It’s all an addiction

I used to get mad at my father because he couldn’t seem to stop drinking. I was mad that my brother too who couldn’t seem to give up the drugs. But I realize that addiction is a powerful thing and not easy to overcome.

I have always been a junk food addict. I’m just now calling it by its rightful name, “addict.” Sugar and salty snacks was my drug of choice. I could mindlessly graze on chips, popcorn, and candy throughout the day. Needless to say my weight reflected it. But I couldn’t seem to stop myself. That’s when I realized that I too have a problem. I have an addictive personality.

After admitting my problem, I decided to do something about it. I stopped eating junk food and sugary and salty snacks – cold turkey. It was hard, but after about three days I no longer craved the addictive foods. And after just 10 days of healthier eating and exercise, I loss six pounds.

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

#ACoAAwareness

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The manifestation of growing up with an alcoholic parent

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.

#ACoAAwareness

Source: www.healthcentral.com

 

The ACOA Cycle

There’s an old adage, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.  I couldn’t help thinking I must be nuts.  I kept picking the same type of man (drinkers, smokers, and basically unreliable), not realizing they all had the same attributes of my father.  I hate these traits, by the way.  So why was I drawn to them?

Richard Taite, Author, CEO and Founder of the Cliffside Malibu Treatment Center says the fallout of drug and alcohol addiction in the family can carry on for a lifetime.  If either or both parents used, the odds are that you (or your spouse) will too.  Why?  Because human beings have a tendency to recreate the homes we had as children.  If your life was chaotic and tumultuous as a child, it’s a good bet that you’ll either drink like your parents or create the chaos in your home or you’ll marry a drinker who will make your world a living nightmare – the same nightmare you lived as a child.

ACOA awareness is crucial to help people make better and more informed choices when entering into relationships.

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

#ACoAAwareness

Loving someone with ACOA Trauma Syndrome

Some of you may be concerned about how angry, toxic behavior patterns, and poor communication style have affected your lives and love relationships.  Many don’t understand the origin of these behaviors, and can’t change what you don’t understand.

Riana Milne specializes in an area called – ACOA (Adult Child of an Alcoholic) Personality Trauma Syndrome; working with adult clients (and their partners) who suffered trauma as children.  Strangely enough, it is not a condition or a Personality Disorder described in the DSM – IV; the Diagnostic book for Mental Health Therapists.  There is an ACA – Adult Children of Alcoholics 12 step program founded on the belief that family dysfunction is a disease that infected us as children, and affects us as adults.

There are nine categories of trauma:

  1. Having an addicted parent – to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, porn, pills, etc.
  2. Being emotionally abused
  3. Being verbally abused
  4. Being physically abused, molested, or raped
  5. Being abandoned.
  6. If you were adopted, part of the foster care system, or needed to live with another relative due to family hardship
  7. A sibling had trauma (medical issues, an addiction, or required special care)
  8. You endured personal trauma (bullying, medical issue, a physical challenge)
  9. Family trauma – poverty, many moves due to military, parent incarcerated, loss of home by flood or fire, domestic violence, etc.

Toxic adult relationships and many adult addictions occur due to the aftermath of these childhood traumas.  ACOAs often have successful careers and hold it together on the job; the real dysfunction emerges within their love relationships.  Poor coping mechanisms (like shutting down emotionally if afraid, or just the opposite – yelling and screaming with anger when frustrated, to control or intimidate your partner, or get your needs met) are all ACOA behaviors.  Ongoing anxiety, depression, impulsiveness, signs of extreme stress under normal circumstances, panic attacks, perfectionism of your partner, high sex drive or need for attention from the opposite sex, addictions and feelings of abandonment…are just a few of the faulty behaviors, way of thinking or being, that ACOAs have trouble with.  Adults often try to self-medicate with alcohol, pot, or various pills to calm themselves down, or tolerate their abuse or depression; which often leads to an addiction.

ACOAs often attract an ACOA partner.  Their initial dating is full of intense closeness, dramatic romance, affection, and they seek commitment right away.  This could look like a great start to exclusive dating; however, within 3-6 months, signs of jealousy, control, intimidation and mind-games often enter into their relationship.

This dynamic gets worse with time, so it is important to understand your childhood triggers, how they affect you as an adult, correct them, and properly communicate through arising problems and challenges.

Source: Riana Milne, MA, Certified, Global Relationship, Love & Life Coach, August 3, 2016 #ACoAAwareness

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.

#ACoAAwareness

 

Keeping up Appearances

Many ACOAs tend to be people-pleasers; we are just too nice. Inevitably we just want to be loved and needed by others but this results in suppressing tons of uncomfortable emotions like bitterness, annoyance, and grief.

I tend to put myself under extreme pressure in order to ‘keep up appearances.’ One of the worst things about constantly being nice is the pressure I put on myself to maintain my self-image. It feels good to constantly be on people’s good sides and avoid negative feelings. But this, dare I say “addiction” comes at a price: chronic stress. Often the stress is invisible, but it’s always there, always demanding that I keep my mask strapped on even though it might be suffocating me.

A wise person recently advised me to take more time for me and less for others. Doing this won’t make me a bad person, and I can finally remove that suffocating mask and breathe.

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

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.