Me Too: Abandonment Issues

I know many people who grew up without either their father or mother in their lives. Childhood loss such as the death of a parent or divorce can result in inadequate physical or emotional care. I learned that these early-childhood experiences can lead to a fear of being abandoned by the significant other in one’s adult life. And abandonment trauma may include mood symptoms such as debilitating anxiety and chronic feeling of insecurity.

Because I tend to think in literal terms, I failed to see that my alcoholic father and ACOA mother provided very little emotional support. In my household there was no room for expressing sadness or disappointment. It was looked on as weakness; you had to buck up and be strong. My father was very self-absorbed. He was there – yes, but he only concerned himself with what he wanted or needed. He made sure he always had his liquor and cigarettes. Don’t get me wrong now – he took care of the family in terms of paying the mortgage, utilities and buying the food – but there was little emotional support or interest in what we as children were interested in.

This can make a child overly sensitive to any perceived distancing by her loved ones. I realize as an adult I have been in relationships that I felt I had to hold onto when the other person seemed like they were becoming disinterested or distant. I suffered from depression, anxiety, and compulsions when a relationship ended. I realized that I too suffer with abandonment issues even though I grew up with both parents in the household.

In overcoming my abandonment issues I am learning to first remember that I am not alone; to acknowledge the depth of my hurt, identify my symptoms, and take action. Some actions I take include: accepting this fear as a part of being human, and giving myself unconditional self-love and compassion rather than judge myself as “weak.”

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

#ACoAAwareness

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The Need to Feel in Control

Feeling out of control is scary for most people, but even more so for adult children of alcoholics (ACOA). Living with an alcoholic is unpredictable, especially when you’re a child. Trying to control people and situations is a coping strategy that children of alcoholics develop to deal with chaotic and dysfunctional family situations. It is normal and adaptive. In other words, your desire to control everything in your life is an understandable outcome of growing up in an overwhelming and traumatic family environment.

As a young child I mistakenly thought I could control my father’s drinking. I tried to get him to stop drinking and behaving in dangerous and embarrassing drunken ways. Children of alcoholics vacillate between frantically trying to control their parent’s drinking and feeling completely powerless and out of control.

Unfortunately, as an adult I still apply my controlling ways now with my equally controlling ACOA mother. We are at odds these days because at 86 she insists on living alone and preparing her own food when her low vision says that it’s dangerous for her to do so. I moved her into an assisted living facility because she burned herself on several occasions using the stove and oven. My controlling nature wants to tell her what to do and what is best for her. Her equally controlling nature opposes me at every turn and it is so frustrating.

Our efforts to control show up as getting upset when things don’t go our way and being inflexible. Giving up trying to control things means you trust that you can cope with whatever life has in store; a goal I constantly strive to achieve.

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

#ACoAAwareness

Source: Sharon Martin, LCSW, 2017, Happily Imperfect

The Lost Child II

I was reading an article online by Louise Behiel entitled “The Lost Child: Invisible and Unheard.”  She said that the lost child, which I identify as, understands or feels the strain the family is under.  As a result, they try to minimize their demands on their parents and siblings.  I certainly avoided any push back my parents might have given by not asking to go to parties and other events that I knew they would not approve of.  I didn’t fight for the things I really wanted.  To this day, I feel somewhat guilty when I attend a number of events in close proximity of each other.

Behiel says, as a result, lost children are often overlooked.  This leaves them feeling lonely, rejected and isolated.  The conundrum is they get what they want but that result leaves them feeling empty.  The lost child spends much time doing activities such as daydreaming, fantasizing, reading, and watching television.  This describes my childhood to a tee.

This article also got me thinking about another article I read, in which I learned that I was a compulsive eater.  It got me wondering – does compulsive eating mean I’m feeling empty inside?  That the inner child in me is starved for affection or attention?  Am I denying that this exist in me because I was taught to be strong and independent?  This is more eye-opening information to ponder.

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

Repost from My ACOA Life Blog at Blogspot.com

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LizHawkins@TrinityUniv

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

 

 

Core Issue: Avoidance

A third core issue is avoidance of feelings.  In the alcoholic family, the child’s expression of feelings is typically met with censure, disapproval, anger, and rejection.

Often the child is told explicitly, “Don’t you dare say that to me; don’t even think it,” or “Don’t upset your mother.  You have to be more understanding.”  In other words, children of alcoholics are taught very early that it is necessary to hide their feelings.  Hiding their feelings leads to not even have any feelings as they master the art of repressing, denying, or minimizing them.

I relate to the avoidance core issue very well.  I have avoided conflict and anything I deem hard like the plague all of my life.  And it has stunted by emotional growth.  Thankfully, I’m learning to face my fears more every day.

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

#ACoAAwareness

Core Issue: Trust

The issue of trust is directly attributable to being raised in an environment of chaos, unpredictability, and denial. Repeatedly told to ignore the obvious, deny your own feelings, and distrust the accuracy of your own perceptions.  ACOA’s eventually begin to distrust not only other people but their own feelings and senses as well.

This explains a lot of about me.  I can appear oblivious to my surrounding; even in utter chaos.  After many years of witnessing my father is passed out on the couch, and mom’s face  buried in a bowl of ice cream, I acted like nothing was wrong.

Hindsight and 20/20 and brings clarity to the rose colored images of the past.

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

#ACoAAwareness

Core Issue: Control

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.

 

#ACoAAwareness