People who grow up in alcoholic families have common symptoms and behaviors as a result of their common experience. It is these shared symptoms and behaviors that set adult children of alcoholics (ACoAs) apart from other people. ACoAs are different from people who were raised in other types of family systems. They view the world in a way that is unique. The common symptoms that characterize this group of people is the adult children of alcoholics syndrome.
Nothing is the way it's supposed to be in an alcoholic family. Dates are canceled, lies are told and relationship connections alternate from being close and warm to cold and distant.Children vacillate between having no power at all and way too much as the adults in their lives fall in and out of normal functioning.
That's because growing up with addiction is traumatizing and the symptoms of trauma can emerge much later when we create our own families. This is what PTSD is all about, it's a reaction to trauma that occurs long after the fact.
Small things trigger PTSD and I never know what it will be, I had therapy years ago when being an adult child of an alcoholic got way out of hand for me. Having a birthday party for Wesley when she was around 5 triggered it the first time and as she had normal childhood experiences, my past experiences took their toll. I have managed pretty well and unlike most people, I have to live with intent every day to keep from annoying those around me with my “issues”. In March, working around an alcoholic building my studio was a huge trigger and I had a pretty rough month. I think I’m still working through that, I was doing pretty good and then yesterday someone accused me of being perfect and righteous, and not in a nice way, and it has triggered a huge PTSD episode. I am almost paralyzed with it and I have to deal with it, or it’s going to get out of hand. So here I am at 1 am writing about my feelings like a good recovering ACOA should. Right now I am having an onslaught of symptoms, stomach cramps, feeling out of control, adreneline, but mostly I feel the numbing coming on and I hate that the most.
ACoA's have suffered profound losses. There has been the loss of parents to rely on, the loss of family members to addiction and possibly death, the loss of a feeling of safety, the loss of the secure family unit, the loss of trust, the loss of a stable and smooth early development. There are the losses of the comfortable family events, rituals and holidays, and as children the loss of normalcy and the security of knowing that their parents are in the position to parent them and meet their changing needs. ACoAs often need to mourn not only what happened, but what never got a chance to happen. People who have felt traumatized may have a tendency to isolate and withdraw into themselves when they are feeling vulnerable. They have learned to recoil into a personless world and take refuge in avoiding connection.
So this is mainly why I am writing this. I feel this recoiling coming on. I am wanting to withdraw, feeling like I don’t want to blog, I don’t want to make anything, just want to drop out for a while and disappear, but this isn’t what I will want when this passes. I haven’t tried blogging about this before so I thought, why not, I usually wait for it to pass, like the flu or something….
People who are consistently being wounded emotionally and are not able to address it openly and honestly may develop rigid psychological defenses to manage their fear and pain. The numbing response along with the emotional constriction that is part of the trauma response may lead to a loss of ability to take in caring and support from others. Additionally, as mistrust takes hold, our willingness to accept love and support may lessen. We're perhaps afraid that if we let our guard down, if we let connection feel too good, we'll only set ourselves up for more pain when the inevitable happens and we're disappointed again and again. So we protect ourselves as best as we know how imagining that by avoiding meaningful connection we will also avoid hurt.
I think that this is why blogging has been so good for me. I am able to make a connection without having the physical element to it. It is very difficult for me to make physical connections, although since moving to Chapel Hill it has gotten better, I have some really good friends here. Many of you that I blog with have helped with this as well and you didn’t even know it. A lot of people ask me why I blog and how I can be so honest. It’s my therapy. I lived with lies and secrets and not being able to be who I really was for so long, that blogging helped tremendously, just putting whatever I wanted to out there was so liberating for someone that kept so many secrets for so long.
Anyway, this should help, might not be what you expected to read, and I’m really not writing this for the entertainment value. It’s sort of like when you have eaten something that doesn’t agree with you, or you have had too much to drink, you vomit, and feel better. Well, this is my vomiting (sorry, I know that’s a bit gross, but that’s the only way I can think of to explain it.) I know this isn’t the pottery blog way, but it’s my blog and if you don’t like it you can certainly choose not to read it. I’m not doing it for you, I’m doing it for me.
Just so you know, if you read things here from time to time that seem to contradict themselves, that’s just normal for an ACOA and I do it all the time. When I was young I was also a compulsive liar, but I hated that and now I am the opposite, sometimes brutally honest. I also want everything around me to be perfect and I can’t tolerate chaos, although I seem to create it and nothing about me is perfect, far from it. I used to try and control every aspect of poor Gerry’s life, but I work on that consciously every single day just so I don’t drive him mad. Do you go through your days making a conscious effort to do things in a way that will be normal for everyone else? Let me tell you it gets tiring and right now, I’m ready to give that a rest, but I can’t, so this blog seemed like a good outlet and it’s now 1:30am, I still feel sick but this will pass.
So, now those of you that thought you knew me are sitting there saying WTF I suppose,
Well, you didn’t come here for a boring blog post now did you :)
There are lots of articles on ACOA and it’s interesting reading. Adult children of alcoholics are strong survivors and we work through it, but man it just wears you out. I do know that the best thing about it, is that it has made me one kick ass parent! So that's the good of it at least. Ok, enough of this wallowing in self pity, I’m off to bed now after this nice long purge!! I know I’m going to regret this in the morning, but there have been worse posts than this, and I survived……..