For those of you who lived with an alcoholic parent during your childhood and teen years, your life may have been chaotic, emotionally turbulent, and sometimes frightening. But the feelings of anxiety, grief, and instability may not have ended when you left home. These feelings can last well into adult years and manifest in many different ways.
Some common characteristics include:
- We are chronic people pleasers who constantly seek out approval and affirmation from others.
- We have problems regulating and achieving balance with our emotions. We are either overly emotional or we shut down our emotions because of the overload.
- Our fight or flight instincts are amped up. We are hypervigilant about looking for threats or danger in our environment. We tend to over react to any sign of what we feel to be impending danger whether that threat is real or not.
- We can easily become involved with people who we feel need “saving” as this mimics our relationship with our parent figure. We may choose to live with another alcoholic or someone with an addiction and replay that history out all over again.
- We are terrified of abandonment. We will cling onto unstable relationships even when they are unhealthy for us because we can’t stand the thought of being left alone.
- We have great problems with trust. We either trust too much where it is not warranted or we trust too little. We lack the emotional history of understanding how trust works.
- We may feel guilt and shame as though our parent’s problem was our fault. We may have learned as children to keep secrets and not discuss what was really happening in our family.
- We may be overly responsible in some circumstances but in other situations we may be deemed as very irresponsible.
- We may be addicted to drama and excitement in our lives leading to high risk behaviors.
- We may self-medicate through food, sex, work, spending money, drinking alcohol or doing drugs as a way to deal with our emotional pain.
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 in healthy ways such as reaching out and gaining support.