their parents; alcoholics and or addicts because it works. These addictions help them to transcend from the turmoil of living with an alcoholic. Thus, to rid themselves from the pain of life, they numb it with addiction/alcohol. And, the cycle repeats itself with their children.
Alcoholic children will develop a victim mentality. They will mix up pity for love. These people are confused what love really looks like. Throughout their lives, they've seen that their own parents' love as seeking self-pity and blame. Hence, they will replicate these traits in their own lives. Love becomes a mission to either rescue or be rescued by someone. This is a perversion of love and left untreated will develop into an addiction in its own right. It's called love addiction. It's a very painful existence, where one is forever trying to control the outcomes of relationships.
With an agenda to control relationships, alcoholic children will find it very difficult to be intimate. They are intimacy anorexics because they view intimacy as a pretext for violent behaviours. Many a time, their parents' close attention were followed by violence. Hence, in order to protect themselves, they have decided to remain away from intimate relationships.
Alcoholic children are also harsh with self-criticism. They've spent their whole lives learning how unworthy they've become. Hence, they seek their worth via other people's approval. This manifests in harsh self-talk when making small mistakes. It produces a perfectionism that is hard to remove.
Lastly, alcoholic children will avoid conflict at all costs. A great part of their survival depended on being a peacemaker at a young age. Hence, they are very fluent in pleasing people to avoid any form of confrontation.
Living in Fear is a Painful Existence
Living as an alcoholic child, whether in adulthood or as a child; is stifling. It's important to seek recovery from this condition as soon as possible. Codependency is a chronic illness that needs as much treatment as addiction. But, the first step is to live separately from your parent if he/she remains to be in active addiction. The fear can stop now. At Solace Sabah, we conduct interventions to help bring a loved one into treatment. But, in protecting yourselves from the toxicity of addiction, it's important to form safe boundaries. Here, you will learn how to do just that. And we will introduce you to a life that is free from the strife of being an alcoholic child. For more information on treatment, interventions, and recovery, give us a call. We'll be more than happy to help you.