It is said that girls grow up and marry men who are like their father. Is this true of Adult Children of Alcoholics? The following is what Dr. Robert J. Ackerman, Ph.D., and author of the book Perfect Daughters, Adult Daughters of Alcoholics, has to say on the subject:
A common belief is that adult daughters disproportionately marry alcoholics. This statement is partially true, but also biased. Although many adult daughters find themselves in an alcoholic marriage, they did not find themselves an alcoholic to marry.
Few women ever marry an active alcoholic. Adult daughters disproportionately marry males who become alcoholic. Unknowingly, adult daughters, especially adult daughters of two alcoholic parents, may marry males who are at a very high risk for alcoholism. Given these high risks, no wonder you may be in a relationship with someone who is addicted or someone who is overly controlling.
Perhaps you are in a relationship with a high-risk male, such as the son of an alcoholic. Regardless of the situation, we know that adult daughters of two alcoholic parents are highly concerned about the alcohol and drug use of their spouses.
In her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, Dr. Brené Brown talks about how self-doubt undermines the process of finding our gifts and sharing them with the world. In developing and sharing our gifts is how we honor spirit and connect with God. Self-doubt is letting our fear undermine our faith.
I’ve experience self-doubt all my life. And with an alcoholic father and ACOA mother, I did nothing to explore my talents – never-mind share them with the world. My avoidance led me to become introverted. And my comfort was food.
I recently have acknowledged that I am indeed addicted to food – as my father was addicted to alcohol, and as my brother was addicted to drugs. They are no longer here, but I want to live. So I am working with a food addiction coach and have begun a life-long journey to freedom.
Adult Children of Alcoholic (ACOA) literature talks about being co-dependent. I never identified as co-dependent. I didn’t think it applied to me. However, I’m learning that being ACOA and co-dependency go hand-in-hand.
Children from alcoholic families tend to take on roles in order to survive. As a teenager, I took on the role of caretaker. I felt a tremendous need to take care of my alcoholic father – to the point of driving him to the liquor store so he wouldn’t drive drunk. I was enabling him but felt there was no other alternative. I also took on the role of clown. Around my friends I would laugh and make jokes in order to conceal my shame and pain. And as an adult, I became a classic avoider; eluding conflict, difficult conversations, and anything else I perceived to be hard or uncomfortable.
Co-dependency makes it difficult to see your own thoughts, feelings, and actions clearly because your focus is primarily on others. In co-dependency, value comes from the opinions of others and safety comes from feeling needed.
We ACOAs tend to be tougher on ourselves than other people are. We may have two sets of standards. One set, which is accepting and kind, is applied to other people. The other set, which is excessively demanding and unforgiving, applies to ourselves.
If we tend to be overly self-critical and take ourselves too seriously, we are at risk for self-condemnation. We can be so overly judgmental about our own behaviors that we can never please ourselves. Even when we do well, we don’t believe it because of our negative self-outlook. The core of self-condemnation is having low self-esteem. I had been in denial about this fact about myself for many years.
Self-condemnation results from never feeling that you are good enough and that whatever goes wrong is your fault. When circumstances don’t work out, you condemn yourself. This characteristic was found more commonly among adult daughters of alcoholic fathers rather than of alcoholic mothers.
Source: Perfect Daughters, Ackerman (2002)
Dr. Brené Brown explained that perfectionism is not the same as striving to be your best. It’s not about healthy achievements and growth. Perfectionism is the belief that if we live perfect, look perfect, and act perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. It’s a heavy shield that we lug around thinking it will protect us when, in fact, it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from taking flight.
I grew up trying to be the perfect daughter; my parents’ good child – the one that didn’t cause any problems or make any waves. I lugged around the heavy shield, as in Dr. Brown’s metaphor, but for me it was more like a mask. The mask that said to the world that I was normal and came from a normal family.
Because of the shame I carried from having an alcoholic father and being a member of a dysfunctional family, I minimized my activities in the world; had few friends, and hid my talents to avoid world’s judgment of me and my family.
It’s taken years for me to come out of my shell, but thank God I have arrived.
I often find myself continually circling back to the subject of self-sabotage. Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in your life and interferes with long-standing goals. My weight loss journey and efforts to be more physically active are often thwarted by procrastination and comfort eating.
My need to take care of everyone else’s needs before my own have helped to undermine the goals that I have set for myself. It’s easier to focus on others – that way you don’t have to focus on myself. Although I understand what is happening; why it’s happening, and see it happening, – I cannot seem to stop it.
Fear is most likely the root of what is holding me back – fear of the unfamiliar, fear of failure, fear that the critical inner voice will be proven right – whatever it is, I have to find a way to overcome it. I must believe that I am more resilient than I think and can handle the obstacles that feed my fears.
I’m so excited because my book, The World outside Our Door, was just nominated for the 2019 Readers Choice Awards contest by TCK Publishing! The books is about how my father’s alcoholism affect our family.
Please vote for it at https://www.opinionstage.com/belprado1/vote-for-your-favorite-memoir-book1?fb_action_ids=2720860521264342&fb_action_types=og.comments&fbclid=IwAR3bMB5lsrM1fzzkoRocBTN63e9BVB3lfnyll6w29P0PV5F4o8zLjZfQ5vg
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