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

 

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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

 

Standing on Shaky Ground

“The conscious mind determines the actions, the unconscious mind determines the reactions; and the reactions are just as important as the actions.” ~ E. Stanley Jones.

I rarely remember my dreams but when I do remember – even if it’s just in bits and pieces – I look for a meaning.  I believe there are things hidden in my unconscious mind that if it were not for my natural tendencies to avoid and deny, would freely rise above the surface.  Instead I think I get flashes of what my mind is trying to reveal to me in my dreams.

Last night I had a dream.  All I can remember is that it had to do with the floor.  I either wanted to get a new floor installed or wanted to repair a floor.  So I asked myself, what, if anything, is the significance of a floor.

I learned that the floor represents your foundation or the basis for your beliefs; or your support system.  It may represent how well you are grounded; or the separation of your conscious and unconscious.

I recently moved my mother into an assisted living residence.  And although it’s the best place for her now at this stage in her life, I feel some type of way about it.  She was my support system and it’s hard to fathom that she is not the same strong-willed, self-sufficient, independent woman she used to be.

The separation from my rock, my foundation, and co-dependent fellow ACOA has left me feeling shaky.  I’ll be all right though.  It’s an adjustment and it’ll take time.

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

#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.

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.