I often find myself continually circling back to the subject of self-sabotage. Behavior is said to be self-sabotaging when it creates problems in your life and interferes with long-standing goals. My weight loss journey and efforts to be more physically active are often thwarted by procrastination and comfort eating.
My need to take care of everyone else’s needs before my own have helped to undermine the goals that I have set for myself. It’s easier to focus on others – that way you don’t have to focus on myself. Although I understand what is happening; why it’s happening, and see it happening, – I cannot seem to stop it.
Fear is most likely the root of what is holding me back – fear of the unfamiliar, fear of failure, fear that the critical inner voice will be proven right – whatever it is, I have to find a way to overcome it. I must believe that I am more resilient than I think and can handle the obstacles that feed my fears.
It is important to note that ACOAs have taken in or internalized both parents. This includes the parent who appears more functional compared to the alcoholic or chemically addicted parent. Experience show that the “functional” or non-alcoholic parent passes on just as many traits as the identified alcoholic. The non-alcoholic parent also passes on his or her pattern of “internal drug abuse.” The para-alcoholic (the non-drinking parent) is driven by fear, excitement, and pain from the inside.
The biochemical surge and cascade of inner “drugs” that accompany these states of distress and upheaval can impact children as profoundly as outside substances. Experience shows that the non-drinking parent’s reaction to these inside drugs affects the children just as the alcoholic’s drinking affects them. This may sound technical, but it is important to understand if we are to comprehend the reach of a dysfunctional upbringing.
As children of alcoholics, we were affected by the alcoholic drinking from without and by the para-alcoholic drugs from within. It is believed that long-term effects of fear transferred to us by a non-alcoholic parent can match the damaging effects of alcohol. This is why many ACOAs can abstain from drinking alcohol, but be driven by inner drugs that can bring difficulties as we attempt to recover. This legacy of fear and distorted thinking seems to drive our switching from one addictive behavior to another as we try to make changes in our lives.
To think about internal dosing another way, consider this. The alcoholic can be removed from the family by divorce or separation, but nothing in the home really changes. The alcohol abuse or other dysfunction is gone, but the home remains fearful and controlling. Boundaries are unclear. The children don’t talk about feelings. They either become enmeshed with the non-drinking parent or alienated from him or her.
The rules of don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel apply even with the removal of obvious dysfunction. The inside drugs are at work. The non-drinking parent’s fear, excitement, and pain have been passed to the next generation. This is the internalization of parental feelings and behavior in its purest form.
Adapted from ACA Fellowship Text (formerly Handbook) pp. 23-24
© Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization, Inc.
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.
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.