Unhooking from the past

Growing up with an alcoholic parent, I was under the misguided belief that my father’s excessive drinking was somehow my fault.  I thought if I could be the ‘good’ daughter, dare I say even the ‘perfect’ daughter, my father wouldn’t need to drink and all would be well again.  However erroneous this thought process may have seemed, it at least enabled me to survive my dysfunctional upbringing.

My brothers may have felt the opposite, seeing our fathers’ alcoholism for what it was: a destructive, chaotic force taking away any consistency, trust, love, and happiness from what might have been an idyllic childhood.  The concept that their alcoholic parent was indeed sick but playing the best they could with the card they’d been dealt was somewhat helpful.

There is value in ‘going back in’ and recognizing what happened in the past and its continuing effect on our lives today.  We now must try to become our own loving parent and unhook those old erroneous survival techniques we adapted as children and move on.

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

Reference: Hugh Trethowan (2017)

Big ACOAs Don’t Cry

My brother recently passed away.  I’m sad about it, I truly am.  But to the world, I’m not expressing my grief.  Showing emotion is hard for me, it was hard for my brother too.  When he told me he had to have his foot amputated, before I could say anything or express feeling about it he said, “Don’t cry for me.”  I guess that’s just the ACOA way.

I’m learning that ACOAs tend to bury their feelings.  Counsellor and Psychoanalyst, Hugh Trethowan wrote that when you grow up in an alcoholic home, feelings aren’t really listened to or given much credence, and expressing them was often met with negative reactions.  The non-alcoholic spouse might have had their attention diverted in the direction of the drinker and the emotional needs of the children became ignored to some degree.  Expressions such as anger or sadness in the family were emotions to be avoided.  So the children learn to bury their feelings and this carries on into adulthood.  Unexpressed emotions can lead to depression and to addictions of their own, which explained a lot about me and my siblings.

The good news is that with the knowledge and understanding of the root causes of these issues, we can bring change and healing to our lives.  Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

 

When your mother is ACOA

Bestselling author, speaker, and healer, Lisa Romano wrote an interesting article, which gave me further insight into my mother, who is also an adult child of an alcoholic (ACOA).

She said if your mother was emotionally neglected as a child because of her father’s alcoholism, she may be unaware to the extent of just how disconnected she is to her own self.  When a childhood is lived saturated in fear, survival is often the only thing on a child’s mind.  Because the basic instincts of the child must be on hyper-drive, in order to simply survive, there is little time to mature emotionally, and to connect to the spiritual side of self.

And when she has children of her own, she parents blindly and detached from any notion that she is disconnected emotionally from within at all.  As a result – many times ACOA mothers are unable to form authentic paternal bonds with their children – simply because they are totally clueless as to what they are not giving their them.

The transformational journey on the road of self-awareness is powerful.  Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

The Generational Curse

Many of us grew up in a home with at least one parent who suffered from alcoholism.  For me, it was my father.  Parents with drinking problem adversely affected the lives of their children well into their adult years.

There is much evidence that parents who drank in excess were most likely depressed.  This method for self-medication for depression often backfired.  It certainly did for my father.

My brothers and I, living within the same family circumstances, responded differently to having an alcoholic parent.  One also became an alcoholic, one became a drug addict, and one a food addict.  My mother, also adult child of an alcoholic, had food and weight issues.  It’s like a generational curse.

The good news is that curses can be broken.  The key to moving on is not to blame but to be conscious of the role our parents had in shaping our current life choices.  It is possible to break the family patterns by coping with our depression in health ways such as reaching out and gaining support.

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

The Weight of Responsibility

 

Out of necessity, some ACOAs, like me, took on some of our parents’ responsibilities.  These may have been practical things like paying the bills, or emotional things like comforting your siblings when your parents fought.  But as adults we find that we continue to take responsibility for other people’s feelings or for problems that we didn’t cause.

When my father go sick, I was a teenager.  I took on the responsibility of writing the checks for the monthly household expenses and doing the grocery shopping.  As an adult I’ve been in relationships with men who I took over making sure their bills got paid on time; rent got paid on time, etc.  It’s like I couldn’t stop being overly responsible.  Where was the off switch?

Eventually it became a burden.  A lot of people relied on me for a variety of different things.  Now with the internet and smart phones I’m learning to tell others where to find the information they need for themselves because I am tapped out.

I like the theme song from the daytime talk show The Real. It says: this is my time, don’t waste another minute.  This has become my mantra.  It’s time for me to do me and focus on the things that I want to do and need to do for myself.

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

 

Perfectionism

Children of alcoholics tend to strive for perfection in an effort to avoid criticism. Growing up with an alcoholic father and ACOA mother, I endured criticism on a daily basis. It seemed like I could do nothing right. Or if I did do well an added ‘you could have done better’ almost always followed.

This set me on a treadmill, of sorts, of always having to prove my worth by achieving more and more. But my achievements weren’t satisfying. Perfectionism and low self-esteem forced me to set my goals higher and continue to try to prove myself. Unfortunately this is all quite exhausting and many times I found myself crashing and burning out both physically and emotionally.

I am now learning to love and accept myself for who I am; not trying to prove my self-worth to others. It is proving to be a very important step toward healing and happiness.

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

Insecure and Craving Acceptance

Growing up in an alcoholic home can make you feel insure and crave acceptance. I know these characteristics apply to me, yet I’m still in somewhat of a state of denial about my dysfunctional upbringing.

A child of an alcoholic endures constant lying, manipulation, and harsh parenting. It makes it hard to trust people. It also leads to being highly sensitive to criticism and conflict. This is true of me, yet I could not pinpoint anything in my past that that would cause this. It must be a deliberate mental block. I’m always trying to prove my worth and make others happy.

Now as an adult I tend to try to control everyone and everything that feels out of control. And I struggle to express myself. I suppose on some subconscious level I’m remembering how unsafe it was to speak up in my family.

The road to wholeness is long and lonely. Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering adult child of an alcoholic.