Adult Children of Alcoholics


If you grew up in an alcoholic home, chances are that you coped with a number of broken promises. Sometimes, the roles between parent and child were blurred, or reversed. Sometimes, there was betrayal, or violation, or abuse and neglect. This history can create some difficulty with trusting people and establishing boundaries in future relationships.

You may have a substance abuse concern about yourself or your partner. You may see repetitive patterns in your relationships that stem from your family of origin.

Many adult children of alcoholic parents choose careers in the helping professions, to attempt to fix what was broken in their families. Many first-born adult daughters of alcoholic parents are nurses, for example.

If you are an ACOA, check out the list below of characteristics that exist for many adults with alcoholic parents, compiled by Al-Anon:

Adult Children of Alcoholics:

. . . guess at what normal is.

. . . have difficulty following projects through from beginning to end.

. . . 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 in intimate relationships.

. . . overreact to changes over which they have no control.

. . . constantly seek approval and affirmation.

. . . feel that they are different from other people.

. . . are either super responsible or super irresponsible.

. . . are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

. . . tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsivity leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control of their environment. As a result, they spend tremendous amounts of time cleaning up the mess.

If you are reading this list for the first time and can relate to some of it, please keep in mind that this is a list of characteristics that may be aftereffects of your upbringing, but not necessarily traits of your personality. Any and all of these characteristics can be overcome in therapy with the right therapist. A therapist with experience working with ACOA clients can provide treatment to assist clients with resolution of all of the above concerns and more. The Al-Anon meetings in your area are also a wonderful source for healing.

For additional reading, Claudia Black and Janet Woititz are both authors and therapists with a very thorough understanding of ACOA issues.