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

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Shedding 2017

At the close of the year many resolve to lose weight in the New Year. I am no exception as I make this resolution every year.

However, I’ve only recently come to realize a deeper meaning. I liken the resolve to lose weight like a snake shedding its skin. Snakes shed their skin to allow for further growth and to remove parasites that have attached to their old skin. As a snake grows, its skin becomes stretched, grows and transforms.

Weight gain, for me, is tied to my feelings of anxiety and food being my comfort. If I am to transform, I must shed self-destructive behavior. Only then can I stretch, grow, and transform into the person I know I was always meant to be.

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

#ACoAAwareness

LizHawkins@TrinityUniv

 

 

The Never-Ending Struggle

Adult Children of Alcoholics tend to have a hard time with transitions and changes.  A sudden change of plan or anything that feels out of their control can trigger anxiety and sometimes even anger.  ACOAs thrive on routine and predictability because it makes them feel safe.

Lately, I’ve been craving for my life to slow down.  I feel like I’ve got too many balls up in the air; that there’s not enough time to do everything, and I’ve put all the pressure and responsibility on myself.  I supposed it’s my own ego telling me that the only way it’s all going to get done right, is if I’m the one that does it.

I’m finding that I have to constantly remind myself that I’m only human and it’s okay to ask for help and to say ‘no.’  The struggles of being ACOA seem never-ending.

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

#ACoAAwareness

ACOA takes a vacation

I missed posting last Thursday because I was on vacation in Paris, France. It was wonderful; the food, the sights, the smells, all breath-taking. But the nagging ACOA trait of difficulty having fun nearing spoiled the trip before it even got started.

I’d planned this trip back in October 2015. But as the time drew near, when my excitement should have been increasing – life happened. As you know, my brother died in June. Settling some of his affairs fell on me. At the same time, I was in the process of trying to locate a suitable assisted living residence for my 86-year old mother. While at the same time finalizing my book for publication. My anxiety levels were through the roof and with my typical ACOA trait of high-burden of responsibility, I just couldn’t get excited about Paris.

Thankfully, once I got on the plane I mentally left all by burdens behind; even if it was only for seven days. I had fun. I thought of only myself and my happiness and didn’t feel guilty about it or feel that I was being selfish. It felt good and I want more of that feeling in my everyday life.

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

#ACoAAwareness

Numbing Out

I would describe myself as an escape artist.  If I can avoid a difficult or uncomfortable situation, I will.  My favorite escape is zoning out in front of the television eating my favorite sugary or salty snacks.  Dr. Susan Biali describes this as numbing out.

What I am essentially doing is constantly stimulating my senses in order not to have to deal with the everyday stresses of life.  And doing so is very addictive.  I’m learning to stop hiding behind the distractions and allow myself time where I can just be and feel, even if those feelings are uncomfortable, in an effort to re-awaken my life.

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

#ACoAAwareness

The Root of All Things

The root of my people-pleasing tendencies lie with both my alcoholic father and ACOA mother; both of whom I took care of as a child. This caused me to always put others first and to ignore my own wants and needs.

Oliver JR Cooper, author, transformational writer, and coach says that the ego mind will have formed certain associations around taking care of the needs and wants of others. And lead people-pleasers like me to associations being triggered like feeling rejected, abandoned, or being unsafe. Cooper says as long as these associations exist, it will cause one to attract people and situations that reflect the past or interpret the present in the same way.

Now that I am aware of all this, I notice that I have great angst and anxiety when it comes to others wanting and needing something from me that I seek to resist. It’s like my ego mind is trying to pull me back to that old familiar state. I also feel physical pain and mental anguish when trying to resist my people-pleasing tendencies. I feel like I’m being mean or being a bad person. But I must resist if I want to be free and to grow.

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

The Desire to Self-Medicate

My brother died last month and naturally, I’m still dealing with that.  He had been a drug user his entire adult life.  And it was that vice that ultimately took his life.  Our father was an alcoholic and the damage that caused manifested in the next generation.

Blogger, Dr. Tian Dayton, says that ACOAs often self-medicate.  This was true of our father and it was also true of my brother.  The emotional, psychological and physiological set up that accompanies relationship trauma, can lead to self-medication, in which ACOAs like my brother seek a chemical solution for human problems.

Self-medicating can seem to be a solution in the immediate moment, as it really does make pain, anxiety, and physiological disturbances temporarily disappear, but in the long run, it creates many more problems than it solves.

I’m finding in my case, food is the addiction.  For someone else it may be shopping.  Regardless, there can be consequences for these addictions too, such as obesity, which brings on health issues like diabetes, or massive debt, which can lead to ruined credit or bankruptcy.

Getting and staying ‘sober’ for the ACOA means facing the pain we carry from growing up in our addiction-riddle environment.  Hi, I’m Liz Hawkins and I’m a recovering Adult Child of an Alcoholic.