Core Issue: Control

One of the core issues of adult children of alcoholics (ACOA) is control.  The fear of loss of control is a dominant theme in our lives.  Control dominates the interactions of an ACOA with ourselves as well as the people in our lives.

Fear of loss of control, whether it be over our emotions, thoughts, feelings, will, actions, or relationships is pervasive.  We rely upon defense mechanisms such as denial, suppression in order to control our internal world of thoughts and feelings as well as the outward manifestation of those thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

I struggle daily to overcome this long ingrained core issue.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins, and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.





The Perfectionist

Perfectionism is self-abuse of the highest order.  This is a quote by Anne Wilson Schaef.  For adult children of alcoholics, trying to be perfect and people-pleasers come with weak boundaries.  People who lack health boundaries are often emotionally needy.

Addicted, dysfunctional and chaotic families are a breeding ground for perfectionism.  Therapists and addiction counselors often talk about alcoholism (or any addiction) as a family disease because it affects everyone in the family.  An addict’s behavior has far reaching consequences for the family, especially the children.

I tried to be the perfect child in my family.  Never really bucking back at my parents; always conforming to their will.  My alcoholic father was an embarrassment to me, so I put on my metaphoric mask for outsiders; ensuring none of the cracks in my family foundation showed.  Although my perfectionism seemed to serve me well as a child, it isn’t without its problems.

As an adult I became an overly compliant people-pleaser; trying to make everyone happy all the time.  But in the process, I lost my own identity and the ability to ask for and received what I really need.  My needs always came last.  I’m trying to make a change in my life and put myself first.  This has proven to be difficult because I tend to feel guilty when doing so or feel like I’m being selfish.

My goal is to continue to ask myself what it is I want and act on fulfilling my own needs first.  I’m worth it.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.



Unclog My Life

Woody Haiken, founder of Wounded Child Coaching, said that “the Wounded Child has been trained to always be vigilant, for there could be unexpected cruelty at any moment or at any time. Hyper-vigilance keeps us in a constant state of stress.

This was certainly true of my dysfunctional family upbringing. When drinking, my father could be ridiculously critical about any little thing. It was like he was spraying for an argument. And although a non-drinker, my ACOA mom could go off on you for not completing your chores. She inflicted cruel and unusual punishment like waking you up in the middle of the night, beating you with a switch and making you get up and do the dishes right then and there. That wouldn’t be the worst part, she’d talk about it for several days after the incident. “Shut up already,” I’d scream in my head.

Unfortunately, as an adult I’m still hyper-vigilant when it comes to my ACOA mom, who now resides in an assisted living residence. We thought this would be an ideal situation for her, but she always has a complaint or problem about something, and I seem to be the only one she relies upon. Each time I see her, or when the staff contacts me, I brace for what new problem I’ll have to deal with.

The other night I had a dream about clogged toilets in a women’s restroom at work. I wondered what my subconscious was trying to tell me. I learned that a clogged toilet represents problems or setbacks that are holding back progress. You can’t finish a problem or move on because of emotional entanglements. This is so true – my mother is the emotional entanglement. I have no answers today – just explanations.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m an adult child of an alcoholic.



Standing on Shaky Ground

“The conscious mind determines the actions, the unconscious mind determines the reactions; and the reactions are just as important as the actions.” ~ E. Stanley Jones.

I rarely remember my dreams but when I do remember – even if it’s just in bits and pieces – I look for a meaning.  I believe there are things hidden in my unconscious mind that if it were not for my natural tendencies to avoid and deny, would freely rise above the surface.  Instead I think I get flashes of what my mind is trying to reveal to me in my dreams.

Last night I had a dream.  All I can remember is that it had to do with the floor.  I either wanted to get a new floor installed or wanted to repair a floor.  So I asked myself, what, if anything, is the significance of a floor.

I learned that the floor represents your foundation or the basis for your beliefs; or your support system.  It may represent how well you are grounded; or the separation of your conscious and unconscious.

I recently moved my mother into an assisted living residence.  And although it’s the best place for her now at this stage in her life, I feel some type of way about it.  She was my support system and it’s hard to fathom that she is not the same strong-willed, self-sufficient, independent woman she used to be.

The separation from my rock, my foundation, and co-dependent fellow ACOA has left me feeling shaky.  I’ll be all right though.  It’s an adjustment and it’ll take time.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.


Patterns of Dysfunction

I had a lot of fears growing up ACOA.  My father was at the root of those fears.  I was always afraid that he would embarrass me in front of my friends when he was drunk.  He was very talkative after he’d a few drinks and it annoyed me to no end.

When I grew up, I unconsciously gravitated to men just like my father; drinkers and smokers.  I hated these habits, but it’s all I’d ever known.  My brothers drank liquor and smoked, my mother and her best friend enjoyed drinking beer.  It was all I’d seen.  I evidently began to drink alcohol and beer too, although I never enjoyed it.

I supposed it’s easy to fall into bad patterns of dysfunctional behavior if you’re not paying attention.  You take things as they are and accept them as normal.  I’m thankful for learning about the effects of being a child of an alcoholic.  I continue to try to make strides to overcome my dysfunctional upbringing, although this in no easy feat.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins, and I’m an adult child of an alcoholic.


Unlocking the Unconscious Mind

The unconscious is the part of the mind that is inaccessible to the conscious mind but affects behavior and emotions.  For years I have been out of touch with my inner self; operating from the vantage point that I did as a child.

Earlier this year I dreamed that I was pumping gasoline in my back seat of my car rather than in the fuel tank.  Curious of what the dream might represent, I Googled it.  I learned that to dream of being at a gas station represents a need to re-energize and revitalize yourself.  At that time, I was doing so much for others and not taking care of myself.  I was both physically and mentally exhausted and needed rest.

In recent weeks, with the passing of my brother, and having to move my mother into an assisted living residence, I once again find myself physically and mentally drained.  I sleep but get no rest and my body aches all over.  This, I believe is the unconscious manifesting itself and giving me warnings.

We ACOAs must learn to listen to those quiet unconscious messages from our minds and remember it’s all right to take care of ourselves.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.


Breaking Co-dependency

My ACOA mother is now living in an assisted-living residence.  She’s fine.  She likes her room and the staff treats her like a queen.  So why is she still depending on me?  “Let’s change the bedding,” she said when I visited her today.  “Okay,” I obliged.  “Take this sweater and wash it for me,” she demanded.  “Mom, the staff will wash your clothes.”  “No, you take it and wash it for me.”  “Okay,” I again obliged.

I supposed old ACOA habits die hard.  I know she is in good hands at the assisted-living residence, but I still worry about her.  She says she likes the place and she has everything to make her comfortable.  But feel like I’m missing an appendage.  I’m sure I’ll get over my anxiety in time.  It’s only been seven days!

Because we are both ACOA, we both hide our feelings and have adopted a survival role in order to cope with the stresses of life.  I supposed we have been each other’s partner in survival.  Now we both must learn to lean less on one another and stand on our own.

Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.